It shouldn’t be hard to find senior scientists in any department who are very good at one of these things and can teach the skills effectively, and a couple of weeks of instruction of, say, three to six hours a week should be enough to impart basic tools, although more elaborate programs certainly could be devised, involving practice talks and writing with critical feedback, for example. The emphasis should be less on how it is done than the fact that it is done, for everyone.
You see, we are a guild, actually, and the apprentice/journeyman system, when properly carried out, is still a superb way for young people to learn the tools of the trade. I hope teaching those tools— including the practical, maybe even mundane skills needed to function as a practicing scientist in this highly competitive environment— become routine in graduate student and postdoctoral training in biochemistry at every institution.
Interested in professional development?
We will have several events geared toward the education and development of young scientists at the ASBMB annual meeting in April.
I sure wish I had received instruction like that, instead of being left to stumble my way along by trial and error— mostly error. Because one thing I am completely convinced of is that effective communication, people-management skills and so on, are crafts, not arts, and can be learned, like any other crafts. Different people have different levels of talent for these things, of course, but the basics are accessible to anyone. As I said, I know that many places already do something of the kind, at least for some topics, but it ought to be as much a part of any advanced education as the qualifying exam, thesis or ethics course.
And, if anyone knows what the secret handshake is, I would appreciate them telling me, because I never was taught that either.