ASBMB endorses the RESEARCHER Act

July 26, 2023

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology endorses the Relieving Economic Strain to Enhance American Resilience and Competitiveness in Higher Education and Research (RESEARCHER) Act introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va. If passed, the bill will assist in giving graduate students and postdocs greater financial stability.

Both the current state as well as the future of the U.S. research enterprise relies on graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, who carry out their institutions’ research programs, build alliances and intellectual bridges to other institutions, raise the reputation of labs and increase the inflow of grant support. Without diverse, thriving graduate student and postdoctoral populations, the U.S. would not be able to sustain its current output of scientific research and innovation. However, graduate students and postdocs are being pushed out of the scientific pipeline by a variety of factors, including financial stress.

According to a recent survey, over 95% of graduate researchers worry about the increasing costs of living. Similarly, in another survey, 94.8% of postdoctoral researchers shared that their professional and personal lives were most negatively affected by their salary.

Financial stressors are a major an obstacle to recruiting and retaining STEM talent, especially those in historically excluded groups, who experience high levels of housing and food insecurities. Policymakers and the scientific community must make significant changes to improve the quality of life for graduate students and postdocs so they can flourish within the U.S. enterprise. The RESEARCHER Act is one step to doing just that.

The legislation:

  • Directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a set of policy guidelines for federal research agencies to address the financial instability of graduate and postdoctoral researchers,
  • Requires those agencies to implement those policies,
  • Amends the CHIPS and Science Act to collect data on the financial instability of graduate and postdoctoral researchers, and
  • Allows the National Science Foundation to award grants to study this issue.

In addition, the bill will commission a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study on the status of financial instability of graduate and postdoctoral researchers and direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the implementation of the guidelines developed by OSTP at federal research agencies.

The ASBMB supports this bill as it will help the scientific community and lawmakers understand the issues underlying the financial insecurity experienced by graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. While this bill alone will not solve the numerous challenges the next generation of scientists faces, it will push the scientific community and policymakers to start developing solutions. We must ensure that the STEM workforce is attractive and equitable to sustain this country’s bioeconomy.