Created by on 1/31/2011 12:00:00 AM


The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) released its draft strategic plan for training in January, and the Institute is accepting public comments on the document until February 15, 2011. The plan is the culmination of a 10 month process during which NIGMS solicited broad input from stakeholders and ultimately received comments from more than 300 university and college faculty members and administrators, current and former pre- and postdoctoral trainees, industry representatives, and professional and scientific organizations, including FASEB.
The plan contains four major themes: 1) research training is a responsibility shared by NIH, academic institutions, faculty, and trainees; 2) research training focuses on student development, not simply selection of talent; 3) breadth and flexibility enable research training to keep pace with the opportunities and demands of contemporary science and provide the foundation for a variety of scientific career paths; and 4) diversity is an indispensable component of research training excellence, and it must be advanced across the entire research enterprise.
Many of the actions proposed under those themes have been championed by FASEB. For example, in a May 2010 letter to NIGMS, the Federation encouraged the Institute to broaden its definition of successful training outcomes beyond becoming a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded independent investigator. FASEB stated that there are “many other valuable ways to contribute to the biomedical research enterprise,” including through research positions in industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations; careers in science education; and jobs in research administration, science policy, and science journalism. “Measures of success should take into account research participation and contributions in all sectors,” recommended FASEB.
NIGMS’s draft plan also stated that it would encourage research grant applicants requesting support for trainees to prepare plans to assure that quality mentoring and career guidance is provided throughout the training period. FASEB supports this proposal, but favors having the plans reviewed by applicants’ institutions rather than by NIH as part of the peer review process. The exact mechanism by which NIGMS will implement this new policy has yet to be described. To improve graduate and postdoctoral training and career development, FASEB recommended that NIGMS encourage its investigators to help their trainees create individual development plans and establish training goals based on a set of core competencies, actions the Institute proposed implementing. The draft strategic plan also includes promoting the identification and exchange of methods to improve research training and establishing data driven mechanisms to evaluate the outcomes of NIGMS’s own activities, including those intended to promote a diverse research workforce. FASEB encouraged both of these proposals.
FASEB plans to submit comments on the draft strategic plan, which reflects NIGMS’s broad goals for training and career development. As the finer points of the plan have yet to be worked out, FASEB anticipates additional opportunities to provide input as the institute moves forward with implementation.