Creating an online resource center for training and professional development in the biomedical sciences

Investigator: Ronald D. Vale, PhD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Location(s): United States


The future of biomedical research and related industries in the United States resides in the training of the next generation of students in the life sciences. Success will be measured not only by achievements in academic research, but also development of industry, a science literate public, and evidence-based policy making in health and other related sectors of the US economy. This grant application proposes to create an online resource center for developing a wide variety of professional skills related to the life sciences, which will impact the training an career choices of future generations of scientists.

The future of biomedical research and the US bioeconomy depends upon our ability to train and motivate the next generation of scientists and science-related professionals. PhD and postdoctoral training, which consists largely of a research apprenticeship, has changed relatively little in the past half-century. However, the biomedical workforce has changed dramatically during this time, as a smaller fraction of PhD graduates are now going into academic research compared to other careers, and more demands are being placed on trainees and faculty in academic institutions. The time has come to make adjustments in the ways in which students and postdoctoral fellows are trained, so that they are well-prepared in the multi-faceted skills required to succeed in various careers. Many universities have now come to this realization and have started to incorporate professional development workshops in postgraduate training. However, the quality and frequency of such workshops can vary considerably between institutions, and many workshops limit the number of attendees. We (iBiology) propose to produce and host online scientific training and professional development videos, aimed primarily at graduate students and postdocs, which can be accessed free-of-charge and on- demand by individuals or institutions anywhere in the world. Having nine years of experience in producing scientific videos, a large and growing viewership, and a strong reputation in the scientific community, iBiology is well-positioned to tackle this project. Our proposal covers a wide-range of topics including reproducibility & ethics, mentoring, scientific teaching, science communication, diversity in science, non-research career options, and professional skills that are required for entering and succeeding in academic and industry careers. Some of these subjects will be presented in the form of structured courses, which will be hosted on a new, more advanced website. Other material will be offered as stand-alone videos, but with the flexibility of being organized into custom workshops or courses. We also will produce videos designed to engage and address the needs of trainees from underrepresented groups. The content of these courses and professional development videos will be designed in close collaboration with an outstanding group of scientists who are nationally known for their leadership in training and mentoring. Our online resource center is not intended to supplant institution-based mentoring and workshops; rather, our goal is to work closely with institutions to help them access high quality content to complement local discussions and mentoring activities. In addition to producing video content, this project has a component of direct mentorship by recruiting and training teaching assistants for courses, catalyzing young scientist-run workshops, and organizing question and answer sessions between our speakers and viewers. Through these collective efforts, we will produce a highly-visible, high-quality, on-demand resource center for professional skills in the biomedical sciences.