Training for a Diverse Skill Set

Action: Promote inclusion of a variety of perspectives, backgrounds and approaches among faculty and trainees.

Depth of knowledge in a particular subject area and methodology are essential to scientific research training. However, a training experience that produces well-rounded and capable scientists requires a broader knowledge base as well. Preparation for multiple career paths may include familiarity with such subjects as the business of science, laboratory and project management, mentoring, curriculum development and teaching. Also, it is important that a well-trained scientist be able to interact and communicate with experts in other areas of the scientific realm and with the lay public.

In addition to a diversity of skills, exposure to different areas of research is becoming increasingly important for trainees. Some of the greatest leaps forward in scientific thought have come about because of collaborations between people with different training backgrounds and ways of thinking. Furthermore, research has shown that diverse groups have increased innovation and are more successful at solving problems than more homogeneous groups. Interactions between different specialties of scientists are also becoming essential as science becomes more collaborative and the biomedical and behavioral fields flow into areas of chemistry, physics, informatics and clinical medicine. In addition, the industrial sector routinely takes advantage of diverse teams to solve scientific problems. Therefore, a broad training experience—and increasingly, the success of a research program—includes interactions with individuals who are experts in a diversity of scientific fields.

A view of training breadth to include skills beyond the bench may require an expansion of training philosophy for many advisors and trainees. To aid this, NIGMS will consider promoting activities, programs and courses, as well as sponsoring workshops, that encourage the development of multiple career skills. In addition, NIGMS will encourage the use of individual development plans to help trainees plan the accumulation of skills that are necessary for their future careers.

There are many excellent articles and resources online regarding how to plan a training program to include a variety of transferable career skills. These include: