Over the last decade, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded on average about 15,000 biomedical science trainees per year at various stages in their careers, with 2009 financial data showing a total of $790 million spent on research training. Data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) financial report for fiscal year 2009 show that this agency spent roughly $860 million on education and training, across more than 90,000 trainees ranging from undergraduates through postdoctoral scholars. Together, this represents a federal investment of over $1.6 billion in 2009. These data point to the significant amount of resources annually invested in training tomorrow's scientists. However, science education researchers have faced numerous difficulties examining the effectiveness and outcomes of these training programs because there is currently no systematic way of collecting and housing data about the program participants. A 2005 report by the National Academies of Science, titled Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs: Phase 3 describes how the lack of a centralized, systematic way of tracking participants posed major challenges in evaluating the effectiveness of minority research training programs. The report concludes that in order to address these challenges """"""""an NIH-wide, centralized, electronic data collection system for trainee tracking is necessary to assess program efficacy on an ongoing basis."""""""" Strategic Evaluations has designed a functional prototype called iBioSketch.com that aims to meet the recommendations outlined by the Academies. Funding is being requested to transition iBioSketch.com to a viable commercial product capable of generating revenue through licensing fees for usage. The work of this phase will complete the site by adding several innovative features that will enhance its use to trainees in biomedical research programs and improve the likelihood that PIs of these programs would support the tool. The tool's feasibility will be tested across two case studies. The first case will provide evidence for using iBiosketch to track trainees from an entire training program. The second case study will explore the feasibility of expanding the tool's use across funding sources. At the close of Phase I, the team will have established a unique, multipurpose tracking system that: 1) facilitates research conducted by PIs of biomedical training grants at individual institutions, and 2) improves NIH program officers'ability to conduct research on programs that are designed to encourage more trainees to seek careers in the biomedical sciences, particularly programs focused on improving diversity in the field.
The broader/commercial impact of this project will be the establishment of a unique, multipurpose tracking system that: 1) facilitates research conducted by PIs of biomedical science training projects at individual institutions and 2) improves NIH program officers'ability to conduct research on programs designed to encourage more trainees to seek careers in the biomedical sciences.