The EMBL-EBI Competency Hub, a tool to support training and professional development

Careers in the life sciences and bioinformatics require specific knowledge, skills and attitudes. The Training team at EMBL-EBI have developed a framework of relevant training and continuous professional development competencies to support researchers and other professionals working in these fields.
The EMBL-EBI Competency Hub, a tool to support training and professional development
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Developing competency-based training

Professions within the life sciences domain are evolving rapidly with the adoption of new methods and technologies, which requires researchers and other professionals to incorporate new skills to stay at the forefront of their discipline.

The Training Team at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) designs training programmes and courses in several areas related to life sciences and bioinformatics. These training activities need to be tailored to the actual needs within the discipline. To achieve this and design impactful training, we define a competency framework for the discipline, which contains a list of observable abilities required by professionals in the field. These competencies can be further detailed with the addition of multiple components such as knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Competency frameworks are a rich source of information that can be used for other purposes, such as defining requirements for a job role, or helping individuals to plan their professional development. All the communities that we have developed competency frameworks with have agreed to share their frameworks openly with the life sciences community, so that anyone can use this information.

The EMBL-EBI Competency Hub

To this end, we worked with the EMBL-EBI web development team to create the Competency Hub, an online tool to support competency-based training and continuous professional development within the life sciences. The website contains information for different disciplines, for example: computational biology, computational biomolecular research, management and operation of research infrastructures, data management or clinical genomics.

When you visit the homepage, you choose a card representing the most relevant profession for you. Feel free to visit more than one page if they are interesting to you. Once you click on a card, you will find the list of competencies required in that profession. In some cases, you will find training resources and career profiles, which can immediately be used for your own learning and to plan your career.

Search the training resources by title and start learning on the topic of your choice or check which competencies you would like to develop and take the courses that are associated with them. A recent addition to the Competency Hub are the learning pathways, collections of training resources to address a specific challenge. These pathways include quizzes to test your knowledge along the way. For now, they are only available for computational biomolecular research, but we expect to add them to more disciplines in the future.

Screenshot of the initial page for the learning pathway ‘Using HPC infrastructure to perform biomolecular simulations’.
Screenshot of the initial page for the learning pathway ‘Using HPC infrastructure to perform biomolecular simulations’.

Create your own career profile

Browse the career profiles to identify the abilities required for a specific role and what the role involves, e.g., bioinformatician, laboratory technician, or research software engineer. You can compare existing career profiles or create your own and compare it. This enables you to see which competencies are required in each role and which ones you would need to develop if you decide to pursue that role. Career profiles can also be used by employers to decide the requirements for job roles in their teams.

Screenshot of the career profiles page included in the competency framework for students and professionals in computational biology.
Screenshot of the career profiles page included in the competency framework for students and professionals in computational biology.
Screenshot of a comparison between two career profiles: postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology and senior bioinformatician.
Screenshot of a comparison between two career profiles: postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology and senior bioinformatician.

The competency frameworks hosted in the Competency Hub have been added in collaboration with specific projects or initiatives with a focus on that profession. For example, the framework for students and professionals in computational biology has been built by the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), the one for professionals in computational biomolecular research has been built by the Centre of Excellence for Computational Biomolecular Research (BioExcel), and the one for Professionals in computational personalised medicine by PerMedCoE, the Centre of Excellence in Personalised medicine. The full list with their corresponding links can be found below.

Competency frameworks are not static, as the competencies required in a specific field evolve and new roles might appear. To keep them updated, we are continuing to work with the initiatives mentioned above and with experts in the field that can contribute to the constant revision of their content.

Working with users to improve the Competency Hub

The development of the Competency Hub is an iterative process, and part of the process involves feedback sessions with users and competency experts, so that we can improve the site to best suit their needs. Based on this feedback, we have, for example, improved how users create their own profile.

The Competency Hub is for everyone, so we invite you to explore and use it. Please share your feedback with us if you use the site to find training resources, create your career profile or plan next steps in your career. You can also contact us on competency [at] ebi.ac.uk

Competency frameworks available in the Competency Hub and the initiative that made them possible:

Students and professionals in computational biology

ISCB

Professionals in computational biomolecular research

BioExcel

Professionals in computational personalised medicine

PerMedCoE

Research infrastructure scientists

ARISE

Managers of research infrastructures

RItrain

Technical operators of research infrastructures

CORBEL

Data steward: policy, research and infrastructure

NPOS/ELIXIR

Professionals working with clinical human data

CINECA

Clinical practitioners using genomics

Health Education England


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash 

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