Young Scientists: Translational Science and Multi-disciplinary collaboration


Kathi Hanna writes for FasterCures summarizing interviews about the current and future reasons for a push towards collaborative translational science. Includes some reality checks about the current environment facing young scientists, but definitely hits the nail on the head about encouraging collaborative translational research.

“First, funding for basic science is flat if not shrinking: award rates for NIH grants are lower than they were in the early 1990s. Second, the traditional career path in biomedical research is getting longer as it gets narrower. NIH reports that the percentage of investigators under age 36 receiving an ROI dropped from 18% in 1983 to 3% in 2010. The mean age of receipt of a first RO1 is 42 years. And third, many young life scientists are discouraged. They are admitted to graduate programs in large numbers, not always as talent but as labor. Yet their prospects for tenure, their own lab, and an independent path are dim. Many are searching for another lane to a science career and translational work provides an interesting and potentially productive option.”


“Translational scientists intentionally focus on multi-disciplinary collaboration. They tend to search for people who can help them think and work through a problem and often shine brightest at the edges and interfaces of other disciplines. These scientists might seem more “workmanlike” in their approach and, as such, face several challenges—the culture of academic institutions and funding mechanisms are not always sympathetic or encouraging and the skills of recent graduates are often mismatched or not responsive to the needs of translational science. Yet these scientists are out there emerging from the ooze of the research ecosystem. We need to create settings in which they can flourish.

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