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Career Benchmarks From the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Early Faculty Career Development Awards

McGovern, Victoria PhD; Kramarik, Jean MS; Wilkins, Gary

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182a83172
Research Reports

Purpose Documenting the career characteristics of a highly selective group of researchers provides some insight into how a successful career begins. This knowledge is of value to early-career faculty and those who evaluate them, as well as trainees who aspire to the professoriate and those who educate them.

Method In 2010, the authors extracted information by hand from the curricula vitae of 196 basic scientists who have been supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s early faculty career development programs from 1982 to 2010. Data were collected on awardees’ education, awards and honors, funding, promotion, publication, service, and training activities. The end point for data was December 2010. Analyses quantified participants’ time to terminal degree, faculty appointment, and first R01; determined their publication productivity; and calculated their rates of training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Results This group moved into jobs and gained first R01s faster than average. Surprisingly, those who train the most students and fellows do not publish the most. Women and men trained different numbers of undergraduates, PhDs, and postdocs. Women awardees had fewer publications on average than men.

Conclusions Researchers who are highly competitive at the early faculty career stage have generally been both timely in their arrival at important benchmarks and productive in terms of their scientific output. Newly trained researchers and the people and institutions that train them share responsibility for attaining expeditious progress, developing a substantial track record, and staking out fertile intellectual ground from which to grow an independent faculty career.

Dr. McGovern is senior program officer, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Ms. Kramarik is senior program associate, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Mr. Wilkins is research technician, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) awardees agree in writing that in the interest of transparency and public accountability regarding foundation-supported research, BWF may share information about its awardees in a variety of venues, including its Web site, annual report, and other publications. Awardee CVs and the data used here are maintained in BWF’s secure awardee grants servers. These data and the conclusions of this paper have not been used to evaluate individual awardees, and collection and analysis of these data does not put any awardee’s funding at risk. Risk to the awardees whose data are presented in aggregate here is minimized by focusing on quantifiable known information. Selection of participants was equitable: All of those funded by a well-defined subset of BWF grant programs were asked to participate, but there was no penalty for not complying with this request.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. McGovern, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 21 T.W. Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709; telephone: (919) 991-5112; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges