Washington Update

FASEB Comments on Strategies to Promote Postdoctoral Career Transitions and Faculty Diversity

By: Elizabeth Barksdale
Thursday, July 26, 2018

On July 18, FASEB submitted comments in response to a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences on “Strategies for Enhancing Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity.” FASEB’s response highlights Federation activities designed to provide trainees from underrepresented groups with educational and career development opportunities and access to resources that might otherwise be unavailable.

Feedback on barriers faced by underrepresented postdoctoral trainees as they transition to faculty positions – along with strategies to overcome those barriers – was provided by advanced graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who participated in the 2018 FASEB Postdoctoral Preparation Institute (PPI).

Participants, many who come from underrepresented groups, identified lack of effective mentoring, feelings of inadequacy, personal and institutional biases, limited resources, and over-commitment. They said that mentoring and cultural sensitivity training, targeted funding opportunities, and better access to support mechanisms are important ways to overcome these barriers.

In terms of approaches stakeholders can take to promote the postdoc-to-faculty transition, FASEB’s RFI response showcased activities and initiatives focused on mentoring, networking, and leadership experiences, as well as travel and research awards. Programmatic information was collected from member societies and FASEB’s Office of Sponsored Programs, Diversity, and Grants Administration, which oversees the FASEB Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) and Diversity Resources for Enrichment, Access, and Mentoring (DREAM) programs.

Finally, FASEB provided descriptions of four Federation programs that have succeeded in helping underrepresented postdocs transition into independent, tenure-track faculty positions. Each of these programs imparts trainees with specialized skills and knowledge that help them succeed in their chosen career path; past participants considered their involvement a contributing factor in achieving faculty status.

These are the Future Leaders Advancing Research in Endocrinology, or FLARE, program from the Endocrine Society; the American Physiological Society’s Porter Physiology Development Fellowship; the Society of Toxicology’s Undergraduate Diversity Program; and the FASEB PPI.