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Classifying Alumni Employment Records

Tracking Alumni Employment Outcomes

We have tracked the employment outcomes of our biomedical PhD alumni for over a decade. In 2007, we implemented an exit survey to collect “first destination” employment information for biomedical PhD graduates; this predoctoral exit survey has a completion rate of over 90%. In 2012, we hired our first summer intern to start finding alumni employment information. We update these employment records about every two years, with our most recent update occurring in 2019. We have been able to find >90% of our alumni using Google searches of publicly available information, including PubMed, ResearchGate, and institutional websites.  We capture the employment information in spreadsheets, classify the outcomes using the taxonomy described below, and store the information in a database optimized for tracking employment outcomes over time.

Overview of the Process Used to Classify Alumni Employment Records

VU BRET (Vanderbilt University Office of Biomedical Research, Education, and Training) classifies each alumni employment record using a 3-tiered taxonomy AND a series of “flags.”

The VU BRET 3-tiered taxonomy is similar – though not identical – to the taxonomy adopted by Rescuing Biomedical Research (RBR) and tested by Stayart et. al. in a paper deposited in BioRxiv. As shown in this crosswalk between the VU BRET and RBR taxonomy (VU-BRET-v2019-to-RBR-crosswalk), most of the differences between the VU BRET taxonomy and the RBR taxonomy are in the Job Function tier.

The flags we employ (VU-BRET-v2019-flags) are a series of fields with limited answer options that allow us to record additional employment information that is not part of the 3-tiered taxonomy. These flags are useful to capture complex employment situations, especially as we moved beyond recording alumni outcomes at a single point-in-time to tracking alumni careers over time (that is, multiple employment records for each person).

In addition to classifying each record using the 3-tiered taxonomy and the series of flags, we use additional flags to classify individuals with faculty appointments.

Together, this classification system allows us to more fully capture the complexity of alumni career outcomes and follow alumni careers over time.