Improvement of Research Training Activities

Action: Promote the identification and exchange of effective methods to continually improve all research training activities.

NIGMS believes that innovation is a positive feature in training, just as it is in basic science research, and that the scientific community is the best source of new ideas. Because they are the most involved in guiding undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs, research mentors are likely to discover the best ways to train the next generation of scientists. Training innovations might involve formal curricula, oversight mechanisms, encouragement to participate in scientific service or other methods of expanding trainee knowledge, experience and skill sets. Approaches may differ depending on training stage and background, but the most successful programs will emphasize a breadth of knowledge and skills to prepare trainees for a future of growing scientific complexity and diverse potential career pathways.

As with scientific research, outcomes are the strongest argument for training efficacy. With this in mind, NIGMS encourages institutions to collect and retain records on their trainees' successes and ultimate careers, and to make these data freely available to potential future trainees.

One way in which NIGMS will help promote training improvement efforts is by disseminating training ideas and success stories. Possible mechanisms include the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog and Web site. NIGMS will also consider holding meetings and workshops to help spark communication and networking among leaders of different training programs. Finally, the Institute encourages faculty to share their innovations in training with NIGMS staff and other training partners.

There is a rich published literature investigating training and teaching methodology (one example is the American Society for Cell Biology-published CBE-Life Sciences Education Link to external Web site), and this is another manner by which successful institutions with compelling data can share their stories.