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Decoupling of the minority PhD talent pool and assistant professor hiring in medical school basic science departments in the US

  1. Kenneth D Gibbs  Is a corresponding author
  2. Jacob Basson
  3. Imam Xierali
  4. David A Broniatowski
  1. National Institute of General Medical Sciences, United States
  2. Association of American Medical Colleges, United States
  3. The George Washington University, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2016;5:e21393 doi: 10.7554/eLife.21393

Abstract

Faculty diversity is a longstanding challenge in the US. However, we lack a quantitative and systemic understanding of how the career transitions into assistant professor positions of Ph.D. scientists from underrepresented minority (URM) and well-represented (WR) racial/ethnic backgrounds compare. Between 1980 and 2013, the number of PhD graduates from URM backgrounds increased by a factor of 9.3, compared with a 2.6-fold increase in the number of PhD graduates from WR groups. However, the number of scientists from URM backgrounds hired as assistant professors in medical school basic science departments was not related to the number of potential candidates (R2=0.12, p>0.07), whereas there was a strong correlation between these two numbers for scientists from WR backgrounds (R2=0.48, p<0.0001). We built and validated a conceptual system dynamics model based on these data that explained 79% of the variance in the hiring of assistant professors and posited no hiring discrimination. Simulations show that, given current transition rates of scientists from URM backgrounds to faculty positions, faculty diversity would not increase significantly through the year 2080 even in the context of an exponential growth in the population of PhD graduates from URM backgrounds, or significant increases in the number of faculty positions. Instead, the simulations showed that diversity increased as more postdoctoral candidates from URM backgrounds transitioned onto the market and were hired.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Kenneth D Gibbs

    Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Bethesda, United States
    For correspondence
    kgibbsjr@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3532-5396
  2. Jacob Basson

    Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Bethesda, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Imam Xierali

    Public Health and Diversity Initiative, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. David A Broniatowski

    Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, The George Washington University, Washington, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: September 12, 2016
  2. Accepted: November 11, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 17, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 12, 2016 (version 2)

Copyright

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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Further reading

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