The origin and implementation of the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training programs: an NIH common fund initiative

FASEB J. 2016 Feb;30(2):507-14. doi: 10.1096/fj.15-276139. Epub 2015 Oct 2.


Recent national reports and commentaries on the current status and needs of the U.S. biomedical research workforce have highlighted the limited career development opportunities for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees in academia, yet little attention is paid to preparation for career pathways outside of the traditional faculty path. Recognizing this issue, in 2013, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund issued a request for application titled "NIH Director's Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST)." These 5-yr 1-time grants, awarded to 17 single or partnering institutions, were designed to develop sustainable approaches to broaden graduate and postgraduate training, aimed at creating training programs that reflect the range of career options that trainees may ultimately pursue. These institutions have formed a consortium in order to work together to develop, evaluate, share, and disseminate best practices and challenges. This is a first report on the early experiences of the consortium and the scope of participating BEST programs. In this report, we describe the state of the U.S. biomedical workforce and development of the BEST award, variations of programmatic approaches to assist with program design without BEST funding, and novel approaches to engage faculty in career development programs. To test the effectiveness of these BEST programs, external evaluators will assess their outcomes not only over the 5 yr grant period but also for an additional 10 yr beyond award completion.

Keywords: Ph.D.; career development; postdoctoral trainee; professional development.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Science Disciplines / education*
  • Education, Graduate / economics*
  • Education, Graduate / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Research / education*
  • United States