The NIH "BEST" programs: Institutional programs, the program evaluation, and early data

FASEB J. 2020 Mar;34(3):3570-3582. doi: 10.1096/fj.201902064. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Biomedical research training has undergone considerable change over the past several years. At its core, the goal of graduate and postdoctoral training is to provide individuals with the skills and knowledge to become outstanding scientists and expand knowledge through the scientific method. Historically, graduate school training has focused on preparation for academic positions. Increasingly, however, a shift toward preparation for a wider range of career options has emerged. This is largely because most biomedical PhD graduates do not become Principal Investigators in academic laboratories. Here we describe an National Institutes of Health Common Fund program with the major goal of culture change for biomedical research training and training that prepares individuals for a broader expanse of careers in the biomedical research enterprise. These "Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training" (BEST) awards, issued in 2012 and 2013, provided support to institutions to develop innovative approaches to achieving these goals, as a complement to traditional training. Awardees were tasked with catalyzing change at their institutions and sharing best practices across the training community. Awardees were required to participate in a cross-site evaluation that assessed the impact of BEST activities on three main areas: (a) trainee confidence and knowledge to make career decisions, (b) influence of this added activity on time in training, and (c) ability of the institutions to sustain activities deemed to be beneficial. Here we present the fundamental approach to the BEST program and early evaluative data.

Keywords: biomedical research careers; career development; education; graduate students; postdoctoral scientists; professional development; training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / education
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.) / organization & administration*
  • Research Personnel / education
  • United States