Speaker and moderator: ORPHEUS 2018

Speaker and moderator: ORPHEUS 2018

Creativity, diversity and feedback were the three main themes of the 2018 ORPHEUS meeting at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik.

Image credit: University of Iceland/Dagbjort Gretarsdottir

From 24 – 26 May 2018, ORPHEUS ran it’s annual conference to discuss and discover best practices in biomedical and health sciences doctoral education. This year’s programme is available here.

I was invited to speak at the event as part of the diversity theme, based on an article that I had written for Nature in 2015, titled How to build a better PhD.

My talk, titled Transforming graduate education: A PhD for the future, explored what the goal of graduate modern graduate education is by exploring what is expected from a modern PhD graduate. I shared some different ways in which universities around the world were preparing their PhD students.

My second task at the conference was to moderate the debate on breadth vs depth, clinical vs experimental, between Connie White Delaney from the University of Minnesota and Erna Magnúsdóttir from the University of Iceland. The aim was to talk about how biomedicine in the 21st century is undergoing a transformation, fuelled in part by technical advances that allows us to address questions on a much larger scale, e.g. in terms of population based studies as well as “-omics” based questions. This is putting new pressures on the requirements on today’s scientists. The question is how to meet these requirements. Is it simply enough to combine different scientists trained in the traditional disciplines into teams that take responsibilities for different parts of the studies? Or do we need to both alter our focus and broaden the training of biomedical scientists? Will team work be more efficient and rewarding if we offer interdisciplinary training to our students? If so, how do we go about transforming study programmes to accommodate this? Is data science truly opposite to experimental science?

The debate was more of a discussion, given that both sides seemed to agree with each other!