The Future of the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Graduate Education: Recommendations from the AACP Graduate Education Special Interest Group

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

The report compiled by the US Commission on the Future of Graduate Education entitled "The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the U.S." (1) was a joint effort between the Educational Testing Service and the Council on Graduate Schools. The report listed areas where the U.S. demonstrated vulnerability in our predominance in graduate education, including among other things, competition from graduate programs abroad, changing demographics in the U.S., attrition rates, time to complete graduate degrees, and the job market for graduates.

In 2010-11 the AACP Research and Graduate Affairs Committee (RGAC) was charged to evaluate the Path Forward Report as it pertained to pharmaceutical sciences and to recommend how AACP and its member graduate programs can prosper given the present and future described by the Report. In their 2010-2011 recommendations, (1) RGAC identified some threats specifically to pharmaceutical sciences graduate programs including the declining percentage of students with U.S. Pharmacy degrees pursuing graduate education, shrinking resources for funding graduate education, and changing career pathways for graduates. The RGAC also examined the National Research Council Assessment of Graduate Education (2006) and several other reports over the past decade including RGAC past reports that focused on graduate education in the pharmaceutical sciences.

The Committee created a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threat) analysis using this data, and identified priority recommendations:

* Support dual degree programs

* Adopt and support interdisciplinary research and doctoral education programs in experimental pharmacotherapeutics

* AACP should lead in the promotion of pharmaceutical science research and graduate education as well as integrating the goals of professional and graduate pharmacy education

* Increase funding for post-Pharm.D. clinical research

* Pharmacy faculty should be developed and supported to lead and contribute significantly to fields such as cell and systems biology, genomics, proteomics and nanotechnology

Concurrently during the 2010-2011 RGAC's tenure, AACP created a new special interest group (SIG) focusing on graduate education. The objective of the Graduate Education SIG's newly formed Planning Committee (GEPC) was to plan initiatives for the SIG and to work with AACP in their planning process in the area ofgraduate education. To this end, the GEPC has studied the RGAC Report (2010-2011) and others, but also the literature pertaining to trends in pharmaceutical research and graduate education to inform our recommendations of how the future of our discipline might impact the strategic course for strengthening graduate education across all AACP and its member schools. These recommendations from the GEPC report have the support of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS).

PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY TODAY

Pharmacy faculty hear anecdotal information that the pharmaceutical industry has been undergoing significant change but few academics have direct and broad-based knowledge of its future trends.

A recent analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled "Pharma 2020:Virtual R&D--Which Path Will You Take" (2) explored current trends and the future of the pharmaceutical industry. The article described current trends in the industry to include:

* Declining productivity in research and development

* Decreasing revenues due to generic drugs

* Expiring patents that are not being replaced by innovative new drugs

The scientific literature and community also have spoken to the need to become more efficient, innovative, and collaborative in science. Several reports or articles concurred with the description of pharma's decreasing innovation, (3,4) falling profits (5) accompanying increased costs. …