Administrative Supplements for NIGMS Predoctoral T32 Grants to Develop Curricular and Training Activities

To continue our efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education, we invite eligible NIGMS-funded T32 predoctoral training programs to submit administrative supplement requests to develop new curricular and training activities to enhance the program’s ability to: 1) provide graduate trainees with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting rigorous and transparent research to enhance reproducibility (PA-18-756); 2) prepare students for diverse careers in the biomedical research workforce (PA-18-757); 3) develop the knowledge and skills of trainees to enhance laboratory safety (PA-18-758); and 4) develop the technical, operational, and professional skills of predoctoral biomedical researchers (PA-18-759).

Grantees should consider the following before applying:

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Reviewers Will Be Ready for the New Predoctoral T32 FOA

The first receipt date for predoctoral T32 applications in response to NIGMS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) PAR-17-341 is fast approaching—May 25, 2018. While a wealth of information is already available regarding the intent and requirements of this new FOA, including on our NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants website and a recent Feedback Loop post, we want to reassure prospective applicants that we are also actively preparing for the review of these applications.

All predoctoral T32 applications submitted to NIGMS are currently reviewed by two in-house standing review committees, TWD-A and TWD-B, and this will continue for applications submitted under the new FOA. However, we are mindful that reviewing these applications requires different expectations and considerations, and that reviewers must accordingly be prepared for them. To this end, scientific review officers in our Office of Scientific Review are working closely with program staff in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to revise the materials and resources currently used to orient review committee members to ensure they understand and address the new review criteria appropriately. We are also exploring options to add expertise to the committees in aspects of the FOA that may be less familiar to reviewers, such as program evaluation, evidence-based approaches to teaching and mentoring, and non-academic career development. In addition, we are considering ways to bring the perspectives of community members who educate and mentor undergraduate students who go on to pursue Ph.D.s in biomedical fields, as well as of those who employ graduates of NIGMS-funded Ph.D. programs, such as representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. And of course, NIGMS review and program staff are available at each step, including during the review meetings, to provide guidance and reminders.
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Webinar on NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant Program in Basic Biomedical Sciences

UPDATE: The slides [PDF 1.38MB], videoLink to external web site, and FAQs from the Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an application for the NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) program for the May 25 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Monday, March 5, from 3:00-4:30 p.m. ET.

During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the new funding opportunity announcement and answer any questions you may have. You can send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To join the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page (link no longer available) and enter the meeting number 627 943 381 and the password W7pyYXW4. If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

NIGMS Staff Participating in the March 5 Webinar:

Jon Lorsch, Director
Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch
John Laffan and Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officers
Lisa Moeller, Grants Management Officer

We look forward to talking to you about the NIGMS-sponsored T32 program.

Discontinuing Our Participation in the NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) Program

We recently issued an NIH Guide notice informing the community that we will discontinue participation in the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) (PA-16-309). As stated in the notice, we will not accept new or resubmission applications for this program, and its subsequent reissuances, starting with the April 8, 2018, receipt date. We will continue to accept NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31) (PA-16-308) and NRSA Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD or Other Dual-Doctoral Degree Fellowships for Students at Institutions Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (F30) (PA-16-306). This decision does not affect those F31 (parent) applicants who have already received an award from NIGMS or whose applications have already been received by NIH and have been reviewed or are currently pending review.

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New Area for NIGMS Predoctoral Training

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to graduate training and has for many years supported research training in 11 broad areas of basic biomedical science, including Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface; Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; Biostatistics; Biotechnology; Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences; Chemistry-Biology Interface; Genetics; Molecular Biophysics; Molecular Medicine; Pharmacological Sciences; and Systems and Integrative Biology.

With publication of the NIGMS’ new predoctoral training grant funding opportunity announcement, the list now includes Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences. This new area is designed to broaden the scope of disciplines supported by an NIGMS training grant and increase the geographical distribution of institutions that might apply.

The transdisciplinary area is open only to a) institutions that currently do not have an NIGMS-funded institutional predoctoral T32 training program in any of the basic biomedical science disciplines listed above (with the exception of Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface or Biostatistics), or b) institutions with current NIGMS-funded predoctoral T32 training programs that propose to merge two or more of their existing NIGMS-funded predoctoral training programs into a single program. Training supported in this area is expected to be broadly-based and multidisciplinary in nature and may be covered by the other NIGMS-supported areas of basic biomedical science disciplines, or may include other emerging area(s) within the NIGMS mission.

Applications for the Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences area will be accepted for the May 25, 2018, receipt date and thereafter.

We welcome your comments and questions—they can be posted here, emailed to me, or you may call 301-594-3900.

New NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement

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.

Take Charge of Your Scientific Journey With a New iBiology Course

UPDATE: Enrollment for the course is open until October 15.

The path to a successful career as a biomedical scientist is rarely direct: There can be stops along the way, and each person has different motivations, opportunities, and challenges. The path also depends, in part, on the institution, program, or department where the student is training, and finding the right scientist, mentor, or coach to help guide that journey isn’t the same for everyone. A new online training program supported through an Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) grant to iBiology can help participants navigate this process.

Planning Your Scientific Journey Exit icon,” provides training for undergraduate and graduate students on successfully navigating the path to a research career. The interactive lessons may be useful for postdocs and early career scientists, too. Topics include:

  • Developing a good scientific question
  • Establishing a plan of action
  • Asking for advice and developing collaborations

The free 6-week course will take place October 2 to November 13. The course can accommodate nearly 20,000 participants. New course content will be released on a weekly basis to allow students time to focus on each week’s lessons. The course is expected to be offered again in either the spring or fall of 2018. Ultimately, iBiology plans to make this course available in a self-paced format—further enhancing students’ ability to benefit from the course offering, and to revisit the course content at any time.

iBiology is just one of the awardees in our IPERT program. IPERT R25 grants support creative and innovative research educational activities that are designed to complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical research needs. Each IPERT grant must also address the NIGMS goal of creating a highly skilled and diverse biomedical workforce, and integrate three required elements: short courses/workshops for skill development, mentoring, and outreach. To learn more, visit the IPERT webpage. The next receipt date for applications is January 23, 2018.

Give Input on the Organization and Administration of NIGMS Undergraduate and Predoctoral Diversity Programs

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to training the next generation of biomedical scientists and supports training of students from underrepresented (UR) groups through a variety of institutional training and student development programs including Bridges to the Baccalaureate, Bridges to the Doctorate, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development, and the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program. The goal of these programs is to increase the number of students from UR groups who matriculate in and complete Ph.D. degree programs in the biomedical sciences and become leaders in the U.S. research enterprise.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community, including students, undergraduate faculty, graduate faculty, scientific societies, and academic institutions, as well as from the public, through a Request for Information (RFI) on the organization and administration of NIGMS undergraduate and predoctoral diversity programs.

Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • The potential challenges and opportunities created by changing NIGMS R25 programs to NRSA training (T) grant activity codes, and strategies for overcoming any potential challenges
  • The potential advantages or disadvantages of having a single, unified NIGMS-funded undergraduate or predoctoral diversity program vs. multiple NIGMS-funded diversity programs at a given institution
  • Strategies for building effective intra- and inter-institutional networks that minimize unnecessary duplication, leverage existing resources and create synergies to more efficiently and effectively promote the development of a well-trained and diverse biomedical research workforce
  • Any other comments or recommendations regarding NIGMS programs that support the training of students from UR groups

Responses can be submitted via an online form Exit icon and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is October 31, 2017.

Notes from the 2017 Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Program Directors’ Meeting

2017 TWD Program Directors' Meeting: June 18-21, 2017. Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Baltimore, MarylandThe 2017 Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD) Program Directors’ Meeting Exit icon, organized through a grant to the Federation of Associations for Experimental Biology, took place June 18-21 in Baltimore. This biennial meeting brought together the community of faculty, staff and administrators who manage TWD undergraduate and predoctoral training programs across the nation to network, share best practices for program improvement and connect with NIGMS staff. This year, participants presented more than 100 posters. Plenary sessions and keynote talks described innovative approaches for training and evaluation, efforts to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce and more.

Highlights included:

  • Alison Gammie, director of NIGMS’ TWD division, outlined the new predoctoral T32 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in her presentation Exit icon [PDF, 4.4MB]. The FOA will emphasize cultivating a diverse pool of well-trained scientists and will focus on skills and career development, the importance of scientific rigor and reproducibility, and the value of inclusive and supportive training environments. It is scheduled for publication this fall.
  • Principal investigators of administrative supplements to NIGMS predoctoral training grants presented their approaches to modernizing biomedical graduate education through increased focus on scientific rigor, career and skill development, and training opportunities.
  • Melanie Sinche, director of education at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and author of “Next Gen PhD: A Guide to Career Paths in Science,” shared her research on recent STEM Ph.D. graduates’ career pathways Exit icon [PDF, 1.7MB]. She found that the majority of recent STEM Ph.D. graduates who responded to her survey expressed satisfaction with their work, and they chose their employment primarily for “intellectual challenge” and “flexibility.”
  • Erin Dolan, a professor at the University of Georgia, talked about effective strategies for science education Exit icon [PDF, 1.7MB]. Citing a variety of references, Dolan presented on how the research training community can help students develop interests and careers in the sciences by incorporating models from educational research and social cognitive career theory. This approach is intended to nurture greater enthusiasm for science because it’s based on how students learn and make career decisions. Later, members of the Diversity Program Consortium’s Coordination and Evaluation Center led a workshop on evaluation techniques [PDF, 4.7MB] and shared some tools with attendees that may aid in more effectively evaluating training programs.
  • In his Message from the Director Exit icon [PDF, 5.5MB], Jon Lorsch included an overview of ongoing NIGMS priorities, including the expansion of the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. He also announced that NIGMS is the new home for the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, which supports educational and career activities for pre-K to grade 12 students, as well as other public outreach programming. SEPA strongly complements the rest of NIGMS’ workforce diversity and training portfolio. Examples of SEPA projects Exit icon include mobile laboratories Exit icon that bring science to rural communities, professional development Exit icon for teachers and media-based projects like the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Exit icon.

To view more of the presentations and to access abstracts for the poster sessions, please visit the 2017 TWD Program Directors’ Meeting resources page Exit icon.

Your Perspectives: Catalyzing the Modernization of Biomedical Graduate Education

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.