By Adele Wolfson, Wellesley College and Joseph Provost, University of San Diego
The ASBMB accreditation program is open for business. After several years of planning and listening to the biochemistry and molecular biology community, ASBMB is now taking applications for accreditation. The ASBMB accreditation program has two components: accreditation of a Department or a Program and a standardized certification exam for students from accredited departments/programs who choose to have their degrees certified. The ASBMB accreditation and degree certification program will allow departments and programs in biochemistry and molecular biology or closely related fields to have support and recognition. It has been designed to promote excellence and innovation in undergraduate education, and to provide a student-centered approach to learning and assessment. The goals of the ASBMB accreditation and certification program are to provide:
- A national, outcomes-based mechanism by which students receiving a B.S. or B.A. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology or closely related majors are given an opportunity to have their degree certified by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).
- A vehicle for recognizing undergraduate BMB programs whose features and infrastructure fulfill the basic expectations of the ASBMB.
- Access to an independently constructed and scored instrument for assessing student achievement and program effectiveness.
The initial decision to begin an accreditation program was in response to demand from departments and programs. The biochemistry and molecular biology community has provided input throughout the process including most recently at the 2013 ASBMB Annual Meeting One of the comments from that meeting was confusion about the terms “recognition” vs. “accreditation.” Participants were clearly in favor of using “accreditation.” As a result of the community’s opinions, the ASBMB will now provide “accreditation” for those departments or programs that meet the ASBMB standards.
Once a department or program has been accredited by the ASBMB, students from that department will be eligible to earn ASBMB degree certification by passing the ASBMB standardized exam. Taking the exam is voluntary. The exam will include short answer/essay questions, and will be administered at the host institution but assessed by the ASBMB. The exam will be composed of questions based on outcomes from the ASBMB core foundational areas of biochemistry and molecular biology as posted on the ASBMB website. Those who perform at high levels on the exam will be awarded an additional level of distinction and be invited to join the ASBMB Honor Society. Look for more information in the near-future on honors distinction.
This past spring, several colleges and universities were involved in pilot testing the standardized certification exam. The ASBMB accreditation committee evaluated the results, and is finalizing the process for validating a consistent assessment process. The ASBMB is very grateful for the participation of the students and faculty from the pilot institutions. A number of important issues emerged and the exam is much better because of their participation. We expect to have at least one more round of pilot exams before the final version.
Even before the exam is ready for students seeking certification, the Society will be accrediting departments and programs according to the published guidelines. A sub-committee has been formed, comprised of members from academia –both research universities and four-year colleges, including MSIs – and industry. Departments/programs applying for ASBMB accreditation should prepare all materials described on the accreditation website (http://www.asbmb.org/accreditation) and may also wish to consult Appendix I of the full accreditation program description to understand the criteria by which the materials will be evaluated. The committee plans to make decisions twice a year, so that departments should have a response within six months. Application deadlines for fall and spring are October 1 and March 31 respectively. Applications that are lacking in some areas will be returned with guidance on how to improve them.
For more information on the ASBMB Degree Accreditation Program, go to: www.asbmb.org/accreditation.
Adele Wolfson, Professor of Chemistry at Wellesley College, contributed to this post.