On August 5, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) submitted comments on the six topics identified in a National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Request for Information (RFI) regarding Strategies for Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education. The RFI culminated roughly two years of efforts by NIGMS—including blog posts and a symposium—to broaden the discussion around and highlight ongoing research on how best to train biomedical scientists.
In its response, FASEB recommended two changes to graduate education to ensure the effectiveness of tomorrow’s biomedical researchers: 1) modernization of course content to better reflect scientific and technological advances and 2) examination of instructional methods to improve student comprehension and retention of key concepts and skills. Barriers to implementing these changes—such as lack of resources and battling the status quo—and potential strategies to overcome them—including better use of core facilities and recognition for excellent educators—were also discussed.
FASEB also outlined key skills graduate students should develop in order to be successful in their post-graduate careers:
- Discipline-specific knowledge—having detailed knowledge in a specific research area above and beyond a requisite broad knowledge of biological principles and processes
- Professionalism—developing professional attitudes and behaviors related to the conduct of science
- Communication skills—being able to communicate via written, oral, and visual media to audiences at all levels of scientific comprehension
- Research and analytical skills—acquiring the wide variety of skills needed to analyze issues and situations and to propose and test rational solutions
- Management and collaborative skills—developing the abilities to manage personnel, projects, and grants, to network successfully to achieve optimal collaborations, and to work in teams and assume leadership positions
- Lifelong learning and career development skills—understanding the importance of staying current in one’s field of research as well as knowing steps needed in order to advance and/or change one’s career.
FASEB suggested that advisors and dissertation committees should play the biggest role in imparting these skills and ensuring their integration into students’ practices.
Finally, FASEB recommended that NIGMS continue to support the development of educational resources and promote the open exchange of ideas. FASEB also cautioned NIGMS against being overly prescriptive in its directives on implementation.