Action: Encourage exposure to multiple career path
options for graduate students and postdoctoral
Action: Increase collaboration with societies,
professional associations and other organizations to build
awareness of the breadth of scientific career options and
It is the goal of NIGMS to train excellent research scientists.
The culture of academic science has long held, at least informally,
that the main successful outcome of training is the attainment of
an academic tenure-track position with independent funding. This
view has been remarkably stable over time, despite the fact that
the number of graduate students and postdoctoral trainees has been
increasing at a far faster rate than the number of new faculty
positions, and only a fraction of graduate trainees will become
employed as tenure-track faculty. However, the scientific community
is beginning to understand that well-trained scientists are
valuable in a number of different fields, including but not limited
to industrial research, teaching, science policy and science
writing. Training in scientific research will be an important
factor in these and other professions, yet such careers likely also
require expertise in areas that may not be included in traditional
research training programs. Therefore, outstanding training today
must include a
diverse skill set.
To best and most efficiently prepare biomedical trainees for a
diversity of possible careers, it is important that mentors
understand and respect their trainees’ aspirations even if
those do not include traditional academic tenure-track research.
Mentors and mentees should be able to candidly discuss career
goals, include them in annual
individual development plans and work toward them together.
Such openness regarding career paths may require a shift in
training philosophy, particularly in what constitutes success in
biological science training programs. To better enable this
transition, NIGMS will update reviewer education materials to
reflect that the Institute includes within its view of success
multiple career paths that are open to well-trained scientists.
Many societies and institutions have developed seminar series,
symposia and workshops to inform trainees about different career
paths for scientists. NIGMS will strongly encourage these efforts
to build awareness of the career options and opportunities outside
of traditional academic research. There are also excellent Web
sites and blogs available to point trainees toward information
regarding careers about which they may be unaware. In particular,
the American Association for the Advancement of
Science’s Science Careers Web site is an extremely useful aid for
young trainees planning their careers.