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Cornell University


Friday, September 25, 2015
GREAT/GRAND Professional Development Meeting takeaway lessons

Sharing some highlights of the meeting sessions, 'as if you were there but in much less time'.  About the GREAT Group  About GRAND  About BEST

2015 GREAT Group and GRAND Professional Development Meeting held Sept. 9-12 was a success. Read all the highlights

Communicating: Recognizing and Telling a Good Story

  • Find commonality with your audience and connect with them on a personal level.
  • Make the audience the hero or center of your story.
  • Create credible, modest but impactful connections between solutions you offer and relevant needs for your audience.
  • Identify the specific audiences before making a proposal - draw a line from your solution to their needs and/or wants, which can only be done when you know your audience well.

Leadership, Wellness, and Improvement in the Face of Change

  • Learn the importance of personal health in promoting the health of others.
  • Assess your own resilience and need for personal improvement.
  • Create a personal vision by analyzing and prioritizing areas for personal improvement.
  • Create an actionable personal improvement plan.

Implementation of Individual Development Plans

  • Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) as a reflective process for trainees involving a purposeful self-assessment of skills and values that results in a living document with both short and long-term goals.


  • Make it relevant and specific to scientific training.
  • Introduce the IDP with an in-person workshop.
  • Provide additional resources as needed.
  • Get faculty buy-in.

Mentor Training for Trainees

  • Teach trainees and principal investigators (PIs) to think broadly about mentoring relationships.
  • Learn practices from other institutions that already provide training experiences, such as the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education.
  • Incorporate different approaches when teaching the material: lecture, reflective writing, case studies and discussion, and strategy discussions.

Exceptional Opportunities in Biomedical Research

The framework for the five-year NIH-wide strategic plan has been developed with extensive community input and will be released in December.


  • Big data: Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) facilitates the broad use and sharing of large, complex biomedical data sets.
  • Precision Medicine: integrating patient partnerships, electronic health records, mobile technologies, genomics, and data science. More than 1 million volunteers. Participants are involved in design and implementation; are able to share genomic data, lifestyle information, biological samples; and can choose how and when to participate.
  • Evaluation of training programs: BEST initiative, BUILD, NRMN, CEC are unlike other programs because they are being evaluated in real time. There is a commitment to early stage investigators, there are new high risk/high reward opportunities, an early independence award program, and the NIH Director’s New Innovator award.

Development of the Staff Scientist

Establishing a professional career track for "staff scientists” in academic research is being widely considered as a step in developing a research ecosystem that is more stable and sustainable.

Things to consider:

  • Creating a greater number of compelling career choices in academia would provide an alternate mechanism for early career scientists to stay in the research workforce.
  • Addressing questions of feasibility and expense for supporting a staff scientist track at an institution (suggestions were made for funding opportunities through a NIH Research Project Grant or Supplement Award, or from a private foundation).
  • Building opportunities for recognition and advancement for staff scientists, such as an annual travel award.


Successful institutions develop a culture that values practices and policies that enable discovery transfer while still allowing faculty and trainees to continue their academic mission successfully. 

Strategies and recommendations:

  • Make sure entrepreneurship education (entrepreneurship centers, classes, etc.) is in place to ensure faculty members are aware of the process, licensing pitfalls, etc.
  • Streamline startup and licensing policies (Quick Start License, Carolina Express).
  • Starting small is important and the best way to fund everything is to get a license.
  • Putting the CEO in the same place as the company can prevent certain problems.
  • Connect with your local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Creating Positive Change at Your Institution

New strategies and tools can shift you and colleagues from a negative to positive mindset in the current research and research training environment. 


  • Difficult choices can be made easier if there is a continuous cycle of trust and transparency.
  • The ingredients for transformation are people, time, space, and dollars.
  • Build mechanisms for success and fix or remove mechanisms that are unproductive.
  • Four tools for transformation:
    • Shift your orientation to the future by learning from the past, listening generously, leading others, and asking questions.
    • Improve your presence through mindfulness meditation.
    • Focus on solutions.
    • End the “blame game.”

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Stephen Heinig at, Jodi Yellin at, or Irena Tartakovsky at