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Training Translation

Teaching young scientists how to engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary, and translational research programs should be a critical part of the training programs supported under the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards, according to a recent Institute of Medicine report.

Writing in Science, Michael Price says the IOM, which was tasked with reviewing the CTSA program by NIH last year, urges that it is “time to deemphasize publishing and grant winning and focus on instilling leadership, team science, and community engagement.”

The CTSA initiative, which funds 61 academic centers around the country, supports two types of training programs. One is the KL2 Mentored Clinical Research Scholar Program, which provides structured research training for up to five years to help tenure-track investigators establish independent translational research program.

The TL1 Clinical Research Training Program awards are aimed at graduate students and postdocs who are scrambling to get their clinical and translational research careers going. In 2011, CTSAs supported 501 KL2 scholars and 469 TL1 awards.

Both programs share courses, seminars, and workshops targeting clinical and translational issues, and offer access to mentorship, equipment, databases, etc., from established investigators, as well as pilot funding.

The IOM report recommended that these programs be remodeled to “emphasize innovative education and training models and methodologies, which include a focus on team science, leadership, community engagement, and entrepreneurship.”

Sharon Terry, president and CEO of Genetic Alliance and vice chair of the IOM panel, says the panel decided that many of these interdisciplinary, collaborative, and translational science skills will be necessary for scientists going forward. She sees these CTSA training award winners as future CTSA program leaders, as well as leaders in industry, academia, and government regulatory settings.

"The way I look at it, academia needs to value these skills more, because this is the future that we are building for big science, which is all collaborative," adds Joan Lakoski, an assistant vice chancellor for science education outreach at the University of Pittsburgh.

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