Research Universities Form Coalition to Study Life Science Career Paths

Standardized data will portray demographics, median training times and career outcomes

Educators believe a new effort to collect data will help young life sciences scholars better manage their careers.
Educators believe a new effort to collect data will help young life sciences scholars better manage their careers. Photo by Duke Photography

To address widespread concerns that life sciences graduate students and postdocs do not have enough information on research careers in and out of academia, a coalition of nine leading research institutions, including Duke, has banded together to produce some concrete data.

The Coalition for Next Generation Life Science hopes to give would-be life scientists clear, standardized data on graduate school admissions, education and training opportunities and career prospects, while perhaps easing the sense of “hyper-competition for tenure-track positions and prolonged periods in postdoctoral research.”

Duke President Vincent Price joined the other presidents and chancellors of the founding institutions in announcing the initiative in a joint article to appearing in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Science. They intend to issue statistical reports about:

  • Admission to and enrollment in doctoral programs in the life sciences,
  • The median time spent in graduate school before earning a doctorate,
  • The demographics of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows by gender, underrepresented minority status and citizenship status,
  • The median time spent in postdoctoral fellowships (the apprenticeships many scientists serve immediately after graduate school but before landing a permanent position), and
  • The jobs held by an institution’s former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

The coalition intends to begin posting these standardized data on institutional websites in February 2018 and add additional categories of information over the following 18 months.

The authors of the Science article are Martha E. Pollack, president, Cornell University; Vincent Price, president, Duke University; Ronald J. Daniels, president of the Johns Hopkins University; Gary Gilliland, president, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; L. Rafael Reif, president, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Samuel Hawgood, chancellor, the University of California, San Francisco; Freeman A. Hrabowski, president, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Mark S. Schlissel, president, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Amy Gutmann, president, the University of Pennsylvania; and Rebecca Blank, chancellor, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.