We’ve just released a new training funding opportunity announcement (FOA) specifically tailored for predoctoral graduate programs in the basic biomedical sciences. Through this FOA, we intend to encourage changes in biomedical graduate training that allow it to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the research enterprise, which is increasingly complex, quantitative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative.
The overarching objective of this new predoctoral T32 training program is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained scientists who have the following:
- A broad understanding across biomedical disciplines, and the skills to independently acquire the knowledge needed to advance their chosen field.
- The ability to think critically, independently, and to identify important biomedical research questions and approaches that push forward the boundaries of their areas of study.
- A strong foundation in scientific reasoning, rigorous research design, experimental methods, quantitative and computational approaches, as well as data analysis and interpretation.
- A commitment to approaching and conducting biomedical research responsibly and with integrity.
- Experience initiating, conducting, interpreting, and presenting rigorous and reproducible biomedical research with increasing self-direction.
- The ability to work effectively in teams with colleagues from a variety of cultural and scientific backgrounds, and to promote inclusive and supportive scientific research environments.
- The skills to teach and communicate scientific research methodologies and findings to a wide variety of audiences (e.g., discipline-specific, across disciplines, and the public).
- The knowledge, professional skills, and experiences required to identify and transition into careers in the biomedical research workforce (i.e., the breadth of careers that sustain biomedical research in areas that are relevant to the NIH mission).
Because diversity at all levels is integral to research and training excellence, this FOA is also intended to fund outstanding research training environments that support trainees from all backgrounds, and to enhance diversity in the biomedical enterprise by paying particular attention to the inclusion of individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.
The goal is of this FOA is to enable the community to develop and implement innovative approaches to training and mentoring that will effectively and efficiently train future generations of outstanding biomedical scientists. This funding announcement is designed to allow biomedical graduate education to preserve the best elements of the current system, while enhancing the focus on the trainee development of the technical, operational, and professional skills needed to transition into successful and productive careers in the biomedical research workforce.
The new FOA will apply to all NIGMS predoctoral T32 training grants submitted for receipt dates beginning May 25, 2018, except the Medical Scientist Training Program, which will remain on the parent T32 announcement for now. Because this is a new funding announcement, all applications (including those from previously established programs) must be submitted as new (-01), however applicants may describe up to 15 years of outcomes in the narrative.
As always, we welcome your feedback. You can email your questions and comments or post them here.
At the recent NIGMS Advisory Council meeting, the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity requested, and received, approval to write a new predoctoral T32 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), specifically tailored for predoctoral graduate programs in the basic sciences and designed to help catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education. The goal is to enable the community to develop and implement innovative approaches to education and mentoring that will more effectively and efficiently train future generations of outstanding biomedical researchers, and will allow graduate education to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the biomedical research enterprise. Taking into account the feedback we have received from various stakeholders over the past year, the new FOA will:
- Emphasize the development of a diverse pool of exceptionally well-trained scientists;
- Focus on skills development, rigor and reproducibility, inclusive and supportive training environments, and responsible conduct;
- Address conflicts in the incentive structure of the research enterprise that adversely impact biomedical graduate education;
- Encourage the use and dissemination of evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices;
- Emphasize improvements in career preparation (broadly defined), and dissemination of career outcomes on publicly available sites.
The intention is not to layer additional activities onto existing structures. Instead, this funding announcement is designed to allow for a creative reinvention of biomedical graduate education that preserves the best elements, while enhancing the focus on the development of research and professional skills by trainees.
We expect to issue the new T32 FOA this fall and to receive the first applications in May 2018. The new FOA will apply to all NIGMS predoctoral T32 training grants, except for the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which will remain on the parent T32 announcement for now. We plan in the future to develop a parallel FOA that is specific for the goals of the MSTP.
We encourage the community to watch the presentation at our Council meeting and view the slide deck. As always, we welcome your input and feedback on these plans. You can post your comments below.
After attending the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) annual meeting in mid-October and learning about the progress the consortium has made and its future plans, we’re feeling energized as we begin the third year of this grant. The DPC, supported by the NIH Common Fund and managed by NIGMS, is a cooperative agreement focused on finding the best ways to improve research training and mentoring in the biomedical sciences and on engaging a more diverse field of individuals in biomedical research careers. The consortium includes three interconnected programs: Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC).
The annual meeting brought together over 100 representatives from NIH and each grantee site to discuss DPC achievements, challenges and opportunities. The agenda, organized by the CEC, included two full days of presentations and breakout sessions.
NIGMS actively supports efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education. We have undertaken a number of initiatives to stimulate this process, including hosting a symposium to showcase innovations in biomedical graduate education and providing administrative supplements to T32 predoctoral training grants to enhance rigor and reproducibility, career development and skills development.
On June 8, 2016, we took another step to encourage such change with the release of a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on how our institutional predoctoral training grants program can be used to promote innovations in training. The RFI asked members of the community to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, the skills the next generation of graduate students should acquire, barriers to change and strategies to promote change through our institutional predoctoral research training grants.
We received 90 unique responses from stakeholders ranging from students and faculty to institutions and professional societies. Themes represented in the responses were organized around five major categories:
- Institutional and training-related issues,
- Skills development,
- Systemic issues within the research enterprise,
- Careers, and
- Administrative and review issues.
Figure 1. Major Categories in Graduate Education RFI Responses. Bar chart showing the number of RFI responses in which one of the major categories was represented. A total of 90 unique responses were received for the RFI.
While NIGMS recognizes that those who responded to the RFI are unlikely to represent a random subset of the individuals and organizations who have a stake in graduate biomedical education, these responses provide insights regarding how members of the extramural community view the current challenges and opportunities in graduate biomedical education. As such, these comments will inform NIGMS’ ongoing efforts to catalyze the modernization of graduate education through a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement, which is currently under development. For more details about the analysis, we encourage you to explore the report.
UPDATE: The slides from the MARC U-STAR program applicant webinar have been posted.
If you are preparing an institutional MARC U-STAR grant application, you might have questions about the funding opportunity announcement, data tables and FORMS-D package required for the upcoming May 25 receipt date. We will be available to discuss these topics during a webinar on Thursday, April 7, from 3:15-4:45 p.m. EDT. You may send questions to me before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter meeting number 622 362 803 and the password “NIGMS.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-877-668-4493 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.
We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.
NIGMS Staff Participating in April 7 Webinar
Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Richard Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry
Sailaja Koduri, Scientific Review Officer (on detail from NCATS), Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Mona Trempe, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review
Justin Rosenzweig, Grants Management Specialist, Division of Extramural Activities