Goal 4: Develop Workforce and Resources

Training Biomedical Research Experts for Life Beyond the Ivory Tower

Only 10-20% of graduates from PhD programs in the biomedical sciences will pursue a scientific career in the traditional tenure track academic model.

 

This is in part due to a mismatch between a large number of highly qualified scientists and the relatively small number of tenure track positions available. Instead of viewing the careers of the 80-90% as "alternative careers", we have to accept that in fact the traditional tenure track career has become a rare occurrence or an "alternative career".

 

Nevertheless, NIH training programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows primarily prepare trainees for academic careers.

 

How do we reinvent cardiovascular training so that it appropriately prepares trainees for their future careers?

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

The majority of trainees in NHLBI graduate and postdoctoral training programs will likely pursue a diverse spectrum of careers such as scientists in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, educators, health and science journalists, editors, patent lawyers or health/science consultants in the world of finance and politics.

 

Most NHLBI T32 training grants are awarded to academic institutions and the mentors tend to be tenure-track or tenured academics with NIH R01 funding. The question we have to address is whether these traditional training programs and mentors are well-suited to advise and prepare trainees for careers outside of academia.

 

The NHLBI should fund novel training programs that require or encourage involving mentors outside of academia and funding training projects that allow trainees to work in industry, publishing, writing, politics, non-profits and other non-traditional areas related to heart, lung and blood research. This will prepare trainees for future careers and increase their likelihood of obtaining satisfying jobs.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Such newer T32 training programs will require a rethinking of the goals of training. There will be challenges for how to assess the quality and identify benchmarks of success for the training programs. Instead of merely looking at the number of publications by a trainee, one should also consider the impact they will make on society by using their expertise in biomedical research to improve education, health and science reporting, political and financial decisions, etc.

 

One should also consider awarding such training programs jointly to multiple institutions and encourage sharing of trainees. For example, a T32 program that wants to train future science writers and journalists with expertise in cardiovascular medicine would encourage their trainees to visit multiple partner institutions with expertise in cardiovascular medicine and in journalism/writing during their training period.

 

Instead of spending two years in one lab under a single mentor working on one or two projects, non-traditional T32 programs would encourage exposure to multiple projects, mentors, etc.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Jalees Rehman

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Idea No. 925