NSF 2026 Idea Machine: Reinventing Scientific Talent
The National Science Foundation's 2026 Idea Machine is a competition aimed at helping inform the U.S. agenda for science and engineering. Contestants submit entries regarding the most pressing research questions of the coming decade. Entries are available for comment until June 26.
Reinventing Scientific Talent, a submission by CyVerse education, outreach, and training lead Jason Williams of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, is one of the finalists. Williams' proposal centers around investing in training to keep scientists and educators current with rapidly changing landscape of science and technology.
"No matter how much the training behind a degree is updated and improved, the shelf-life of skills is getting shorter in a rapidly changing, more interdisciplinary world," Williams argues in his proposal. "We must learn how to combine the deep and slowly acquired expertise of a degree with novel approaches to training and learning that can enable individuals in the STEM workforce to refresh and reinvent themselves over the course of their careers."
The existence of novel discoveries and revolutionary approaches to STEM disciplines that appear and become commonplace in under a decade underscores the necessity for continuing education and training for those working these areas, Williams' entry states.
"New and systematic approaches to career-long learning would create an adaptable STEM workforce able to respond to complex and rapidly changing scientific challenges," Williams concludes. "The skills students need look less and less like the skills their advisors and educators have.... Now is the right time to transform the education of scientists and STEM professionals after their formal training."