The median age of the NIH Director’s Advisory Committee is 61

The mean age is 60.4.  The youngest was born in 1961 (52), the same year as the U.S. President (the average age of Obama’s first term cabinet was 54, criticized for being one of the oldest in recent history).  At Apollo 11 splash-down, the average age of NASA scientist/engineer was 28, in 2009 there was criticism that that average had gone up to a sadly-greyed 47. Forty-seven too old! For the average biomedical scientist, you are still a spring chicken, failing to renew your R01 for the first time.

And we wonder why the concerns junior PIs and trainees don’t seem to be top of the agenda.

*I could not determine the age of 3 of them, but these all got their PhD or MD in the 1970s, which would have wouldn’t have changed the result much.

Update: Forgot to link to comment by GenXPI at Drugmonkey that inspired me to look.

5 Comments on “The median age of the NIH Director’s Advisory Committee is 61”

  1. The average age of the U.S. population is increasing:

    I think this the Baby Boom working its way through the system. And I think we’ve established that the Boomers will control everything until they die.

  2. rxnm says:

    Yes, for sure. But not to this degree. The ratio of post-Boomers:Boomers among senior, well-funded, experienced scientists capable of leading important policy discussions is not 0. We’ve allowed the aging of the academy to infantilize anyone under 50.

    I think post-Boomer scientists need to push back against this when they can…starting by not buying into a “senior scientist” being someone in their mid 50s or older.

    Among other things, I worked in tech consulting prior to grad school… my peers in experience and age are now VP level or higher, some in major, large companies. We like to pretend that the incredibly long training and tenure and funding-acquiring process is somehow a necessary rigor to becoming a full-blown Scientist. That’s bullshit, as demonstrated by all pre-Boomer history and Boomers themselves, who were tenured and in leadership roles in their 30s and 40s….and it is doubly bullshit for policy making.

    There is no special learning curve in science…in every career arc, everyone is always learning the next set of responsibilities. But the effects of Boomers in academia (and I think science in particular) is to delay and deny opportunities for advancement, funding, leadership, etc, for the next two (at least) generations of scientists. There is no reason for this to be so… with minimal effort, leadership positions could include and reflect the the leadership potential to be found among younger (I will not call them “young”) scientists.

    I should add that I know this is not their fault as individuals. Who wants to retire from a system you’ve been so successful in? We admire them as scientists and friends. Many of them have been great mentors and role models for me and every scientist I know.

    But… as a group…they created deep problems in the culture of science, and they are eating their children.

    And let’s not forget that only the oldest boomers are at (and ignoring) retirement age. We’ve got 15 more years of this at least.

  3. Agree on all points. Though as I get closer to that median age you document, I still hope I have things to contribute…

    Understanding larger demographics is useful here, because that tells you that some of these problems were foreseeable. Davit Foot wrote about this in the late 1990s in Boom, Bust and Echo:

  4. Potnia Theron says:

    I (a boomer) agree this is a real problem. It’s called eating your young.

  5. rxnm says:

    So what do the (not really) “young” do?

    I am scolded every time I present this as an intergenerational conflict…particularly if I suggest my generation fight back using whatever we have at our disposal.

    Or do we wait for the Boomers to solve this problem, like they have all the others they created?

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