An Institutional Postdoctoral Research Training Program: Predictors of Publication Rate and Federal Funding Success of Its Graduates

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ObjectiveThe National Institute of Mental Health funds institutional National Research Service Awards (NRSA) to provide postdoctoral research training. While peer-reviewed publications are the most common outcome measure utilized, there has been little discussion of how publications should be counted or what factors impact the long-term publication rates of trainees in these programs.MethodsThe authors reviewed current curricula vitae from 92 graduates of an institutional NRSA and from the faculty mentors of that program to assess publications through 2005. Publications were weighted based on peer versus non-peer-reviewed and authorship position. Trainee and mentor factors were assessed for their impact on publication rates and on becoming principal investigators of larger scale federal grants such as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01.ResultsWeighted publication scores correlate with total publication rates at such a high rate that the two scores can be used interchangeably. Forty-three percent of graduates average at least one publication per year after completing the postdoctoral program; 20% were listed as an independent investigator on a larger federal grant. The number of publications published during postdoctoral training and additional funded training beyond that provided by the institutional NRSA are correlated with increased posttraining program publication rates; other factors including gender, terminal degree, number of publications prior to postdoctoral training, and mentor variables had no significant impact. Additional funded training, male gender, and increased time since completion of the training are associated with increased likelihood of larger grant federal funding.ConclusionWeighting publications by whether they were peer-reviewed and by authorship position appears to have little benefit over a simple counting of the number of publications. Publication during research training and the pursuit of funding for additional individual research training may be appropriate short-term goals within an institutional research training program.

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