Continuing our longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the careers of students and postdoctoral scientists from diverse backgrounds, for example groups underrepresented in biomedical research, we sought input from the community through a request for information (RFI) on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity, specifically in research-intensive institutions. The RFI was open May 24 to July 20, 2018, and received a total of 89 unique responses from stakeholders including postdoctoral scientists, faculty members, and professional societies.
NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the training of students from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research, through fellowships, career development grants, and institutional training and student development programs. These programs, and other efforts, have contributed to a substantial increase in the talent pool of well-trained biomedical Ph.D.s from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. However, increasing evidence shows that transitions of these talented scientists from postdoctoral training into independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions is a key point at which they exit the NIH-funded research workforce. Similarly, women have earned a majority of biomedical Ph.D.s since 2008 but approximately one-third of NIH-funded principal investigators are women.
We have undertaken a number of efforts to facilitate the career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate including Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards and research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research and re-entry into biomedical research careers. Additionally, we administer the NIH Common Fund’s National Research Mentoring Network, a nationwide consortium of biomedical professionals and institutions collaborating to provide biomedical trainees from all backgrounds and at all levels with evidence-based mentorship and professional development programs. While these efforts have supported the development of highly-trained biomedical scientists who have the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue independent biomedical research careers, we need additional strategies to promote transitions to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.
We’re hosting a webinar for students and fellows interested in the PRAT Program for the October 3 receipt date:
Wednesday, June 20, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET
PRAT is a competitive three-year fellowship program that prepares trainees for leadership positions in biomedical careers. Training includes a mentored laboratory research experience and intensive career and leadership development activities. PRAT fellows conduct research in laboratories in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) in basic biomedical research areas within the NIGMS mission. These areas include, but are not limited to, biological chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, computational biosciences, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development.
Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2019). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page (no longer available) and enter the meeting number (access code) 625 876 209 and the password MjRSPSrH. You can also attend by phone by calling 650-479-3208. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.
NIGMS Staff and PRAT Fellows Participating in June 20 Webinar:
Kenneth Gibbs, Director, PRAT Program
Mercedes Rubio, Program Officer, PRAT Program
Amy Elliott, PRAT Fellow
Sam Golden, PRAT Fellow
Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto, PRAT Fellow
We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.
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.
UPDATE: The new predoctoral T32 funding opportunity announcement specifically tailored for predoctoral graduate programs in the basic biomedical sciences is now available.
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.
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.
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.
NIGMS’ longstanding support of and commitment to programs that promote workforce diversity have contributed to significant progress , but persistent representation gaps along demographic lines remain in the ranks of both independent investigators and scientific leadership. These gaps lead to the loss of valuable contributors from the talent pool and limit the ability of the biomedical community to identify and address critical scientific and societal concerns. A special issue of CBE-Life Sciences Education , published September 1, provides the broader community with a chance to assess the progress made and plan for a future in which we cultivate and harness all available talent.
The papers in this issue, which I edited with Pat Marsteller of Emory University, fit four main themes:
- Innovative and effective interventions or approaches for broadening participation.
- Mechanistic explanations for why certain approaches have been effective.
- Novel insights about institutional and systemic factors that influence broadening participation efforts.
- Syntheses of research and practices that provide a “plan of action” heading forward.
NIGMS leadership, staff and grantees authored 11 of the 35 features, editorials, essays and articles in the special issue. While all of the papers focus on topics of importance to developing a diverse scientific workforce, I wanted to call your attention to a few representative articles:
On April 11, more than 150 people from across the country (plus many via videocast) participated in the NIGMS Symposium on Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education. The goals of the meeting were to convene stakeholders to continue the momentum for positive change within the biomedical graduate education community and to showcase innovative experiments and approaches in Ph.D. training.
The morning session featured presentations highlighting the training expectations of graduate students, institutional approaches to reshaping graduate education programs and attributes employers look for when hiring early career scientists. These talks converged on the theme of ensuring that graduate education equips Ph.D. students with the scientific and professional skills they need to be successful in their careers.
After a presentation focusing on assessing the effectiveness of educational innovations, the speakers in the afternoon session described a variety of experiments in graduate education that are currently under way in various settings. The nine innovations featured in this session were augmented by an additional 32 posters presented during the lunch period.
NIGMS is actively involved in efforts to catalyze the modernization of graduate education. As part of our work on this issue, we will host a symposium at NIH on Monday, April 11, where we will convene stakeholders from the biomedical graduate education community to continue the momentum for positive change and showcase innovative approaches in Ph.D. training. You can register to attend in person or watch the meeting live or later.
The agenda for the morning session includes an overview of the current landscape from the perspective of various stakeholders (students, institutions and employers) followed by a discussion on implementing change and assessing the effectiveness of educational innovations. The afternoon session will highlight experiments in various areas of graduate education such as curriculum redesign, quantitative skills enhancement, rigor and reproducibility, diversity and inclusion, and career and professional development. We will hear about why and how these experiments were implemented, their outcomes to date and aspects that could be exported to other institutions.
We hope you can join us for what promises to be a broad and stimulating discussion.