19 October 2021 – In 2020, the COVID pandemic pushed the EMBO scientific skills courses online, and the benefits for participating scientists have been significant.
One challenge for scientists is the development of professional skills that help in the generation, analysis and communication of data and ideas. To address this need, EMBO Solutions launched a portfolio of courses for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, designed by EMBO Press editors, in 2018. The courses improve various core research skills, including research integrity, communicating research, peer-reviewing, and figure design.
COVID brought many challenges. A particular one for EMBO Solutions was how to support early career researchers with our training and development programme remotely. We developed virtual versions of all our courses, raising them to the same standard of quality, engagement, and effectiveness as our in-person training. How we made this shift, and some of the benefits of virtual training we have found, are outlined in an EMBO feature article.
One specific benefit of working virtually is greater accessibility, especially for our one-day scientific skills courses. We have offered slightly more courses to more scientists in 2021 than in 2019 (15 courses delivered or still to come in 2021, compared to 13 in 2019), despite the fact that we have been unable to undertake in-person training. Virtual training does not require participants to travel long distances or arrange additional childcare, both of which can be barriers to participating in an in-person course. Because convening courses virtually is also easier, we have been able to offer a series of ‘open registration’ courses, for which scientists can register as individuals, rather than depending on their institution to arrange a course for them. We now provide this option in addition to taking group bookings from institutes and universities.
Once the pandemic is ‘over’ and we can resume our in-person courses – which have additional, significant benefits around networking, socializing, and collaboration – our commitment to virtual training will remain strong, and we look forward to offering both formats to the research community. Our scientific skills courses are an important and growing part of the EMBO Solutions portfolio of support and development for scientists.