Generational privilege under the NIH system in one easy video

Feb 17 2015 Published by under Fixing the NIH, NIH, NIH Careerism

Another key bit of information to which I frequently refer when describing generational privilege is depicted in this video from the NIH.

Facts matter.

16 responses so far

  • pinus says:

    whoa, almost as if one group of people have rigged the system to preferentially give themselves money! who knew!

  • drugmonkey says:

    Well, I like to call this one of those emergent properties. It doesn't have to have been conscious.

  • qaz says:

    What I think is most fascinating about these graphs is where the differences are between the blue bars (funding) and the red line (faculty jobs). Clearly there is a peak productivity in the middle years, where people are overperforming their faculty percentages. (What exactly defines those middle peak-productivity years is clearly changing as well.)

    But the clearest change is the edges. At the start [1980], there are small gaps between hired and funding among the youngest and oldest faculty. By the mid-1980s, the young faculty are well-matched hiring and funding, and the only real gap is in the old folks. By the mid 1990s, the clearest gap is in the new hires. What I find fascinating is that in 2010, there is a near-perfect match between hired and funding in the older faculty, leaving a huge gap in the young.

    This is a very different process than it used to be.

  • thorazine says:

    OK, so what's the story with PI's born in 1942, 1947, 1952? They are crazy overachievers WRT getting faculty positions and, even more, WRT NIH research funding (most visible on the 1993 graph). Or is this some kind of rounding/binning error?

  • […] the distribution of the ages of investigators. This distribution (which has been changing over time as we were recently reminder by Drugmonkey) shows peaks (both for R01 grantees and medical school faculty) in the range of 45-55 years old […]

  • drugmonkey says:

    42-47 gap is possibly explained by WW II birth rates, no? And I would venture that 1952 births are the younger siblings of the first post-war children?

  • thorazine says:

    Sure, I can see that with respect to faculty numbers (though I don't think there's a 1942 birth peak - is there?), but they show serious over-representation above that level in terms of NIH $. Put more simply, it looks as though there would still be conspicuous peaks for the 1942-47-52 cohorts on a plot of $/faculty member.

  • drugmonkey says:

    How do you conclude that?

  • thorazine says:

    I'm just eyeballing the graphs - could well be mistaken.

  • qaz says:

    I suspect that there is a nonlinear interaction between cohorts - people tend to rise up (go to grad school, co-postdoc with, hang out at conferences with) people of similar ages - so they tend to know people of similar ages. If there was one age group that dominated the others demographically (i.e. baby boomers) and there was a old-friends-network of funding (i.e. fund my friend, ze knows what ze's doing), then one might see an increase in fundability of that age cohort.

  • qaz says:

    PS. DM what thorazine is seeing (I think) is that the blue bars don't track the red line - some age cohorts have been better at getting grants than others, beyond the basic demographics of who has faculty jobs.

    At the start this is the old and young. At the end, this is all young. Look at red minus blue.

  • qaz says:

    Ooops - I meant to say "At the start, there is a gap of underfunding of the old and young. At the end, the underfunding is all young. Look at red minus blue."

  • Philapodia says:

    It would be interesting to see the average ages of the study section members, regular vs ad-hoc. I wonder how well the regular study section members ages would track with the PI age distribution over time.

  • Philapodia says:

    Since NIH reviewers have traditionally been individuals who have already received grants (and not younger investigators who haven't won a grant yet), could that influence the increased average age to first award over time? If your reviewer pool is aging due to taking longer to get an award and getting into the reviewer pool, might this result in a bias towards funding experienced PIs and steadily push the age distribution to the right?

  • L Kiswa says:

    My experience as a n00b PI on a recent R21..one reviewer chimes in with: "the applicant has excellent background and publication record in this field." yay! Another opines, "The PI is junior faculty without a strong funding history." Uhhh??? I am trying to fix aforementioned poor funding history by applying for grants! Is there a coded message here (n00b PIs should focus on R01s?), or is this some of the bias towards experienced PIs that Philaophodia suggests?

  • drugmonkey says:

    The latter

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