Update on the Physician Scientist Workforce Workgroup and More at the ACD Meeting


The Advisory Committee to the Director meeting will be held today and tomorrow, and there are many exciting topics that will be presented and discussed, such as neuroscience research and the BRAIN initiative, improvement of preclinical research reporting and design, the Big Data to Knowledge programs, and I will provide an update on our implementation of the Biomedical Research Workforce Initiative.

Among the ACD Working Group updates is a presentation on the Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group which, as you may remember, was launched at the last ACD meeting as a result of recommendations in the Biomedical Research Workforce report. The working group is focused on identifying the optimal research training for individuals in clinical disciplines. Many of the same challenges faced by the biomedical workforce working group are also an issue for understanding clinician-scientist training, namely a need to understand the composition and size of this group of researchers. This new working group is charged with several activities including developing a better understanding of this population of researchers, analyzing the influences on clinicians’ decisions to begin a research career, and identifying the incentives and barriers to clinician participation in scientific research activities. Ultimately this work will inform NIH on how we can better support a sustainable and diverse clinical research infrastructure.

I’m looking forward to hearing how they are going to embark on these activities – as well as all of the discussion over the next two days. Tune in to the videocast and join us on Thursday and Friday if you’re interested!


  1. Dr. Rockey,

    I sent in a response to the RFI the NIH had posted several months ago in regards to postdoc benefits (among other items), and have been anxiously checking the NIH notices board and your blog for updates on postdoc benefits. I am particularly hopeful that the NIH will make a policy that ALL postdocs regardless of funding sources will be offered the same benefits package as employees at their respective institutes. Were postdoc benefits discussed at the recent advisory council meeting (ie the session for the biomedical workforce committee)?

    1. This is an excellent question, and I would also like to know the answer if it will be discussed. Getting an NIH NRSA fellowship means I am not given any of the benefits of “normal” employment, such as retirement contributions. Why are postdocs not treated as real employees?

  2. I think the biggest barrier to the success of the Clinician Scientist program relates to stipends (and I am not an MD myself so there is no self-interest here). The bottom line is that one can earn a research salary (e.g. $90k/year) for a K08 then maybe $120k as an Asst. Professor 5 years later (with little job security in the current funding climate) or take a residency position and be in a secure clinical post earning way more over the same time period. Even as a mere DVM, PhD with eligibility for ACLAM (lab animal) board certification, I calculate that I have lost over $1m in salary in the 20 years since I began my combined residency/PhD program (which took 6 years) by not just doing a 2-year lab animal residency then taking boards and working as a lab animal vet. That is some serious money!

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