About the NIH BEST Awards

The Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) awards are supported through the National Institutes of Health’s Common Fund. Programs supported through the Common Fund have to meet a defined set of criteria, which includes being transformative, unique, synergistic, cross-cutting, and catalytic.

As part of the Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce program, the BEST awards are intended to provide and centralize modern approaches to broaden career-exploration resources and professional development available to predoctoral and postdoctoral scientists and engineers. Essential to this process is a change in the culture and conversations around PhD training in order to encourage and celebrate the variety of career outcomes and opportunities that PhD graduates have available.

The BEST awards are designed to be completed in five years and are nonrenewable. All BEST institution programs will be rigorously assessed and disseminated throughout the biomedical training communities. A crucial part of this is determining best practices for different institutional infrastructures.

It is important to train scientists and engineers to have leadership abilities, broad skillsets, and the ability to follow their interests and career goals. This is why NIH funded the BEST award, to show that it is “committed to supporting a sustainable and robust workforce equipped to address the greatest challenges and opportunities in biomedical research.”

Goals and Outcomes

  • Short-term goals: Broaden the potential career choices of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees by providing exposure to careers outside of tenure-track academic positions, encouraging self-awareness and enabling preparation for a career path that fits an individual best.
  • Intermediate goals: To encourage faculty to engage more broadly in training predoctoral and postdoctoral candidates, preparing them for broad career options.
  • Long-range goals: Identify best practices developed from this work and disseminate them to other institutions.

OMB Dual Role of Students and Post-Doctoral Staff

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) came out with a statement in 2014 about the dual role of pre and post-doctoral researchers as both trainees and employees:

“The Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) states; ”For non-Federal entities that educate and engage students in research, the dual role of students as both trainees and employees contributing to the completion of Federal awards for research must be recognized in the application of these principles.” Staff in postdoctoral positions engaged in research, while not generally pursuing an additional degree, are expected to be actively engaged in their training and career development under their research appointments as Post-Docs. This dual role is critical in order to provide Post-Docs with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields.

Does 200.400(f) require recognition of the dual role of postdoctoral staff appointed on research grants as, both trainees and employees, when appointed as a researcher on research grants?

Yes, the Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) requires the recognition of the dual role of all pre and post-doctoral staff, who are appointed to research positions with the intent that the research experience will further their training and support the development of skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers.  Neither Pre-Docs nor Post-Docs need to be specifically appointed in ‘training’ positions to require recognition of this dual role. The requirements and expectations of their appointment will support recognition of this dual role per 200.400(f). 

This clarification applies to all NIH awards."

For more details, visit the NIH website.