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Making Career Development an Integral Part of the Science Training System

My son is an engineer and my daughter has a business degree. From the very start of their undergraduate experiences, they were provided with ample resources and a positive perspective on the transition to a post-academic career. This training was “included” with their tuition, so to speak. 

Unfortunately, many science graduate programs are still doing an inadequate job of supporting science trainee transition into diverse, successful careers. 

We’re not even doing a very good job of providing skills training for scientists destined to continue in academia. It seems it’s largely a matter of luck if a student or postdoc ends up in a lab where they can learn the plus skills needed to succeed on the career path of their choice. This failing becomes amplified by systemic biases which, in the absence of support and structure, prevent science from attracting and keeping diverse talent in science related careers. Failure to strengthen the talent pipeline sets the world up for reduced impact of scientists and science. The pandemic has demonstrated that, more than ever, we need all of our science trainees to be successful after their training.

 

Group photo of the participants in the pd|hub workshop and the cover of the report on the right of the photo.
Figure 1: Professional Development Hub Workshop Attendees and their 2021 report. Image from pd|hub.

 

To begin to tackle these challenges, a group of stakeholders came together with the goal of driving systemic change in academic career readiness training. It’s been an honor to work with such a group dedicated to providing the structure and know-how to integrate career development in science training programs. In 2018, the ASBMB and Burroughs Wellcome Fund provided seed funding to take this initiative to the next level with the creation of the The Professional Development Hub (pd|hub). Pd|hub was spearheaded by Cynthia Fuhrmann at University of Massachusetts Medical School. It has been supported by a Steering Committee and working groups with representatives from all areas of the scientific training and employment infrastructure. A Stakeholder Workshop at Janelia Research Campus in 2019 solidified the project and the findings were captured in this just released report “Enhancing Dissemination of Evidence-Based Models for STEM PhD Career Development; a Stakeholder Workshop Report.” The report enabled the development of priorities for pd|hub which include building capacity to identify the most effective practices and disseminating career training approaches in a way that can be implemented widely in the community. 

Talk alone is not going to drive change. This effort is already resulting in concrete actions and outcomes. For example, pd|hub assembled a coalition of higher education organizations committed to advancing career and professional development as core components of predoctoral and postdoctoral training. A grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) will support the development and implementation of collections of evidence-based practices. These concrete programs and practices to promote PhD professional development are intended to be widely disseminated by “train the trainer” programs. 

Please join us for the pd|hub Workshop Report Public Release Event scheduled for March 4th from 2:30-4:00 pm ET.  You can learn more about the report’s recommendations and join with us to discuss and prioritize ongoing work. 

If we’re going to continue attracting and launching science talent we must ensure that career skills training is a required and integral part of all science training programs. I believe in the academic apprenticeship system as a training ground for scientists, but it is essential that we integrate inclusive career readiness training in this educational path before we lose more scientists who might have played a major role in solving the world’s problems. 

Sign up for the pd|hub public release event!


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