Task Force Meets to Examine Early Career Support

On July 23 - 24, Science and Education Policy staff worked with the Task Force Supporting Early Career Psychologists to discuss the availability of current loan repayment, scholarship, and fellowship programs.

On July 23 - 24, Science and Education Policy staff worked with the Task Force Supporting Early Career Psychologists to discuss the availability of current loan repayment, scholarship, and fellowship programs. Science Directorate staff had previously examined eligibility requirements for 207 federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs across 13 federal agencies detailed in a recent GAO report. Those for which psychologists were eligible were added to other programs identified by the Education Directorate in an APA-wide effort that resulted in a searchable database.

Because the majority of funding for such programs is housed at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Science Directorate staff concentrated on obtaining data from those two agencies to get a sense of how well psychologists were faring relative to budding scientists in other disciplines. APA's visiting Senior Scientist, Clare Porac, took the lead with the NSF data and worked with the APA Research Office and various staff at the National Science Foundation to prepare a brief analysis of graduate student funding between 1996-2003:

Science Policy staffer Geoff Mumford took the lead with NIH to examine two sources of data. One is a fairly new set of Loan Repayment Programs (LRP) designed to increase participation in five selected areas of research deemed to be of rich significance to NIH and society at large; and the other is a long-standing set of individual fellowships. In response to an APA request for 2005 LRP data, NIH discovered a tabulation error which overstated the award results for psychology in 2003 and 2004. Across three years and five programs, psychology received 900 of the 4200 awards, or 21%. Perhaps as a testament to psychologists' commitment to and success in addressing health disparities research, an average of 28% of the LRP awards have gone to psychologists since the program's inception.

A little less clear is the data that emerged from an analysis of the National Research Service Awards (NRSA). NIH staff did yeoman's work in gathering 10 years worth of data across several different training mechanisms and examining the number of slots (as well as the dollar amounts) awarded to students in psychology vs. other science departments. Sorted that way, the data for psychology graduate students demonstrated they were faring quite well and consistently across the years (the 2006 percentage is low because the data is still being collected). The post-doc data also demonstrated consistency. However, the data likely represents a considerable undercount of those actually supported, because scientific psychologists could pursue post-docs in so many departments other than psychology, and the numbers reported in the data NIH collected cite the number of slots in psychology vs. other departments.

The Task Force will be continuing its work virtually through the end of this year, and Science Policy staff will continue to work with federal agencies and the APA Research Office in an attempt to sort out how well psychology is competing for existing loan repayment, scholarship and fellowship programs.