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Rebekah Layton, PhD, and LaKeya Hardy, PhD, in the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Education, were co-authors on the article, which highlighted the emerging field of biomedical graduate student and postdoctoral education and training research.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A new study in PLOS ONE reveals that biomedical trainee-related publications have increased over time and demonstrates that this area of research is maturing into its own independent field.

Rebekah Layton, PhD, director of Professional Development Programs in the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Education, and LaKeya Hardy, PhD, director of UNC Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (UNC PREP), were co-authors on the study.

“The emergence of biomedical training and education research showcases the importance of relying on evidence-based research to develop best practices in order to create efficient, effective training programs – and to identify problem areas and potential solutions,” said Layton.

The goal of this study was to analyze this growth by performing a cross-sectional bibliometric analysis using a systematic approach to better understand the publishing trends; depth, structure, and evidence-basis of content; and venues for publication. The analysis revealed that evidence-based articles have outnumbered opinion pieces, essays, book chapters, and other less formal analyses, which suggests that the field is becoming more rigorous.

The team of researchers identified eight key areas of research within the emerging field: career outcomes and workforce development; professional development; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); curriculum; mentoring; admissions; wellness; and internships/externships.

Julie Tetzlaff, PhD, associate professor of Pediatric Pathology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, was senior author on the paper. She was initially motivated to see where colleagues in the field were publishing within the AAMC Group on Graduate Education Research and Training (GREAT). Tetzlaff’s effort raised the more general question of what subjects and genres of literature were covered by the field, and the need to define and gauge the current state of the field was launched.

“We conducted this work to bring attention to the growing research field of graduate student and postdoctoral education and training with the intention of translating that awareness to actionable support from institutional leaders, trainee advocacy groups such as the NPA and AAMC GREAT and granting agencies such as the NIH and NSF,” said Tetzlaff.

With the field growing bigger by the day, there is a greater need to identify specialized journals for scholars to publish relevant peer-reviewed research due to challenges that scholars face in locating and disseminating their work across a fragmented publishing landscape.

LaKeya Hardy, PhD

LaKeya Hardy, PhD, is also a UNC SOM alumna of the UNC Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) program; a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Graduate Diversity Enrichment Fellowship, the M&I Diversity Equity & Inclusion Award, and the MAPRS Distinguished Alumni Award.

She also served as a Graduate Education Scholar during her graduate training while contributing to the current work.

“Being part of a national team and contributing to this important area of research was a key step in bridging the gap between disparate articles across graduate education focused topics and the founding of a developing scientific discipline,” said Hardy.

Layton, who is also an adjunct associate professor in the UNC School of Education, leads continued research on graduate education and training, biomedical workforce development, and professional development programs and career outcomes.

Her education-research group, the PhD Integrated Research Education and Career Training (PhDIRECT) Lab, is based in UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Education.

The current work continues to build on work from UNC’s NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (NIH BEST) grant, and is supported by Layton’s current NIGMS R01, entitled “SCISIPBIO: Training the Next Generation of Scientific Leaders – Professional Development, Mental Health, & Mentoring” which examined pillars of training and education needed to support graduate student success in developing a thriving, diverse biomedical workforce.

Layton serves on the Academy of Educators (AOE) Scholarship Committee as an educational research consultant for UNC SOM faculty, staff, and trainees interested in conducting their own education research projects.

Students who join the AOE Scholarship & Research Consultation with Layton and other research scholars can gain feedback and guidance to enhance their own educational research projects on biomedical graduate training or medical education.

Ongoing work in this field continues by these authors and other directors in the UNC SOM Office of Graduate Education who are contributing on-going research as a part of the NIH BEST Award, SCISIPBIO award, NIH Program Evaluation Supplements, among other funded projects with on-going research.

Media contact: Kendall Daniels, Communications Specialist, UNC Health | UNC School of Medicine