Accomplishing career transitions in STEM with the help of scientific societies

Greater inclusion of individuals from underrepresented demographics in STEM fields has long been a goal for many disciplines. As the culture of STEM evolves towards greater inclusivity, providing equitable access to talented individuals of all backgrounds has become a key priority. Diversity not only in academic expertise but in demographics is increasingly recognized as a source of collective strength that correlates with success and innovation.

Scientific societies have historically sought to cultivate diverse membership through an educational model that supports scientist participation in activities that prepare them for upcoming career transitions. While this methodology is broadly applied across many different disciplines, societies are now coordinating their efforts and using data to evaluate outcomes and identify opportunities to improve impact.

In the process, scientific societies have found themselves well-suited to offer field-specific career development opportunities that complement the traditional instruction and training provided at academic institutions. Trainees in the process of developing into independent academic scientists must cultivate a combination of disciplinary knowledge and complementary soft skills in order to navigate demands such as grant-writing, collaboration, mentoring, and publishing—skills that are fundamental to success in the professoriate.

Scientists from backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM are less likely to have access to mentoring, making it more challenging to develop the soft skills necessary to facilitate success as tenure-track faculty. Scientific society professional development programming geared towards these scientists can have an equalizer effect, enabling them to successfully build their academic niche and professorial career in field areas of interest to BioMed Central (BMC) such as science, technology, engineering and medicine. The Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) has a strong track record of creating professional development programs to help relieve these disparities in access to mentoring.

One example of ASCB MAC programming is its Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) program. ACT engages cell biologists who are starting out their independent careers to individualize their professional development and training through a longitudinal mentoring framework. ASCB aims to prepare ACT Fellows for a successful transition into the academic STEM workforce.

Our new BMC Proceedings Supplement, highlights topics including effective mentorship, obtaining a faculty position, starting a lab, preparing for tenure and promotion, and professional development through experiential learning.

The content of this BMC Proceedings Supplement is more important now than ever, as rising faculty adapt their career trajectories to global challenges. Our short term goal with this BMC Proceedings Supplement is to make the ACT program available to a wider range of  scientists to help them prepare for success in academia. Their success will contribute to a diverse professoriate that is inclusive and welcoming of the next generation of scientists.

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