The Relevance of Collecting Career Outcomes Data among BEST groups
Two members of the BEST program (the authors of this blog post) recently sat on an NIH panel that reviewed the performance of an NIGMS (National Institute of General Medical Sciences) program designed to facilitate the access of graduate education (to the Ph.D.) of URM (under-represented minority) students. One major component of the review that elicited immediate concern was the minimal collection of career outcomes data from these programs and the validity of those data that were collected.
The review panel then discussed how to evaluate these programs when faced with such poor data collection, which made it impossible to critically analyze the success, or the lack thereof, of these programs. Several members of the distinguished review panel proceeded to ask if we should give these programs some slack as it is well known how difficult it is to collect outcomes data of graduate programs. This idea, that data collection is difficult, is a consequence of the perceived inordinate cost of obtaining such information, especially once a student has left the school of initial training.
This was not the time, nor the place, for the BEST consortium members to announce that collection of such data can, in fact, be achieved in a timely and accurate fashion without incurring prohibitive costs. However, we believe that all of the BEST programs have now moved into a position such that career outcomes data has become an invaluable component of all we do, and of how we assess the outcomes of our programs.
Nonetheless, this experience has emphasized how critical it is for us to inform the biomedical community in general how to determine career outcomes in a timely and inexpensive fashion. We are beginning to do this with recent publications (A. Mathur, P. Brandt, R. Chalkley, L. Daniel, P. Labosky, C. Stayart, F. Meyers. Evolution of a Functional Taxonomy of Career Pathways for Biomedical Trainees. JCTS, in press) and also with a planned presentation to the GREAT group in September 2018. We should continue to emphasize that data collection for good programs in biomedical research should never be an impediment to studying different strategies for training students and postdocs about how to prepare themselves for the sort of career they see as most fitted to their interests. In fact, collecting career outcomes data should be a standard best practice that is crucial in conveying the impact of biomedical training to the research enterprise of the country.
Roger Chalkley, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean, Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Ambika Mathur, Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Associate Provost for Scientific Workforce Development and Diversity
Dean of the Graduate School
Wayne State University
The opinions in this article reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of the BEST consortium.