2. Delivery Plan
2.2 Develop the scientific expertise and stakeholder skill base
There is a need to make omics training accessible to academic researchers and well as governmental and industrial partners. This requires an integrated approach to ensure omics education is available, at an appropriate level, to researcher of all types, ages and skill levels (Box 2). Current capacity has been developed through programs such as the NERC ‘Advanced Training Short Courses’, however, the dynamic nature of omics technology development poses challenges to ensure that training reflect current state-of-the art.
Training the next generation of researchers (DTPs and CDT training): Omics analysis is becoming pervasive to environmental research on living systems. Ensuring that the future generation of NERC researchers are appropriately informed about the breadth of state-of-the-art omics approaches that is available and can access appropriate training in experimental design, technical execution and informatic analysis of these tools is essential. Many NERC DTPs already incorporate introductory omics and informatics courses. However, there is significant variability in access to support for detailed execution. We recommend, in consultation with the DTP network, the development and commissioning of a central suite of training to cover the majority of the applications of environmental omics that can be offered to the full cohort of NERC PhD students. There is a significant demand for postgraduates with well-developed skills in environmental informatics and omics data analysis. This demand would be best addressed through supporting a Centre of Doctoral Training (CDT) in “Ecological and Environmental Informatics”, which would create a critical mass of highly skilled postgraduates that would enhance both research and data underpinning decisions by government agencies and industry.
Targeting training, ‘Upskilling’ and speciality instruction: The continued development of new omics platforms, approaches and analytical tools demands that researchers and principal investigators are continually upskilled as part of their professional development. There are two distinct requirements – conceptual and practical: information on practical delivery as to how omics can be applied within a research area and instruction in the techniques for execution and analysis. These speciality courses are best delivered by experts who actively use the approaches in question. These courses can also be offered to DTP students where appropriate (see DTPs and CDT above).
Cross-disciplinary end-user exchange programmes: Many successful omics projects benefit from the contributions from interdisciplinary team best executed through cross-disciplinary exchange. Exchange between researchers and industry/end users are essential so that researchers gain a better understanding of end user needs ensuring research will be more aligned to impact whilst end users need to understand new developments and potential provided by omics. These exchanges are straightforward to arrange either as part of a PhD programme or through targeted secondments. Postdoctoral researchers who do not have the exchange funded as part of their programme can apply for targeted funding. The logistics for these exchanges for principal investigators is much more challenging given their other academic commitments. Supporting these exchanges has significant benefit for ongoing and future research and for building legacy collaborations and the creation of UKRI should facilitate such schemes across the different research councils.