NIH Director's Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) (DP7)

02/18/2014, 5:00 PM

All Faculty in the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences

Below please find a limited submission opportunity with only one proposal allowed per institution. If you are interested in applying to this program please email me by February 18, 2014.

NIH Director's Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) (DP7)

Program Description:

This initiative is developed in response to recommendations provided by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), NIH. The committee studied the current state of the biomedical research workforce, and NIH’s support of training for this workforce ( The ACD report confirms that although the vast majority of people holding biomedical PhDs are productively employed, the proportion of PhDs that move into tenure-track or tenured faculty positions represents a minority of the trainee outcomes. An increasing proportion of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows conduct research in non-academic venues such as government or private sector, or are in areas such as science policy. 

Despite the broad range of career options available to U.S.-trained PhD biomedical scientists, graduate programs and postdoctoral training focus almost exclusively on preparing individuals for careers as academic researchers. The ACD committee recommended that NIH-supported graduate programs and postdoctoral training be broadened to reflect the actual career outcomes of today’s PhD graduates and postdoctoral scientists. For the purposes of this FOA, a “research-intensive” career is defined as an occupation in which research is performed in any venue, including industry, academia, government or entrepreneurial pursuits. “Research-related” careers are defined as occupations that directly support the biomedical research enterprise.

Program Objectives:

In consideration of these recommendations, this program invites applications that propose the establishment, implementation, and assessment of innovative approaches and activities to broaden and complement traditional research training in biomedical, behavioral, social and clinical (referred to as ‘biomedical’) sciences. These awards, also called the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) awards, will provide support for institutions to develop novel ideas in training and workforce development. The goal of this program is to better prepare predoctoral students and postdoctoral scientists for the breadth of careers in the biomedical research workforce and to establish a network to develop, share, evaluate, and disseminate best practices within the training community.

The announcement seeks applications from institutions with established predoctoral programs. If an applicant institution also trains a significant number of postdoctoral scientists, the proposed program designed in response to this FOA must also include a plan to address the needs of the postdoctoral scientists. We invite bold and innovative applications that leverage existing institutional resources to broaden and enrich training experiences so that participants are exposed to multiple research-intensive and research-related career paths early in their training. Programs should identify various career paths and develop meaningful opportunities targeting those pathways. Participants (both graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) are expected to have the opportunity to select from among these preparatory experiences. The program is not meant to train them fully for new career options, but should prepare them for the next steps in their career development.

Applications responsive to this FOA should provide opportunities to acquire a working knowledge of the skills necessary for a wide range of successful careers in the biomedical research workforce. The goal of this FOA is to broaden both doctoral and postdoctoral traditional training experiences such that the participants are better prepared for careers in a variety of venues, including industry, government, academia, or entrepreneurial enterprises. While it is expected that participants intending to enter academic research careers will benefit from broader experience, programs designed exclusively to target academic research careers will be considered non-responsive. For individuals seeking careers in research-related areas, such as science policy, technology transfer, management or other areas requiring the research doctorate in biomedical science, NIH seeks applications to provide graduate students and postdoctoral fellows meaningful training experiences so that they are better prepared to enter those occupations as well as for research-intensive careers in the private sector.

Applicants are also encouraged to include the design of positive and attractive exit pathways for those individuals intending careers that do not require a research doctorate. More broadly, NIH seeks innovative business and academic models of how graduate programs in biomedical research sciences define themselves and their purpose, how they recruit, admit, support, steer and mentor students to prepare them appropriately for chosen biomedical research-intensive or research-related careers. It is not expected that applicants must provide experiences in all research-intensive or research-related outcomes, but programs should target aspects of training that will enhance their existing programs and add to a more well-rounded approach.

Applicants are encouraged to form partnerships with organizations that employ scientists engaged in the careers for which the training experiences are directed (private sector, publishing, government, etc.). Partner organizations may provide opportunities for internships, their staff may participate in the development and implementation of novel curricula, and/or they may contribute in other ways to the success of the program.

Institutions that are currently exploring novel approaches are encouraged to apply but must carefully explain how support from this award would substantially complement and/or add new dimensions to their existing programs. Applications that request additional support only to maintain an existing program will be deemed non-responsive. Examples of innovative approaches include but are not limited to: exchange arrangements with other schools and programs within the applicant institution (Schools of Business, Economics, Law, Public Policy, Social Sciences, Public Health, Communications, etc.) with the potential for mutual benefit such as learning business skills, specific courses including hands-on training in technology transfer, program or policy development, management and administration at government agencies (Federal, state, and local governments, etc.), and internships or other collaborations with partner companies or other institutions. Applicants should include details on the relationships/partnerships they are proposing with particular attention to what the participants will do during these experiences.

It is expected that the BEST awards will transcend department, program, and possibly school boundaries, and be available to biomedical science graduate students and postdocs across disciplines. They should aim to transform the culture of research training in the biomedical sciences for both participants and mentors and disseminate findings widely across the training community. Applications that leverage funds from this program with existing institutional offices and programs, local resources outside the institution, or partners are highly encouraged.

The training period for biomedical careers is already lengthy, and these activities should be integrated with traditional training so as not to increase the time to degree for predoctoral students or the length of the postdoctoral period.

The BEST awards are meant to be experiments and therefore rigorous evaluation of each individual award will be required by both the individual awardees and independently by NIH. For NIH’s evaluation plan, awardees will be required to provide data including, but not limited to, information specified in the evaluation plan below. NIH expects that approaches that are tested and proven to be successful will be widely disseminated throughout the biomedical training community. A further expectation is that the newly developed training activities from these awards that are deemed successful will be institutionalized.

In order to prevent undue redundancies and to share information and best practices, the BEST awardees will interact on a regular basis. Each year, awardees will meet to discuss developments, progress and insights gained. Applicants should budget for participation at these meetings. The Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) and relevant personnel should be prepared to attend the annual meetings in Bethesda, MD, starting with the second annual meeting October 30-31, 2014. Periodic teleconference calls will augment interactions among the awardees, and site visits from NIH staff will evaluate progress of the program as it develops.

Sponsor Deadline:
Letter of Intent – February 28, 2014
Full Proposal – March 31, 2014