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Strategic Goal 3: Develop and foster innovative translational training and a highly skilled, creative and diverse translational science workforce.

A key to advancing the burgeoning field of translational science is through development of translational science education and training, and support for a diverse translational science workforce. Translation is inherently cross-disciplinary, and will benefit not only from robust training in one or more scientific research domains, but also from broad-based education on the scientific and operational principles that underlie sound translational science. This type of training will enable team members to be more effective in project planning and management, as they will be able to anticipate the needs and requirements at the next phases of the translational process. To foster an innovative translational science workforce, NCATS will catalyze the development, utilization and dissemination of training concepts and programs in translational science; foster ongoing efforts to support translational science as a discipline; and engage broad audiences about translational science so they may participate in the translational process or pursue a career in translational science.

The future of translational science requires the convergence of a broad array of disciplines — including among others biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, medicine and public health — into a united effort to uncover the scientific and operational principles of efficient and effective translation. However, the characteristics and attributes required to be a successful translational scientist go beyond the competencies of existing individual disciplines and include an understanding of the translational spectrum as a whole. For example, an expert in biochemistry looking to translate a compound into a potential treatment will benefit from familiarity with areas such as toxicology and pharmacokinetics, biomarker development and validation, regulatory requirements for pre-clinical and clinical phase testing, current standard of clinical care, and patient preferences for treatment, to name a few. Such awareness enables practitioners of translational science to intentionally design and conduct their research in a way that anticipates the expertise and data needed for subsequent phases of translation. Furthermore, since translational science is focused on identifying the general scientific and operational principles of efficient and effective translation, training must continuously improve as the discipline develops. To accomplish these goals, NCATS will collaborate with its partners in science training and workforce development to define and disseminate the requisite knowledge, core competencies and skillsets of translational scientists. 

Example approaches:

  • Collaborate with partners in academia, government, industry and elsewhere to identify the knowledge, skills and approaches that will be needed by the next generation of the translational science workforce.
  • Highlight the many and varied career paths available to translational scientists and the competencies required by each.
  • Incorporate an international perspective in the development of core competencies in recognition of the global span of translational science.
  • Emphasize trans-disciplinary training.

Increasing recognition and interest in translational science has created an urgent need for training and career development programs that provide the particular skills, knowledge, characteristics and perspectives critical for success in this burgeoning field. A greater emphasis must be placed on trans-disciplinary workforce development that includes non-traditional knowledge areas such as project management, entrepreneurship, communication and team science. Equally important as professional diversity in the translational workforce is personal diversity, which brings different perspectives, creativity and individual enterprise to address complex translational problems. NCATS supports the development of translational science education and training needed for the continued growth of the translational science discipline.

Example approaches:

  • Develop translational science education and training programs to prepare trainees for translational careers in sectors including academia, industry, nonprofit and government.
  • Identify areas of opportunity and value for translational science education and training with respect to the evolving biomedical research landscape such as in industry, public policy, research management, advocacy and communications.
  • Grow a workforce not defined by a single discipline, but one that works across and at the boundaries of other more “traditional” life sciences with a focus on successful team qualities and attributes.
  • Leverage trans-NIH commitments to enhance workforce diversity, expand the pool of translational science-trained professionals, and ensure the translational science workforce is broadly representative across racial, ethnic, sex, gender, age, socioeconomic, geographic and disability status.
  • Support entrepreneurial training programs and opportunities for translational scientists to gain experience in business development.

NCATS is committed to fostering the recognition and growth of translational science as a scientific discipline with unique attributes, research goals, knowledge requirements, operational approaches and deliverables. This will provide a stable foundation for the accumulation of translational science knowledge and a research community that will contribute to the collective advancement of translation.

Example approaches:

  • Collaborate with universities, professional societies and other NCATS stakeholders to communicate the importance and value of recognizing translational science as a distinct discipline.
  • Support opportunities for an open discussion about a way to assess career development and advancement in translational science.  
  • Partner with research universities and other interested parties to support the design and development of translational science degree programs.

There is a pressing need to increase the awareness and understanding of translational science and its contributions to biomedical research and public health. NCATS will communicate the importance of this new discipline using a full suite of modern communication and engagement technologies to motivate individuals at all levels to become informed and engaged in translational science.

Example approaches:

  • Expand awareness of the unique role of translation in delivering on the promise of science and medicine for patients.
  • Emphasize the key concept of translational science as a growing field that is defining the scientific and operational principles of translation to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Expand awareness efforts with key stakeholders about NCATS as a catalyst for this young field, and as a collaborative partner in all translational research.
  • Tell the NCATS story and highlight the Center’s translational advances using a variety of traditional and new media approaches and outlets.
  • Collaborate with allied organizations to develop electronic resources that communicate the value and impact of translational science.