Building a “GREAT” community focused on reproducibility in training

By: Shannon Behrman
Date: Sept. 24, 2019

On September 12-14, 2019, Alex and I went to the American Association for Medical Colleges (AAMC) GREAT Group Annual Meeting in Seattle. It was the 25th Anniversary of the GREAT Meeting, and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm among the ~200 participants. GREAT, which stands for “Graduate Research Education And Training,” was created to promote “quality PhD and postdoctoral education in biomedical science” and includes “faculty and administrative leaders of the PhD and postdoctoral education programs [from] accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools.” The meeting program this year was filled with sessions that span important topics in research training, including mentorship, diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, individual development plans (IDPs), curriculum development, and rigor and reproducibility. 

We started going to GREAT Meetings in 2016, back when our online courses were just a pipe dream. Now with three courses under our belts, we felt equipped to contribute to the conference in more meaningful ways - especially around the subject of rigor, reproducibility, and transparency (RRT). RRT is a very hot topic these days in the graduate training world, due in large part to the updated requirements of the NIGMS T32 training grants which require institutions to develop and implement curricula that teach rigor and reproducibility to grad students throughout their training.

Considering that we just released a course that touches on many important aspects of RRT (“Let’s Experiment”), we decided to go big this year by both presenting a poster and giving a presentation/workshop. For the poster, we highlighted key outcomes from the initial run of the “Let’s Experiment” course earlier this year. For the presentation, we shared principles and strategies for faculty and staff developing responsible conduct of research (RCR) and RRT training. This included walking participants through an iterative backward design framework. Backward design begins by defining learning objectives first before any instruction or content have even been considered. It is a framework that we use at iBiology to design our online courses and can easily be applied to developing in-person training. We then concluded the workshop by sharing our comprehensive spreadsheet of online RCR and RRT resources and encouraging participants to consider integrating them into their curricula. These resources were collected from individuals within the GREAT and Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) communities. 

Our workshop was the second part of a two-part session called “Training Graduate Students on Responsible, Rigorous, Reproducible and Transparent Research.” In the first part, our colleagues, Liz Silva, Jason Heustis, Latishya Steele, and Jhia Jackson presented an excellent overview of survey results demonstrating what institutions are doing to address updated requirements for RCR and RRT in their training and some of the great challenges they face. 

You can find links to our slides, worksheets, and RCR/RRT resource list here: []

We’d like to thank Silva, Heustis, Steele, and Jackson for sharing the stage with us in this important session, the GREAT Program Steering Committee for organizing such a wonderfully productive meeting, and the individuals who contributed their educational RCR and RRT resources to our list.

Until next year!