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Friday, August 10, 2018

Graduate biomedical education needs an overhaul. Here’s our version | First Opinion - STAT

One of the great educational success stories is that graduate training can teach individuals how to do deep scientific investigation, as STAT reports.

Graduate biomedical education hasn't changed all that much since the 1800s. It needs a reboot.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Today, such training, which dates back to the middle of the 19th century, is in desperate need of an overhaul.

The amount of scientific knowledge has exploded, giving rise to new fields in science with differing concepts, tools, and cultures. The training of new scientists has become a highly specialized endeavor that frequently emphasizes the acquisition of factual knowledge instead of skills that are essential for good scientific practice, such as critical thinking, rigorous research design, analysis, and philosophy of science. Many training programs today turn out young scientists with overly narrow interests and poor communication skills.

Previous efforts to reform graduate biomedical and health science education have generally been limited to rearranging the formal curriculum that typically precedes individual thesis research. Overwhelmed by the deluge of scientific data, and under pressure to reduce the time to degree, some program directors have devised curricula densely packed with subject matter that favored students who memorize quickly — and forget just as fast...

Many research universities appear to have forgotten their roots in Wilhelm von Humboldt’s ideas of a studium universale, in which interdisciplinary training reduced boundaries and taught scientists how to think independently, critically, and outside the box...

As we were planning for the R3 program, it became apparent how much biomedical education could benefit from other disciplines:
  • Philosophy. The frameworks for critical thinking that are behind rigorous research methodology form the basis for our R3 approach and the underlying coursework.
  • Engineering. The art and science behind sound error analysis and structured quality improvement shape the way we teach students to look critically at the scientific literature, avoid logical fallacies, and devise recommendations for improvement.
  • Applied mathematics and statistics. Longitudinal and practice-oriented training in probability and statistics helps students tackle data analysis problems and avoid common misconceptions in standard applications, such as p-values in hypothesis testing.
  • History. Learning about the developments and circumstances that enabled historic discoveries can inform today’s research approaches and help students view their work in a broader, more meaningful context.
  • Nursing and medicine. Professionalism in modern biomedical science requires the kind of teamwork seen in nursing and medicine applied across the disciplines. Mentored and evaluated by preceptors, our students practice those performance-based skills through interdisciplinary project work.
  • Business. Experiences to gain leadership competencies, such as communication, strategic planning, and economics, provide R3 students with opportunities to present the gist of their work at public events or to formulate business plans for spinoff projects from their thesis work.
  • Sports. Like a muscle, essential scientific skills such as critical thinking need to be continuously exercised. In addition to regular coursework, the R3 program offers longitudinal training in oral and written communication, mathematical problem solving, and literature discussion.
  • Education and psychology. Established instructional theories and methods form the groundwork for the program’s pedagogical concept to enhance student learning, mentor training, and faculty development.
Developing a revolutionary graduate science curriculum would not have been possible without institutional support. 

Source: STAT