Investing in the Future: National Institute of General Medical Sciences Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training 2011
Key Themes and Specific Actions
Theme I: Research Training is a Responsibility Shared by NIH, Academic Institutions, Faculty and Trainees
No two students are the same or develop along the same trajectory, so mentoring must be continually customized, adjusted and redirected to meet each student's needs.
—JO HANDELSMAN, IN ENTERING MENTORING17
Several contributors influence the activities and outcomes of students and postdoctoral scholars. Although many in the scientific community look to NIGMS to provide leadership in research training, the Institute acknowledges, and expects, the sustained efforts of multiple partners toward achieving successful outcomes in research training as well as fostering the cultural change that is needed to do so. In gathering input for this plan, the Institute heard about many programs—as well as about faculty who mentor individual trainees—that have experimented successfully with novel teaching methods and expanded career guidance such as unconventional modes of “on-the-job” training. However, such faculty and institutions have sometimes hesitated to promote and/or continue these activities for fear of faring poorly when their grant applications are reviewed.
Actions associated with this theme speak to the need for cooperation, collaboration and clear communication among all parties involved in research training within the biomedical and behavioral sciences.
Action: Articulate more clearly NIGMS’ aims and expectations for high-quality research training. All research trainees should become proficient in a set of competencies that enable the pursuit of a successful scientific career. NIGMS will examine and communicate its criteria to recognize the range of program elements and outcomes that promote optimal learning, foster innovation and advance quality training.
Action: Examine and adjust the allocation of NIGMS training resources across and within scientific areas and institutions. NIGMS will reconsider how it allocates training funds in order to meet its priorities, mission and obligations, and to promote a better integration of research training within institutions. These strategies aim to increase responsiveness to changing needs in the biomedical workforce; avert duplication of effort; and also enhance efficiencies in recruitment, retention, diversity and mentorship.
Action: Promote the identification and exchange of effective methods to continually improve all research training activities. NIGMS encourages training programs and approaches that are adaptive. By identifying strengths that help define good examples, the Institute will facilitate and promote a collaborative process that invites faculty and educators within and across institutions to share experiences, outcomes and “best practices.”
Action: Monitor and evaluate NIGMS’ training activities, and adjust as needed to achieve desired goals and outcomes. NIGMS will capture appropriate current baseline data on its training activities and establish data-driven mechanisms to evaluate outcomes. The Institute will also stay apprised of trends, developments and actions that impact training but are outside the purview of NIH. Periodic analyses will be provided to grantees and applicants via the NIGMS Web site and other channels.