An Alarming Challenge for Young Scientists

Young researchers in the U.S. are increasingly prevented from starting their own laboratories, pursuing their own research or establishing a career in science.  As a result, many young scientists are leaving American academic research and going to other industries or countries.

Eleven years ago, the National Academy of Sciences reported a disturbing trend: the median age when American PhDs received their first research grant was rising.  In other words, young researchers had to wait longer before they could begin to do independent research.

This was especially troubling given the increasing importance of biomedical research, which constantly requires new ideas and approaches.  “The time for action is now,” the NAS concluded.  “Every year of delay in implementing change affects tens of thousands of scientists already pursuing biomedical careers and an untold number of those who might have pursued such a career.”

But over the past decade, the situation has only gotten worse, says a recent study by Johns Hopkins University.  In 1980, a U.S. medical researcher received his or her first R01 grant at the average age of 38.  (An R01 is the leading research grant from the National Institutes of Health.)  Today, the average age is 45.

Similarly, more than twice as many R01s are awarded to researchers older than 65 than to researchers younger than 36.

At the same time, other countries are increasing their investments in science education.  Singapore, for example, awards $1 million each to its top 1,000 science students.

“An enduring solution to this problem will require enduring attention from a range of stakeholders,” says Johns Hopkins’ Ronald Daniels in the latest report, “including the Congress, the NIH and other federal agencies, institutional sponsors, and private industry.

“Our next generation of scientists, and indeed our next generation of science, demands nothing less.”

Agilent promotes and encourages academic research, recognizing its importance to the world.  The company has several programs that specifically support young scientists.

The Agilent New Professor Program provides start-up support for newly appointed professors in numerous regions around the world.  The program includes free extended warranties, discounts and free teaching tools.

The Agilent Early Career Professor Award provides unrestricted research awards to leading professors early in their careers.  The 2015 award will focus on “contribution to the understanding and use of CRISPR/Cas or other RNA-based technologies for genome editing, control and other applications.”  Nominations are currently being accepted through April 24, 2015.

“In addition to programs that support faculty early in their careers, Agilent maintains a broad portfolio of ongoing research collaborations,” says Agilent’s Jack Wenstrand.  “These are open to faculty of all career stages.

“University research programs headed by senior principal investigators frequently provide significant support to junior faculty.  And they provide opportunities for Agilent to meet and work with the next generation of academic leaders.”


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