Teresa (right) and I met in high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. We love doing science and talking about how to make science better. Regular readers of the blog may know that I feel strongly about the importance of skilled leadership in a lab. I believe scientists need to be taught the so-called “soft skills” that are required to be a good leader.

Last year, I recruited a team of dedicated, like-minded graduate students, and we created a class to teach ourselves what we wanted to know–what is the best way to run a lab? As we learned over the course of that semester, effective leadership is not second nature to most scientists, nor is it a mystery of the universe. There are some “best practices” for how to lead and manage that are well-known outside the academic culture, and they should be taught formally as part of a scientist’s graduate curriculum.

For this coming fall, our training program is growing into a series of talks that we’re calling Science Leadership and Management, or SLAM for short. (Allow me to pause here and give a standing ovation to John Haberstroh for his marketing genius. Who doesn’t love a good acronym?) We are preparing a stellar lineup of guest lecturers from a variety of science career paths to speak on subjects like motivating students, building effective teams, delivering feedback, and more. Our vision is that this type of training will someday be developed on a national level, to be applied at any university for any scientific discipline.

If this sounds like a good idea to you, there is something you can do right now to support SLAM. Go here to vote for our entry in the 2013 NSF Graduate Education Challenge. Teresa Lee (beloved BSR author) and I wrote an essay about SLAM for this contest, which you can read below. I’ve also included our answers to a brief questionnaire that accompanied our submission. Please vote now, and ask your friends to do the same!

Note: Registration is required to vote. After you’ve voted for us, take a look at the other entries. There are a lot of great ideas there, and I guarantee you will come away with a bit more hope for the future of science.