In my mind, this is a key issue relative to safety culture in all research organizations... the complete article is very interesting.
Biology needs more staff scientists
Independent professionals advance science in ways faculty-run labs cannot, and such positions keep talented people in research, argues Steven Hyman.
Most research institutions are essentially collections of independent laboratories, each run by principal investigators who head a team of trainees. This scheme has ancient roots and a track record of success. But it is not the only way to do science. Indeed, for much of modern biomedical research, the traditional organization has become limiting.
A different model is thriving at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I work. In the 1990s, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, a self-governing organization in Cambridge affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), became the academic leader in the Human Genome Project. This meant inventing and applying methods to generate highly accurate DNA sequences, characterize errors precisely and analyse the outpouring of data. These project types do not fit neatly into individual doctoral theses. Hence, the institute created a central role for staff scientists ‰?? individuals charged with accomplishing large, creative and ambitious projects, including inventing the means to do so. These non-faculty scientists work alongside faculty members and their teams in collaborative groups.
When leaders from the Whitehead helped to launch the Broad Institute in 2004, they continued this model. Today, our work at the Broad would be unthinkable without professional staff scientists ‰?? biologists, chemists, data scientists, statisticians and engineers. These researchers are not pursuing a tenured academic post and do not supervise graduate students, but do cooperate on and lead projects that could not be accomplished by a single academic laboratory.
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