It’s Hard Out There for Young Scientists

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Johns Hopkins gets more research money than any other university in the country (and has, for 34 years running). So why is Hopkins president Ronald Daniels making such a stink about there not being enough research funding?

It turns out that Daniels has a point: Government funding for research is down across the board, and the brunt of the decline is being disproportionately borne by young scientists. Thirty years ago, nearly one in five principal investigators with grants from the National Institutes of Health was under 36. These days, just 3 percent are. And while most scientists used to be in their 30s when they received their first NIH funding, now the average age is more like 45.

There are a number of reasons for this shift, including longer training periods, a dwindling supply of grant money, and procedures that favor older, more established scientists. Essentially, when the pool of money devoted to research shrinks, it’s the up-and-coming folks who feel the impact.

So why should we care if younger scientists aren’t getting grant money? “Without their own funding, young researchers are prevented from starting their own laboratories, pursuing their own research, and advancing their own careers in academic science,” Daniels writes. “It is not surprising that many of our youngest minds are choosing to leave their positions.”


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