New Requirement to Describe IDP Use in Progress Reports

If you have an NIGMS research grant, we want to raise your “IDP consciousness.” If you’re unfamiliar with this abbreviation, IDP stands for “individual development plan.”

A recent NIH Guide notice announced a revised policy on describing the use of IDPs in annual progress reports that requires you to include a section on how you use IDPs to help identify and promote the career goals of the graduate students and postdocs supported by the grant. The notice states:

NIH will not require but strongly encourages institutions to develop and use IDPs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH awards, regardless of their position title. IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals. Therefore, NIH encourages grantees to develop institutional policies that employ an IDP for every graduate student and postdoctoral researcher supported by NIH awards. Beginning on October 1, 2014, annual progress reports are required to include a description of whether the institution uses IDPs or not and how they are employed to help manage the training and career development of those individuals.

Please note that you should not include the actual IDPs in your progress report.

NIGMS’ training strategic plan emphasized the importance of IDPs, and our IDP Web page provides useful resources for preparing and implementing them. If you have other tips for using IDPs or meeting the new progress report requirement, please feel free to share them here.

New Mechanism to Support Research Educational Activities

As part of our efforts to develop and sustain a highly skilled and diverse biomedical research workforce, we have introduced a new mechanism to complement or enhance research training activities. The Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) will support creative and innovative research educational activities through courses for skills development, structured mentoring activities and outreach programs.

We expect the scope, purpose and objectives of IPERT applications to be as varied as the potential applicants. Both institutions and organizations are eligible to apply.

An IPERT program should address a documented need, problem or challenge in research training and include measurable goals and objectives. Applications should explain the balance of effort and resources dedicated to each activity and how the activities will integrate. Proposals should also align with the NIGMS Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training, which recognizes that:

  • Research training is a responsibility shared by NIH, academic institutions, faculty and trainees.
  • Research training must focus on student development, not simply the selection of talent.
  • Breadth and flexibility enable research training to keep pace with the opportunities and demands of contemporary science and provide the foundation for a variety of scientific career paths.
  • Diversity is an indispensable component of research training excellence and must be advanced across the entire research enterprise.

The IPERT program may be of particular interest to institutions and organizations with current or past support from the MARC Ancillary Training Activities program (T36), which has lapsed and will not be reissued. Conference and meeting programs previously supported by the T36 mechanism may be more appropriately supported through the NIH conference grant mechanism (R13/U13).

While a letter of intent is not required, we strongly encourage anyone who is interested in submitting an IPERT application to consult with me or other staff of the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to determine if this is the best mechanism to support their ideas and plans.

Career Transitions Workshop for Postdocs

2014 Postdoctoral  Preparation Institute: Career Transitions WorkshopRegistration is now open for the 2014 Postdoctoral Preparation Institute: Career Transitions Exit icon, a workshop we’re funding for postdoctoral fellows who will soon be seeking positions in a variety of career sectors. The workshop, which is being run by FASEB, will take place near NIH on June 5-6. It follows two successful prior NIGMS postdoc workshops in 2010 and 2012 Exit icon.

The meeting will cover a range of topics related to making a successful transition to the next career stage, including career planning; communication, leadership and other interpersonal skills; grant-writing; applying for positions; and navigating the interview and negotiation processes. Participants will also have an opportunity to learn about a number of scientific career options.

Among the featured speakers are NIGMS director Jon Lorsch and NIH’s first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity, Hannah Valantine.

If you know of postdocs who would benefit from this career development event, please encourage them to visit the registration page Exit icon for details about eligibility, travel support and application materials. Applications are due by April 18.

While the event is open to all eligible postdocs, we especially encourage applications from members of groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical or behavioral sciences. If space is available, the FASEB meeting organizers will also consider applications from new assistant professors who are within 1 year of the completion of their postdoctoral training and 5th-year Ph.D. students who are near degree conferral.

Scientific Careers in the Federal Government

Broadening the definition of a “successful scientific career” is a key theme of the NIGMS training strategic plan as well as the NIH Biomedical Workforce Working Group Report.

To help graduate students, postdocs and even faculty become more familiar with the range of opportunities available to those trained for research, I participated in a 2013 ASCB meeting Exit icon  panel discussion with ASCB Executive Director Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi about science careers outside academia. We had a lively Q&A session about our reasons for leaving bench science, how our previous experiences have helped us in our current positions, and what one needs to do to prepare for careers in science policy and research administration.

Not too long ago, some might have considered me a science “dropout” because I left academia for federal work as a program director. I may no longer have my own lab, but I think about science every day and help researchers obtain funding for their work. I’m happy that I made the transition.

If you’re considering a science administration career in the federal government, here are a few tips to help you find available opportunities.

Job vacancies for individuals at all career stages are posted on USAJOBS.gov Exit icon. The Overview section of each announcement will tell you how many vacancies the job announcement intends to fill. Without going too far into the minutiae, the site has an advanced search Exit icon feature that lets you find open positions by salary, location, keyword and more. One search field is Occupational Series Exit icon. The series that may be of most interest to Feedback Loop readers are 0601 – General Health Science, which includes most scientific administration jobs at NIH, and 0401 – General Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences, which includes science administration jobs at NSF. Both the 0601 and 0401 job “families” include bench science positions, as well.

As of today, the 0601 and 0401 series offered more than 80 open positions. While not all of the jobs may be relevant to you, this gives you an idea of the scope of the federal science and health mission.

Last year, Mitzi Kosciulek of NIH’s Office of Human Resources wrote about applying for scientific administration jobs at NIGMS. Some of the general principles she outlined are applicable to any federal job search. For example, as part of an effort to speed the hiring process, many USAJOBS postings are open for only 5 days. For that reason, consider creating a profile, building a resume in the system and uploading your academic transcripts so you’re ready to roll when the right job opportunity presents itself. Once you have a profile, you can save your most pertinent search specifications and then ask the system to send you new “hits” by e-mail.

NIGMS Support of Career Development (K) Awards

NIH offers a wide variety of career development (K) awards, and NIGMS participates in a number of them. Here are answers to questions we often get about NIGMS support of these awards.

Which career development awards (K awards) does NIGMS support?

We support:

I’ve found a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for a K award. How can I tell if NIGMS participates in this FOA?

If NIGMS is participating, it will be listed in the “Components of Participating Organizations” section near the top of the FOA. If NIGMS is not participating, consider whether another listed component may be appropriate for your application.

Where can I learn more about NIGMS-supported K awards?

Visit our Mentored Career Development Awards page to find additional information about most of our K awards. You also can contact an NIGMS program director in your area of interest.

Where can I find information on all NIH K awards?

You can find information on these awards at the K Kiosk. Another NIH resource, the Career Award Wizard, can help you identify the K awards that may be right for you.

New Resource for Individual Development Plans

Our Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training stresses the importance of creating an individual development plan (IDP) for every graduate student and postdoctoral scholar, not just those supported on formal training grants.

The plan’s implementation blueprint addresses this action item, and we’ve since posted more information and links to sample IDPs.

The latest addition to this IDP page is a new tool developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science called myIDP Exit icon. The tool makes it easy for grad students and postdocs to examine their scientific skills, interests and values; identify scientific career paths that best match their skills and interests; and set goals for the coming year. The site also links to articles for early career scientists to use as they plan their future.

I encourage mentors and mentees alike to check out this great new resource.

Guidance for Implementing NIGMS’ Training Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research TrainingEarlier this year, we issued a Blueprint for Implementation of our Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training. Since then, we’ve developed guidance to help the academic community implement the plan. This includes several short documents on the topics below:

All the links above are available on our Optimizing the Research Training Partnership page, which also includes links to these two statements of NIGMS principles:

As always, we welcome your input and comments—on these particular documents as well as on research training in general. We particularly encourage you to share suggestions based on your own training experiences. Send your comments to me or post a comment on the Feedback Loop to share them with other readers.

Optimizing the Research Training Partnership

Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research TrainingIt’s been nearly a year since we posted our Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training. In August, I announced that we were on course to implement most of the plan in early 2012. I’m very pleased to tell you that our Blueprint for Implementation is now available. As you’ll see, it’s truly a blueprint, and in the months ahead we’ll be posting more details and guidance about each of the action items.

One of the most important messages in the blueprint is that research training is a partnership between NIH and the academic community. We recognize that addressing many of the action items depends on those of you in the front line of training. We also know that many of you already do an excellent job of training and mentoring students and postdocs. Nevertheless, training outcomes can always be improved, and our blueprint aims to provide our view of what excellent training is, along with encouragement and resources to adopt and improve certain practices to achieve the goals of the action items. These ideas are based on the broad input we received over the course of our strategic planning and implementation process.

I encourage you to read the blueprint and the other documents that we post on our new training partnership Web page and to use the feedback form to send us your comments, questions, suggestions and examples.

Back by Popular Demand: Workshop for Transitioning Postdocs

We’re holding our second two-day workshop for postdoctoral fellows who soon will transition to their first independent positions. It will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, March 12-13, 2012. All eligible postdocs may apply, but we especially encourage applications from members of groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical or behavioral sciences.

The workshop, organized with the assistance of FASEB, covers a broad range of topics to help postdocs navigate the transition process, including applying for a position, negotiating an offer, establishing a lab, finding mentors and collaborators, getting a grant and balancing research with other commitments. NIH Director Francis Collins will deliver the keynote address.

We received a lot of positive feedback on our 2010 workshop. Just last week, I met an attendee who told me that she had recently moved into her first independent position and that attending the workshop had helped her get the job.

If you know of postdocs who would benefit from our career development event, please encourage them to visit the registration page for details about eligibility, travel reimbursement and application materials, which are due by November 30. Note that participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Systems Biology Center Offers Computational Course Materials

National Centers for Systems Biology bannerIn addition to their systems-level studies of complex biological phenomena, the NIGMS-supported National Centers for Systems Biology engage in a variety of training and outreach activities. One recent example is a curriculum for first-year graduate students created by the New York Center for Systems Biology. This material introduces computational principles and approaches that are becoming increasingly important across the biomedical sciences.

If you would like to know more about this course and/or download materials such as lecture slides or problem sets, please see the Teaching Resources section Exit icon of the September 13, 20 and 27 issues of Science Signaling.

To learn more about the systems biology centers and their offerings, visit the systems biology portal Exit icon.