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.
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.
We’ve been examining how best to support the modernization of graduate education at the national level to ensure that trainees gain the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to be successful in the biomedical research workforce.
We’re involved in a variety of efforts. For example, we and other NIH institutes and centers provided support for the development of training modules on rigor and reproducibility. We encouraged graduate programs at institutions that receive predoctoral T32 support from us to make their alumni career outcomes publicly available to prospective and current students. We’ve also offered administrative supplements to predoctoral T32 training grants to support innovative approaches in the areas of rigor and reproducibility, career outcomes and graduate education. In April, we held a symposium covering these and other topics in graduate education. Finally, we plan to write a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement.
We’re now soliciting input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups in response to a new request for information (RFI) on strategies for modernizing biomedical graduate education. We’d like to know your thoughts on:
- Current strengths, weaknesses and challenges in graduate biomedical education.
- Changes that could enhance graduate education to ensure that scientists of tomorrow have the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to advance biomedical research as efficiently and effectively as possible.
- Major barriers to achieving these changes and potential strategies to overcome them.
- Key skills that graduate students should develop in order to become outstanding biomedical scientists and the best approaches for developing those skills.
- Potential approaches to modernizing graduate education through the existing NIGMS institutional predoctoral training grants.
- Anything else you feel is important for us to consider.
Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. They can also be emailed to modernPhD@mail.nih.gov. The due date for responses is August 5, 2016.
We’re looking for multiple program directors (also known as program officers or health scientist administrators) to manage research grants, undergraduate and/or graduate student research and postdoctoral career development programs, and capacity-building programs.
Several of the positions are in the Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch of our Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD). These individuals will manage undergraduate and/or graduate student development programs along with research and training grants. Another position is in TWD’s Postdoctoral Training Branch. This individual will manage one or more of the programs in this branch along with research and training grants. We’re particularly interested in candidates who have broad expertise in areas relevant to the NIGMS mission and professional experience in the training of research scientists as well as in programs aimed at increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce.
The other position is in our Center for Research Capacity Building. This individual will manage programs that support research and provide resources for research infrastructure enhancement and capacity building in the basic, translational and clinical biomedical sciences. These programs seek to enhance the competitiveness and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
Please see the vacancy announcement for position descriptions and requirements and detailed application procedures. The positions close on April 13.
UPDATE: The webinar slides and answers to frequently asked questions are available.
NIGMS Staff Participating in March 8 Webinar
Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Dick Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry
John Laffan, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review
Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review
If you’re preparing an institutional training grant application, you might have questions about the new research training tables required for receipt dates on or after the one coming up on May 25. We’ll field these questions during a webinar on Tuesday, March 8, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST. You can send questions to me or post them here before the webinar.
The revisions reduce the number of tables from 12 to 8, minimize the reporting of individual-level information and extend the tracking of trainee outcomes from 10 to 15 years. Table 8A must also be used to prepare annual progress reports. Table formats, instructions and samples are available on the NIH website.
To access the webinar, visit https://face2face.nih.gov/hope.mabry/7GZSC5SY and click “OK.” If you’re away from your computer, you can access the site from a mobile device. You can also listen to a voice-only option by calling 1-888-390-0678 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering access code 50106.
We look forward to talking to you about the new training tables.
NIGMS Staff Participating in the February 8 Webinar
Jon Lorsch, Director, NIGMS
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
Kris Willis, Program Director, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology
Lisa Moeller, Grants Management Officer
UPDATE: To join this meeting, visit Webinar on Administrative Supplements to T32 Grants, PA-16-060 and click “OK.” The site is compatible with mobile devices. For a voice-only presentation, call 1-888-469-2151 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the access code 8911526.
We’ll field your questions about the recently announced Availability of Administrative Supplements to NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grants during a webinar on Monday, Feb. 8, from 3:15-4:15 p.m. EST. Details about how to access the webinar online will be available soon. You can send questions to me ahead of time.
Since announcing this funding opportunity, we’ve received many inquiries. The following points address most of the common questions:
- The supplement is designed to provide support for the development and implementation of curricular activities aimed at providing graduate students with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting reproducible and rigorous research.
- To be eligible, your training grant must be active through at least June 30, 2018. Thus, training grants that might have received outstanding priority scores and are expected to be renewed effective July 1, 2016, are NOT eligible.
Last week, I wrote to NIGMS-funded T32 program directors to encourage them to inform students about trainee career outcomes. Because this topic is also relevant to the broader community, I’d like to share the message here.
Dear NIGMS T32 Training Grant Program Director:
At the June 2015 meeting of NIGMS training, workforce development, and diversity program directors , Peter Preusch, Dick Okita and I discussed the importance of making post-training career outcomes available to current and prospective students. The goal of collecting and sharing data on Ph.D. career outcomes is consistent with recommendations of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. This topic has also been addressed by the Association of American Medical Colleges , the Council of Graduate Schools and a recent Molecular Biology of the Cell article.
With several training and other grant application receipt dates right around the corner, I want to be sure you know that all competing and noncompeting applications submitted for due dates on or after May 25 must use a new biosketch format.
There are two versions of the biosketch:
We are now supporting two additional Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award individual predoctoral fellowships in basic biomedical sciences relevant to our mission: the F30 fellowship for M.D.-Ph.D. or other dual-doctoral degree students and the F31 fellowship for Ph.D.-degree students. We will continue our support of the F31 fellowship to promote diversity in health-related research.
NIGMS predoctoral fellowships, which generally provide up to 3 years of support, promote fundamental, interdisciplinary and innovative research training and career development leading to independent scientists who are well prepared to address the nation’s biomedical research needs.
An applicant for an NIGMS predoctoral fellowship should:
- Be an advanced Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. student.
- Demonstrate high academic performance in the biomedical sciences and independence in his or her research.
- Have identified a research sponsor and a dissertation project that includes a novel approach to the problem and has strong training potential.
- Demonstrate a commitment to a career as an independent scientist.
We expect the funding for F30 and F31 fellowships to be highly competitive, and we anticipate funding only a very limited number of these applications in any year.
We will give priority to outstanding applicants with sponsors who are currently supported by NIGMS research grants. In addition, we strongly encourage F30 applications from students in combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual-doctoral degree, such as D.O.-Ph.D., D.D.S.-Ph.D. and D.V.M.-Ph.D.) programs at institutions that are not currently supported by our Medical Scientist Training Program.
For more details on F30 and F31 awards, see the NIGMS NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships Web page or contact Peggy Schnoor.