Washington Update

FASEB Responds to NIH Postdoc RFI

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Thursday, April 13, 2023
FASEB recently submitted comments to National Institutes of Health (NIH) in response to its request for information (RFI) on re-envisioning U.S. postdoctoral research training and career progression within the biomedical research enterprise. In its comments, FASEB emphasized that postdoctoral positions should be short-term, defined, and lead to independence in the chosen career.

Four topics were solicited for input that covered a wide range of current issues postdoctoral scholars face. Echoing prior comments, FASEB continued to encourage NIH to find creative solutions to ensure all postdoctoral scholars, regardless of pay mechanism, have access to standard employee benefits. The instability of postdoctoral positions was also highlighted as problematic, particularly for those on temporary visas. One-year appointments can create unnecessary challenges, and many scientists move away from their support networks to continue pursuing their research career in an academic postdoctoral position. 

As is, many postdoctoral positions are ill-defined and do not necessarily serve as a purposeful bridge to a career. NIH’s Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards program was highlighted in FASEB’s comments as a model example of a postdoctoral position that is short-term, has well-defined expectations, and ushers postdoctoral scholars into their chosen career. As NIH explores how to reimagine the postdoctoral training system, FASEB encouraged evaluating current funding mechanisms function, and potentially shifting focus to more innovative programs.

The RFI responses will help inform recommendations made by NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Re-envisioning NIH-supported Postdoctoral Training. An interim update from the working group is expected during the June ACD meeting, with final recommendations to be delivered at the December ACD meeting.