U.S. physician-scientists make enormous contributions to biomedical research. New research published in CJASN demonstrates increasing representation of women and international graduates within the physician-scientist workforce doing kidney research; however, this workforce is declining in relative number, is getting older, and is less overwhelmingly focused on basic science research.
The research relied on public data obtained from the internet. A team led by Susan M. Wall, MD (Emory University School of Medicine) mined records from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore demographic changes of early career and established, physician and non-physician principal investigators doing kidney-focused NIH-funded research between 1990 and 2020.
The researchers found that kidney-focused principal investigators are aging, particularly among physicians. Moreover, the relative representation of physicians among both early career and established principal investigators is falling, particularly among those doing basic science research. In contrast, the number and relative representation of non-physician scientists is increasing. There is also greater representation of women and international graduates among physician and non-physician kidney-focused investigators; however, women physician-scientists are increasingly more likely to do clinical rather than basic science research.
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