Many observers believe that the United States is churning out too many new Ph.D. biomedical researchers, creating a hypercompetitive, unhealthy environment. But a new report from an advisory panel to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) paints a different picture for physician-scientists: There may not be enough of them to replace those preparing to retire.
A 2012 study on the U.S. biomedical workforce, requested by NIH and led by Princeton University molecular biologist Shirley Tilghman, found that the output of biomedical Ph.D.s exceeded the supply of academic jobs. However, her committee ran out of time to look at physician-scientists, who make up about 32% of all NIH principal investigators, a total of roughly 9000 individuals. The task was assigned to a new working group of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), which delivered its report on 6 June.