Benefits to Postdoctoral Scholars vary according to the type of appointment. Due to IRS restrictions placed on non-taxed fellowships, retirement benefits are not allowed for Postdoc Trainees (Status Code 20). VIVA Health Insurance coverage is provided at no cost to the Postdoc with the option of purchasing the dental and vision portion of the insurance plan. Because of their unique status as “Trainees” who do not receive a salary but rather a stipend, these Postdocs are eligible for student housing.

Postdoc Employees (Status Code 21), because of their employee-employer relationship with the University, receive a salary. They also are provided VIVA Health Insurance coverage paid through the University with the option of purchasing the dental and vision portion of the insurance plan. Status Code 21 postdocs are not eligible for student housing.

Benefits Eligibility Table

Employment Category

Status Code

UAB paid Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance

Employee paid Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance

 

Postdoctoral Scholar Trainee

20

Yes

Yes*

 

Postdoctoral Scholar Employee

21

Yes

Yes*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Employment Category

Status Code

TIAA-CREF Retirement

Viva Health Insurance

Dental and Vision Insurance

UAB paid Group Term Life Insurance

Postdoctoral Scholar Trainee

20

No

Yes

Yes*

Yes

Postdoctoral Scholar Employee

21

Yes

403(b) Plan matched up to 5% of salary

Yes

Yes*

Yes

*Individual pays premium


University Paid Benefits

  • Viva Health Insurance - VIVA Health is the health care plan provided for Postdoctoral Trainees (status code 20) and Postdoctoral Employees (status code 21). The premium for either single or family coverage is paid by the University. Coverage under UAB's group health care plan must be elected on either the first day of appointment or the first day of the month following the date of appointment. The Postdoc has 31 days from their starting date to complete hospital insurance forms either by participating in UAB New Hire Orientation or by scheduling an appointment with the Benefits Department. Some form of health insurance coverage is mandatory and proof of insurance is required if the University's health insurance is not elected. VIVA Health also covers medical evacuation and repatriation of remains for International Postdoctoral Scholars.
  • Group Term Life InsuranceProvided at no cost to the employee; varies with salary. (Sponsored)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance - $22,500.00 for accidental death; dismemberment coverage varies. Provided at no cost to the employee. (Sponsored)
  • Long Term Disability Insurance (Salary Continuation) – After a 90-Day waiting period, 66 2/3% monthly salary (not to exceed $10,000.00 per month) for the first 90 days of benefits. After 90 days of continued benefits, plan pays 60% monthly salary (not to exceed $10,000.00 per month). Proved at no cost to the employee. (Sponsored)
  • Retirement Plans Voluntary Retirement Programs
    • 403(b) Plan
    The 403(b) plan is a voluntary, defined-contribution, tax-deferred as well as Roth after-tax plan governed by the Internal Revenue Code 403(b). Eligible employees can choose between both TIAA/CREF and VALIC for investments. Vesting in the 403(b) plan is immediate. The University matches the individual’s contributions up to 5% of gross monthly pay not to exceed the IRS 401(a) annual compensation limit.
    • 457(b) Plan UAB also offers a voluntary, defined-contribution, tax deferred as well as Roth after-tax plan governed by Internal Revenue Code 457(b). Similar to the 403(b) plan, the 457(b) plan offers the same expanded investment options, convenient payroll deductions, pre-tax contributions, and tax-deferred growth through both TIAA-CREF and VALIC. There are no University matching contributions under this plan.

Voluntary Employee Paid Benefits

  • Postdoctoral Met Life Dental Basic Option - Preventive and diagnostic are covered at 90% UCR. Basic services are covered at 90% UCR subject to a $25.00 deductible. The Postdoc will pay a monthly premium for single or family coverage.
  • Postdoctoral Met Life Dental Comprehensive Option - In addition to the basic dental benefits, the comprehensive plan covers major services at 60% UCR subject to the deductible. Orthodontic services are covered at 50% of UCR up to a $1,000.00 per patient lifetime maximum. The Postdoc pays the full monthly premium for single or family coverage.
  • Vision Service Plan (VSP) Vision Plan – The VSP plan offers employees coverage for routine eye exams, lenses and frames, contacts, and discounts for LAKIK eye surgery. The Postdoc pays the full monthly premium for single or for family coverage.
  • Group Universal Life Insurance Coverage - Maximum Coverage – Up to five times your Basic Annual Earnings, not to exceed $1.4 million.Guaranteed Issue - Three (3) times salary, not to exceed $500,000.00 during first 60 days of employment without evidence of insurability. Individual pays full premium. Rates vary based on age.
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance - Maximum Coverage – lesser of 10 times your basic annual earnings or $500,000.00. Individual pays full premium. Rates vary based on coverage level.            

Other Benefits

  • Social Security - Taxes and benefits established by the U.S. Government
  • Unemployment Compensation Insurance (paid by the University)
  • On-the-Job Injury/Illness Program(paid by the University)
  • Legacy Community Federal Credit Union Credit Card - The Office of Postdoctoral Education is very happy to announce that the Legacy Community Federal Credit Union will offer the opportunity to obtain a credit card to newly-arrived foreign nationals. A Postdoc should go to either of the locations near UAB – 1400 South 20th Street or 516 South 20th Street to open an account for as little as $25.00. The application requires a social security number, the Letter of Offer showing salary and start date, and another identification such a passport, driver’s license, or US government or military ID.
  • Loan - Another service that the Legacy Community Federal Credit Union can provide for Postdocs is help with unplanned cash flow shortages. A new UAB Postdoc can exhaust their available funds quickly when paying deposits on rent, utilities, etc. and may require a small loan to tide him or her over until they are in the UAB system and receive a paycheck. The Legacy Community Federal Credit Union again can help with this problem. Open an account with them for as little as $25.00, provide an ID as mentioned previously, social security number, Letter of Offer, complete the application and they will begin the process. The Legacy Community Federal Credit Union will not eliminate anyone from their services because of lack of credit history, but will need to know, as all financial institutions do, that an individual’s ability to repay a loan or pay a credit card bill is not hindered from excessive debt. They will need documentation showing salary and have agreed to accept the letter of offer as proof. The application for a loan or credit card will ask about any debt amount owed. After comparison of these two figures, they will determine qualification and notify the applicant about the requested service. For a Foreign National Postdoc acquiring the necessary credit history for a credit card can sometimes take years so we believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for newly arrived Postdocs and are very happy to present this offer to you from the Legacy Community Federal Credit Union.

LEAVE POLICIES

Vacation Leave- Six months after the effective appointment date, all Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible for ten (10) paid working days per year. Vacation days do not accrue and cannot be carried over from year to year. All requests for vacation leave should be made in writing and must be approved by the direct supervisor. Postdoctoral Scholars and their supervisors are responsible for maintaining appropriate records.

Sick Leave
- Ten (10) paid working days per year. Sick leave should not be used as vacation. Sick days do not accrue and cannot be carried over from year to year.

Maternity/Paternity Leave - Twenty-two (22) paid successive working days immediately following or just prior to birth or adoption of a child. If both spouses are employed as Postdoctoral Scholars, each one is eligible for a consecutive term of maternity/paternity leave. Additional, non-paid leave, following the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, must be requested and approved by the supervisor.

COUNSELING

Career Counseling - Jami Armbrester, MS, is available by appointment in the OPE office in Shelby 171A to meet with Postdocs and GBS students. Jami is available for one-hour, confidential, one-on-one career counseling. With individualized career counseling, she can help you:

  • Clarify and define your career goals
  • Research and explore career options
  • Identify your strengths and weakness
  • Implement a plan for skills development
  • Develop an effective self-marketing campaign, including job search materials (i.e., CV, resume, cover letter)
  • Prepare for upcoming interviews (academic and industry)

To schedule an appointment with Jami, please contact the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education, (205) 934-6809 or email JamiA@uab.edu .

Health and Wellness Counseling:

The Resource Center – An Employee Assistance/Counseling Service is provided by UAB as a benefit to all employees. All Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible for this confidential service (205) 934-2281.

Campus Counseling - (205) 934-3779, is a non-UAB affiliation, but is open to anyone. It is a non-profit organization that offers front line counseling by appointment. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Motorist Assistance Road Services (M.A.R.S.) - Motorist Assistance Road Services “M.A.R.S” is a service provided by Parking Services free of charge. The service is set up to help any employee or student having car trouble on campus.  Services include retrieving keys, jump starting cars, inflating tires, and assisting if you are out of gas.  M.A.R.S. employees are not mechanics, but they will do their very best to assist you and get you on your way. If they are unable to provide assistance then they will help you find someone who can. Telephone number: (205) 975-MARS (975-6277)

CAREER DEVELOPMENT COURSES

OPE Courses

Each year, the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education sponsors courses in Lab Management (Fall), Grant Writing (Winter), Translational Science (Spring), and Job Skills (Summer). These courses are open to all UAB Postdoctoral Scholars. Please see the OPE website or contact OPE office for more detail about these courses.

Lab Management will introduce every aspect of laboratory management. Throughout the course, participants are expected to write and present a laboratory management plan to the class. This course is open to Postdoctoral Scholars in any discipline. In general, the class meets two hours every week from September to November. Course enrollment is limited to 25 participants.

Grant Writing Course will introduce every aspect of grant writing to Postdoctoral Scholars and will be instructed by successful grant writers. Throughout the course, participants are expected to write a grant application. All grants will be criqued by participating Faculty in a mock study section formal. This course is open to Postdoctoral Scholars in any discipline in which extramural individual fellowship funding is available. In general, the class meets for 2 hours every week over 10 weeks.

Translational Medicine Course for M.D. and Ph.D. Scholars will introduce every aspect of preparing and conducting a clinical and translational science research program, including program design, data analysis, and regulatory requirements. It will be instructed by both physician-scientists and Ph.D. Scientists. Throughout the course, participants will be encouraged to design a pilot clinical and translational project using team-based approach. All projects will be critiqued by participating Faculty. This course is open to M.D. and Ph.D. Postdoctoral Scholars in all disciplines. The class will meet every week for 2 hours a week TBA. Course enrollment is limited to 25 participants.

Job Skills Course will introduce every aspect of preparing for and completing a job search, including career options, preparing CVs and resumes, and interviewing skills. This course is open to Trainees, including Postdoctoral Scholars and senior graduate students, in any discipline. Throughout the course, participants are expected to: 1. Attend each class; 2. Participate in class discussions; and 3. Develop a job search strategy. This class meets for 2 hours each week during the summer TBA. Enrollment is NOT Limited. Class topics will include: Academic and Non-academic Career Options, Preparing CVs and Resumes, and Interviewing and Negotiating Skills.

Professional Development Courses

The Office of Postdoctoral Education encourages Postdoctoral Scholars to take advantage of the many classes and seminars offered through the Professional Development Office. The OPE will pay tuition and fee costs for up to six hours of credit for a Postdoc per year. A complete listing of these courses can be found on the OPE web page at www.uab.edu/postdocs/ under Career Resources, or by going directly to the Professional Development web page at www.uab.edu/profdev. Regular credit classes as well as additional non-credit classes are available to Postdocs as long as the course will enhance career and professional development for the Postdoc.

All courses to be sponsored by the OPE must be approved prior to registration. Once a course has been decided upon, the Postdoctoral Scholar must contact Linda R. Luck by email at lluck@uab.edu or call (205) 975-7020 for approval. Upon approval to take the course, the Office of Postdoctoral Education will notify the Postdoc of the correct method to register for that particular class

In most cases, OPE will handle your registration. Please send your request with Course Title, Number, and CRN to Linda R. Luck prior to the open registration period to allow time for processing and avoid late fees. ‘

Any request to take addition hours in a calendar year must be approved by OPE prior to registration. Your request, with the rationale for this course as a benefit to your professional development, should be submitted to Dr. Lisa Schwiebert with a copy to Linda R. Luck.


Postdocs in UAB News

  • NIH awards nearly $34 million to UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science
    This renewing of UAB’s prestigious Center for Translational Science Award will bolster research and workforce development at UAB and throughout its regional partner network in the Southeast.

    Written by Christina Crowe

    The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Clinical and Translational Science $33.59 million over four years to continue the center’s programs advancing translational research.

    Since its initial funding in 2008 through Alabama’s only Center for Translational Science Award to work toward innovative discoveries for better health, the UAB CCTS has nurtured UAB research, accelerating the process of translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, training a new generation of clinical and translational researchers, and engaging communities in clinical research efforts.

    The CCTS will continue to advance its mission to accelerate the delivery of new drugs, methodologies and practices to patients at UAB and throughout a partner network of 11 institutions in the Southeast.

    “We are excited by the capacity to continue to enhance our institution’s and our region’s innovative research and medical care,” said Robert Kimberly, M.D., UAB CCTS director. “Through internal and external partnerships, as well as a robust clinical environment and cutting-edge informatics and clinical trial resources, we look forward to working with our patients over the course of their lifespan.”

    Congress launched the CTSA program in 2006, which is overseen by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

    The amount of this award, more than double its previous funding awarded in 2008 and one of the largest at UAB, reflects an unmatched enthusiasm for the CCTS and its affiliated programs. It includes funding for 10 annual pre-doctoral training awards, 10 summer training awards, and eight career development awards for senior postdoctoral fellows or faculty-level candidates.

    “Our training programs continue to foster a culture of responsible, ethical practice among students, faculty and clinicians conducting human subjects research,” Kimberly said. “The NIH’s support of our expansive partner network, encompassing 11 regional academic and medical institutions throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, will allow us to further grow our scope of practices and research resources as we look to tackle health disparities in the Southeast.”

    Through One Great Community, the CCTS’ community engagement enterprise, and the Community Health Innovation Awards, the CCTS engages Greater Birmingham­­-area residents in innovative programs designed by community members to improve their neighborhoods.

    “UAB is fully committed to the goals of the CCTS and to its continued development as a hub for clinical and translational research in the Southeast,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “This significant renewal speaks to the tremendous work and vision of our CCTS leadership and team, as well as our clinical infrastructure, scientific strengths, informatics expertise, training programs, and biostatistical and research design assistance.

    “The CCTS touches researchers in all UAB schools and across the partner network, and we are thrilled that this important work will continue with the confidence and support of the NIH.”

    Click to enlargeState and regional impact

    “The growth of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UAB will foster economic development in the state and throughout the region,” said Senator Richard Shelby. “With a history of providing optimal clinical care and innovation in human health, UAB’s receipt of this prestigious award enables the continued development of the workforce that is necessary to meet the needs of future research advancement.”

    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, himself a physician, voiced his appreciation for the CCTS’ initiatives. “The center has been highly effective in providing assistance in the state’s efforts to eliminate the health disparities seen throughout our region,” Bentley said. “Whether across the life course or in underserved groups disproportionately affected by cancer, stroke, heart conditions and other diseases prevalent in our state, the center has been exemplary in reaching out to our citizens.”

    UAB Vice President, Research and Economic Development Richard Marchase, Ph.D., says he is particularly pleased that the CCTS is building on UAB’s history of serving populations burdened by health disparities through its partnerships with other state and regional institutions committed to advancing health through translational research. “It is through this culture of commitment and collaboration,” he said, “that we have become a national leader in biomedical research.”

  • UAB names McMahon dean of Graduate School
    Lori McMahon, Ph.D., will enrich excellence and innovation in graduate education through professional and career-development initiatives and lead collaborative efforts for recruitment and outreach with various academic units to attract highly qualified students.

    Lori McMahon, Ph.D., has been named dean of the Graduate School at the University of Alabama at Birmingham following a national search guided by a 13-member committee made up of students, faculty and staff, and chaired by UAB Vice President for Research and Economic Development Richard Marchase, Ph.D.

    Marchase says the search committee was very pleased with both the size and the strength of the applicant pool, especially those candidates from within UAB, and that the committee is exceptionally pleased McMahon will serve as UAB’s Graduate School dean.

    “There were several candidates who really stood out, and among those Lori was a clear choice of the committee,” he said. “Her extensive experience in graduate education, her innovative approaches to how graduate education can be improved, and her enthusiastic ability to interface with both prospective and current students were distinguishing factors.”

    McMahon will strive to enrich excellence and innovation in graduate education through professional and career-development initiatives and lead collaborative efforts for recruitment and outreach with various academic units to attract highly qualified students. She also will monitor the academic status of students and provide support and oversight for administrative functions within the Graduate School. McMahon will report directly to the provost and will work closely with deans in all academic areas.

    “Her extensive experience in graduate education, her innovative approaches to how graduate education can be improved, and her enthusiastic ability to interface with both prospective and current students were distinguishing factors.”

    “Dr. McMahon has a reputation for working well with faculty across our very broad and diverse enterprise, and she has a real passion for mentoring doctoral students,” said UAB Provost Linda Lucas. “She always has doctoral students in her lab. She will bring an energy and dedication to this position that will have far-reaching benefits for students, faculty and staff.”

    A current UAB professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology, McMahon is also the Jarman F. Lowder Professor of Neuroscience and director of the UAB Comprehensive Neuroscience Center. She is associate director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute, is associate director for the Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging, and also holds appointments in the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Civitan International Research Center and the Center for Exercise Medicine.

    “I have been fortunate since joining UAB in 1998 to work in a tremendously collaborative environment among outstanding faculty committed to developing highly educated trainees with the knowledge and integrity to go out and change the world,” McMahon said. “I am honored and humbled to be the dean of the Graduate School and look forward to working with faculty and students from disciplines across campus to build upon our growing prominence as a world-renowned research university.”

    McMahon — who earned her Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center — joined the faculty at UAB in 1998 as an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics after completing her postdoctoral training at Duke University Medical Center. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, American Physiological Society, and International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment.

    “I would like to thank the search committee for their commitment to identifying an exceptional candidate for this job,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “Thanks to the time and thoughtful consideration of many students, faculty, staff and supporters over many months, UAB has welcomed terrific new leadership in many areas across campus, and I am pleased Dr. McMahon will take on this important role as we strive to maximize the reach and effectiveness of UAB’s world-class graduate education opportunities.”

    Associate Dean Jeffrey Engler, Ph.D., has been interim dean of the Graduate School at UAB during the search for a permanent candidate to fill the vacancy created by the Dec. 31, 2014, retirement of Bryan Noe, Ph.D., who was UAB’s first full-time Graduate School deanfrom 2005 to 2014.

    UAB’s graduate enrollment, up 43 percent in the past decade, is the highest among Alabama universities, at 5,937 in fall 2014. The diverse group, which is two-thirds female and nearly 30 percent minority, is pursuing degrees in 50 master’s programs, 37 doctoral programs and eight education specialist programs.

    McMahon’s first day as dean will be Oct. 1.

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UAB Research News

  • Crowdsourcing science: How Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is becoming a research tool
    A growing number of researchers, from computer scientists to philosophers, are taking an interest in the "artificial artificial intelligence" offered by Amazon's microwork platform.

    Written by Matt Windsor

    This spring, Chris Callison-Burch, Ph.D., was in town to share an unusual approach to machine learning. This is one of the hottest topics in computer science: It is behind everything from Google’s self-driving cars to Apple’s Siri personal assistant.

    Callison-Burch, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is building a system that can automatically translate foreign languages into English — especially obscure dialects (from an American point of view) that can be of great interest to national security. He was in Birmingham at the invitation of Steven Bethard, Ph.D., a machine learning researcher and assistant professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Computer and Information Sciences.

    In order to teach a computer to do something, Callison-Burch explained, you need to give it examples. Lots of examples. For a French-English translation, there are millions of sample texts available on the Internet. For Urdu, not so much.

    Crowdsourced corpus

    One way around this problem would be to pay professional translation services thousands of dollars to create the “corpus” of words you would need to train a computer to translate Urdu automatically. Callison-Burch has pioneered another approach: He paid some random folks on the Internet a few bucks at a time to do the work instead.

    Callison-Burch is one of a growing number of researchers using Amazon Mechanical Turk, a service of the giant Internet company that bills itself as a “marketplace for work.” Mechanical Turk, or MTurk, as it is known, “has almost become synonymous with crowdsourcing,” Callison-Burch said. Anyone in need of help with a “human intelligence task” (Amazon’s term) can post a job description, and the “reward” they are willing to pay. One recent afternoon, some of the 255,902 tasks available on MTurk included tagging photos on Instagram (4 cents per picture), typing out the text visible in distorted images (1 cent per image) and rating test questions for a biology exam for a researcher at Michigan State University (a penny per question — this is a popular price point).

    Callison-Burch started out by giving Turkers and professional translators the same tasks. He encountered some trouble at first — respondents copying and pasting their assigned sentences into Google Translate, for example. “Quality control is a major challenge,” Callison-Burch said. “It is important to design tasks to be simple and easy to understand.”

    In order to teach a computer to do something, you need to give it examples. Lots of examples.
    That’s where Mechanical Turk can shine.

    So he tweaked his assignments to filter out people who weren’t really native speakers, and added in some clever quality control mechanisms, such as getting additional Turkers to pick the best translations out of multiple versions of the same sentence. Callison-Burch was able to get remarkably close to the professional quality, for “approximately an order of magnitude cheaper than the cost of professional translation,” he said.

    Turk-powered translation could be particularly helpful in translating regional Arabic dialects, Callison-Burch noted. “Because standard machine translation systems are trained on written text, they don’t handle spoken language well,” he said. In a recent study, Callison-Burch and his collaborators found that “comments on Arabic newspaper websites were written in dialect forms about 50 percent of the time.” A machine learning system trained in these dialects could offer vital clues about where a writer is from in the Middle East, for example, or about “his or her informal relationship with an interlocutor based on word choice.”

    Applications from obesity to philosophy

    MTurk’s brand of “artificial artificial intelligence” (Amazon’s Turk tagline) could also be applied to other machine learning research at UAB, notes Steven Bethard. “Chris’ work is fascinating,” with applications from medicine to the social sciences, Bethard said.

    UAB researchers are already putting MTurk to use. Andrew Brown, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Office of Energetics in the School of Public Health, has tested Turkers’ ability to categorize biomedical research studies. “We like to do some creative looks at what’s been published and how,” Brown said. For arecent paper, Brown and colleagues were interested in systematically evaluating nutrition-obesity studies. They wanted to find out whether studies with results that coincide with popular opinion are more likely to draw attention in the scientific community than studies that contradict the conventional wisdom. (They used citations as a proxy for the scientific community’s opinion of a paper.)  

    The first step was to identify all the studies of interest. But “the problem is, there are 25 million papers in PubMed, and sometimes the keywords don’t work very well,” Brown said. “It helps to have a human set of eyes take a look at it.” Instead of giving Ph.D.-level scientists the job, the researchers turned to MTurk. The Turkers successfully evaluated abstracts to identify appropriate studies and categorize the studied foods, then gathered citation counts for the studies in Google Scholar. (There was no significant link between public and scientific opinion when it came to the papers.)

    “We found it to be useful,” Brown said. “Expecting a perfect rating or an exhaustive rating from microworkers is probably a little premature, but on the other hand even trained scientists make mistakes.” Brown plans to use crowdsourcing for future studies. “This is just one more tool to add to our research toolbox,” he said.

    Josh May, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Philosophy, has been using MTurk for several years — asking Turkers to solve thorny moral dilemmas. “I present participants with hypothetical scenarios and ask them to provide their opinion about them — ‘Did the person act wrongly?’” May said. “Then I see whether responses change when the scenarios are slightly different, e.g., when a harm is brought about actively versus passively, or as a means to a goal versus a side effect. Statistical analysis can reveal whether the differences are significant — providing evidence about whether the slight changes to the scenarios make a real difference in everyday moral reasoning.”

    “Expecting a perfect rating or an exhaustive rating from microworkers is probably a little premature, but on the other hand even trained scientists make mistakes…. This is just one more tool to add to our research toolbox.” —Andrew Brown, Ph.D.

    Social justice and microwork

    May, Brown and Callison-Burch share an interest in social justice for Turkers as well. “The main ethical issue with MTurk is exploitation,” May said. “The going rate is often around a quarter for a few minutes of work, which typically adds up to less than the federal minimum wage, even when working quickly. This apparently isn’t illegal given certain loopholes, but that doesn’t make it moral. Just because someone will work for pennies doesn’t mean we should withhold a living wage.”

    May’s solution for his own research “is to estimate the time it will take most workers to complete the task and then pay them enough so that the rate would amount to at least minimum wage.” Brown takes a similar approach — and when the Turkers work more slowly than expected, which drives down their overall wage, “there are bonus systems in place where you can give them something extra,” he said.

    Callison-Burch is using his programming skills to help Turkers earn fair wages. He has created a free browser extension (available at crowd-workers.com) that identifies high-paying jobs and makes it easier to identify job posters who have a large number of complaints.

    Crowdsourcing operations such as MTurk represent an untapped resource for scientists of all stripes, Callison-Burch concluded. “Individual researchers now have access to their own data production companies,” he said. “Now we can get the data we need to solve problems.”

  • Grants available for community health projects
    UAB’s Community Health Innovation Awards available to fund local projects aimed at community health issues.

    Grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 are available from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Community Health Innovation Awards, part of the One Great Community program. The awards will be given to local individuals and organizations that have good ideas for solving community health issues.

    The Community Health Innovation Awards’ annual grant competition is a way for participants to think boldly and creatively about solutions to health challenges communities face. The awards are a way for UAB, local leaders and area communities to share resources and expertise.  

    One Great Communityis the community engagement component ofUAB’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Its goal is to connect basic science and clinical researchers with the multiple communities in the state and region. This collaboration will ensure that research efforts respond to and reflect the needs of the community through an active process of community involvement, dialogue and mutual understanding.  

    All applicants for a 2015 CHIA grant must attend an innovation workshop Saturday, Sept. 19. Click here for registration information for the workshop.

    Draft proposals will be due Monday, Oct. 19, by 5 p.m., and final proposals will be due Monday, Nov. 16 by 5 p.m.

    For more information, please contact the CHIA Project Team at: chiateam2015@gmail.com.

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