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Res Policy. 2016 Jul;45(6):1291-1303. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2016.03.011. Epub 2016 Apr 7.

Training the Scientific Workforce: Does Funding Mechanism Matter?

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New Mexico Consortium, 6721 Academy Rd NE, Suite A, Albuquerque, NM 87109.
Department of Economics, University of New Mexico, MSC05 3060 1 UNM, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001. Tel.: 505-277-5304.


A National Institutes of Health (NIH) taskforce recently recommended decreasing the number of graduate students supported on research assistantships, and instead favoring traineeship and fellowship funding mechanisms. Using instrumental variables estimation with survey data collected from U.S. PhD-granting biomedical sciences departments and their newly-minted PhDs, we find that increases in these programs' NIH-funded traineeships and fellowships do significantly increase programs' total graduate enrollments, particularly of female students. However, PhDs who were funded primarily as research assistants are significantly more likely to take research-focused jobs in the U.S. scientific workforce after they graduate, as compared to PhDs who were primarily supported as trainees or fellows. The suggested policy changes thus may have unintended, negative consequences for scientific workforce participation.

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