Early-career faculty perceptions of seeking extramural funding for academic biomedical research
Biomedical research over the last century in the United States has resulted in new drugs, medical procedures, and medical devices that have dramatically increased the health and lifespan of individuals and global populations. However, after decades of growth, the federal appropriation to fund grants for biomedical research has decreased since 2002. Thus, the pressure on early-career faculty to obtain federally funded grants to perform biomedical research has increased due to competition for limited grant resources. Therefore, it was important to understand their perceptions about research funding, and the effect on achieving their career goals. First, a review of the literature was provided. The literature review included studies involving analysis of factors influencing the productivity of early-career faculty and provided a theoretical framework for interpreting the data. Next, an overview of the research methods was provided. The challenges facing early-career faculty were studied through a qualitative examination of their perspectives and experiences. This study used a qualitative case study research design at a single institution. Tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members at the rank of Assistant Professor were selected by purposeful sampling for participation in the study. They were interviewed using a semi-structured interview protocol. The interview data were presented as well as the major themes that emerged from the analysis of the data. Finally, a discussion of the data was provided in the context of the literature review and theoretical frameworks. The findings were aligned with three theoretical frameworks that were used to understand the results, namely Self-Determination Theory, Academic Capitalism, and Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice. The findings identified the importance of mentoring in learning how to write grants effectively. The findings also revealed that the competition for limited grant dollars has contributed to heightened stress and anxiety among the participants. In conclusion, the findings of this study could provide useful information helpful to both faculty and academic administrators. Because of this study, higher education leaders have useful data that support the importance of an environment that is conducive to successful grant-seeking strategies.