Objective 5. Education, Training and Outreach
The ultimate success of the NPGI will be gauged by the impact it has in advancing the plant sciences in the
U.S. The impressive array of plant genomics resources and tools that have been developed in the last five
years will be most relevant when a broad community of scientists are fully engaged in the plant genomics
revolution. Equally important will be clear communication of the importance of plant genomics research
to the general public. In order for the NPGI to have maximal impact, it must educate and train the next
generation of scientists in plant genomics. More specifically, several activities are considered important for
the NPGI to undertake in the next five years.
Traineeships for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in plant genomics research
Currently there is no training grant program specifically targeted to train the next generation of scientists in plant genomics. Plant genomics research provides an ideal opportunity for exposing students to the excitement of scientific discovery in a field at the cutting edge of biology. Such a training grant program would include recruiting and retention of underrepresented groups in plant science research.
Informatics training for both established and young investigators
In genomics research, bioinformatics is an essential research tool that must become a basic tool for all levels of researchers. Bioinformatics should be as seamless a part of everyday research activity as are other biological tools such as molecular biology, cell biology or biochemistry. Opportunities should be made available for established and new investigators to receive training in this area.
Mid-career training program on plant genomics for university and college faculty and plant science professionals
Well-trained plant science professionals of all disciplines, from basic science faculty to applied plant breeders, are needed in order to fully realize the impact of genomics research on the future of plant sciences. Mid-career training awards are needed to fill this need.
Workshops to inform the broader research community about accessing and using the NPGI research resources
Enormous amounts of data and research resources and tools are being produced by NPGI supported projects. Workshops by major databases such as GenBank, TAIR (the Arabidopsis Information Resources) and Gramene (A Comparative Mapping Resource for Grains) should be held at major plant biology conferences to demonstrate: how to deposit data into these public databases; and how to access and utilize the content for research. Similar information workshops should be offered by the biological resource centers such as the Maize Genetics Cooperation Center and the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center.
Outreach to the K-12 community
As with all scientific fields, the future of plant genomics research depends on recruitment of motivated students. Reaching out to K-12 schoolteachers would be an efficient way to reach a large number of potential future undergraduate students. Plant genome researchers and students can contribute to this effort by serving as resources for science education in K-12 schools, and inviting teachers and their students to participate in plant genome research. Expected outcomes include improved communication and teaching skills for graduate and undergraduate students, enriched learning by K-12 students, professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers, and strengthened partnerships between institutions of higher education and local school districts.