BEST Practices Workshop Proceedings

WORKSHOP

The Institution of Health BEST Consortium in conjunction with the Great Group Professional Development Meeting hosted a BEST practices workshop. Common fund and Burroughs Wellcome Fund were the main sponsors.

Workshop Purpose

The primary purpose of the workshop was to share best practices and lessons from the program with the biomedical research training community.Some of the targeted topics included:

  • Workshop and courses development
  • Experiential and internship learning
  • Technology resources and data collection

It also aimed at offering doctoral and post-doctoral scholars practical guidance on motivating, creating, implementing and evaluating career and professional development opportunities. Some of the invitees included institutional and government policymakers, as well as employers who had an interest in supporting professional development and careers for biomedical training. The workshop aimed at providing a platorm for open dialogue around the creation of sustainable Career Development opportunities, while taking into consideration the limitations such as faculty culture as well as personnel and financial resources. 

Background 

Professional and Career Development programs for biomedical Research doctoral and post-doctoral students previously focused on training the students for academic research positions. Yet, a paltry 25% of them end up in tenure-track faculty positions according to reports from academicians, the Science Foundation. 25% stay in administrative or tenure-track research positions. The remaining 50% are in Industries outside of academia such as pharmaceutical science, biotechnology, science policy or communication and regulatory affairs. Trainees do not get professional development opportunities to help them acquire transferable skills that employers desire in the various sectors.

Due to the flux in career opportunities, the health institution called upon institutions to develop proposals aimed at exposing doctoral and post-doctoral scholars to professional development and biomedical research career opportunities. The proposals or research experiments needed to have strong evaluation plans. 

The common fund established the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) initiative and awarded 17 institutions a five-year one-time Grant. To facilitate communication and generate collaborative publications on the outcomes, they set up a national Consortium comprising of all the institutions. 

To date, the Consortium has been actively addressing issues and identified challenges as they work towards developing career and professional development opportunities. The member institutions have unique programs, although they share certain commonalities in some aspects.

Despite the creativity and effort that goes towards strengthening biomedical research training  by BEST, we still support ‘traditional’ academic biomedical research careers. 

Underlying philosophies of best 

  • There is equal value in both biomedical research and science as careers
  • Training is critical for skill development and better decision-making
  • Faculty advisors must get the necessary support; complement not supplant the advisor
  • Students with ongoing research must benefit from ongoing disciplinary research training from all the programs
  • Programs to work towards helping trainees develop self-awareness and career skills 

Consortium Mission

  • Create a diverse and sustainable SU.S model workforce for the training of personnel who can promote health and advanced science
  • Provide and maintain high levels of career-related and research skills 
  • Establishment of professional career development offices in all training institutions
  • Practice ethical advertising during recruiting so that prospective students are aware of the expected outcomes.
  • Position non-academic careers as valid and valuable by gaining the support and recognition of mentoring faculty
  • Test and disseminate information on best training paradigms in publications and BEST website
  • Help trainees identify and pursue career goals in the shortest time through efficient directing of their efforts.
  • The main focus of the best Consortium is to shift from traditional models where training primarily focuses on an intended career in academics to where we supplement research training with professional development opportunities. This model opens more career opportunities even in academia, as well as change faculty mentor attitudes to embrace a greater involvement of trainees in development activities. 

Planning Committee

The planning committee had representatives from BWF, BEST and GREAT. 

Topics of discussion included:

  • Career officers program staffing
  • Workshop and courses development
  • Experiential and internship learning
  • Technology resources and data collection

Every BEST institution had the capacity and expertise to handle any of the topics. To this end, the topic allocation was random.

The panelists had sufficient time and opportunity to present in different areas. All the discussions focused on the BEST activities and outcomes around challenges, opportunities, sustainability efforts, and costs. They also reported an area such as contributions, output, cross-institutional interactions, and minimal cost solutions.  

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