Glossary and Definitions

General Terms

Accessibility🚲

Accessibility is “an umbrella term for all aspects which influence a person’s ability to function within an environment.”1 Put another way, accessibility is the design (and implementation) of systems, policies, processes, ways of interacting with each other, and environments to ensure that persons with disabilities have equivalent access to a given space, and therefore equivalent experiences when participating in a given activity.

Assessment🚲

Measurement of learner knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs, specifically in determining changes and gains that occur because of instruction. Assessment strategies include formative (assessment during instruction - diagnostic) and summative (assessment at the conclusion of learning) approaches.

Badge🚲

A digital credential that can be displayed (e.g., on a website, publication, course, etc.) which signifies an achievement or compliance with a standard by an individual or organization.

Banbury Working Group🚲

Attendees at the 2021/22 virtual and in-person Banbury meetings (Making Career-spanning Learning in the Life Sciences Inclusive and Effective for All; December 2021, May 2022).

Community (also disciplinary community)🚲

A group of people united by a feeling of fellowship as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals 4. In our context, this often refers to scientific disciplinary communities which are linked to an area of study and related challenges. These communities work together to build knowledge and solutions. An individual can be a member of multiple communities at once.

Community of Practice🚲

A group of people who come together around a common skill, interest, or discipline to learn from and support others as well as improve their abilities and skills. Communities of practice often include exchange of experience, ideas or resources, as well as collective building of knowledge and solutions to shared challenges or needs. Communities of practice may take on collaborative tasks together to move the field forward.

Evaluation🚲

The formal process of determining the overall effectiveness of an educational program in achieving its objectives.

Career-Spanning🚲

In our context, learning across all stages of a career. This can take the form of continued professional development and training after a terminal degree (e.g., BSc, MSc, PhD) and/or professional credentials. “Career spanning” is not meant to reflect the age of the learner, but rather, their role(s) in their job or community over time.

Catalytic Learning🚲

Catalytic learning is defined as learning that prepares the learner to continue/implement new knowledge and positions learners for future self-directed learning. Catalytic learning is a construct3 that arises from a synthesis of long-standing, wide ranging bodies of literature on how adults learn/how learning happens. Specifically, catalytic learning is a function of metacognition, schema theory, and sustainable learning. This means that what is known about these core sources of knowledge can be leveraged to strengthen short format training (SFT), as well as any other adult learning context.

Equity🚲

Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of all persons in a given environment. Equity in instruction involves the creation of accessible opportunities, as well as the reduction of disparities in opportunities and outcomes for diverse communities. Equity provides a framework upon which inclusion is built.

Funders and Organizations🚲

Private, public, or governmental science funding agencies who support SFT with funding or infrastructure. Organizations - which also fund budgets for SFT - could include academic institutions, professional societies, or private corporations.

Inclusion🚲

Inclusion is the result of creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and respected, with equitable opportunity for participation.

Inclusive (instruction)🚲

Instruction that creates a learning environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and respected, with equitable opportunity for participation.

Infrastructure🚲

Resources that are organized to support SFT. These could be human infrastructures (e.g., communities of practice, instructors, specialists, program administrators), knowledge infrastructures (e.g., lesson content, assessment instruments), computational (e.g., internet, software, computer systems), or other systems.

Instructors, Instructional Designers, and Instructional Administrators🚲

Note: in some cases, individuals may fill one or more of these roles simultaneously.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities🚲

Together, knowledge, skills, and abilities are abbreviated KSAs, and represent measurable outcomes of SFT, depending on the specific learning objectives of the SFT opportunity. The term “KSAs” is used in a general sense, whether the SFT opportunity specifically targets knowledge or skills or abilities or some combination.

Pedagogy🚲

The profession and art of teaching. Relevant for SFT, pedagogy can include special attention to features of adult (post-formal education), learners (andragogy), and student-centered and self-determined learning (heutagogy2).

Microcredential🚲

A competency-based credential certifying a pre-specified level of performance competency in a focused area of study. These can be considered “mini-degrees” and may or may not be associated with course credit.

Self-directed learning🚲

Self-directed learning means the individual is in charge of planning what to learn, how to learn it, and how to assess their learning. This learning happens at the learner's own initiative as they seek out new opportunities to expand on what they’ve learned.

Short-format Training (SFT)🚲

Short-format training involves instruction in disciplinary skills and knowledge over a relatively short duration (i.e., hours, days, or a few weeks). Rather than specifying a set number of hours, the easiest way to identify SFT is that it will be labeled as a workshop, bootcamp, short-course, or similar term. SFT generally has the following features:

The extent to which a specific SFT course meets any of the above features will vary.

Expanded Principles Definitions🚲

We provide expanded definitions for two of the core principles (Catalytic, Inclusive) and the community principles (Reach, Scale, Sustain). These principles had novel features (Catalytic) or points that had special emphasis with respect to short-format training (Inclusive, Reach, Scale, Sustain).

Catalytic Learning (expanded)🚲

Catalytic learning is a construct that arises from a synthesis of long-standing, wide ranging bodies of literature on how adults learn/how learning happens. Specifically, Catalytic learning is a function of four well-defined concepts in education research: metacognition, schema theory, transfer, and sustainable learning. This means that what is known about these core sources of knowledge can be leveraged to strengthen short format training, as well as any other adult learning context.

Inclusion (expanded)🚲

Inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and respected, with equal opportunity for equivalent participation. Put another way, inclusion means creating the conditions to have the opportunity to fully participate in an organization or, more specifically, a learning environment such as a short course. While inclusion may be conflated with the concept of diversity, these are two distinct, if related, ideas. Inclusion is, however, closely linked to the concept of equity. Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of all persons in a given environment and involves the creation of opportunities as well as the reduction of disparities in opportunities and outcomes for diverse communities. Equity provides a framework upon which inclusion is built. Of note, the terms “equity” and “equality” (treating everyone the same) are themselves often conflated with each other, but they are two distinct concepts: Equality speaks to “sameness”, while “equity” speaks to fairness.

Defining an inclusive environment is often done in the context of (some) marginalized or under-represented group(s). However, inclusion is meant to be a blanket concept that, ideally, applies to all persons or groups. Inclusion should create a sense of belonging for all participants in training so that everyone feels their perspective and learning are valued and important. In practice, particularly in the context of STEM research and training, “inclusion” and creating inclusive environments may not take the needs of all groups into consideration. In situations where design is not co-developed, persons with disabilities are often “left out” of the inclusion conversation. Therefore, it is necessary to define one additional term: Accessibility. Accessibility is “an umbrella term for all aspects which influence a person’s ability to function within an environment.”1 Put another way, accessibility is the design (and implementation!) of systems, policies, processes, ways of interacting with each other, and environments to ensure that persons with disabilities have equivalent access to a given space, and therefore equivalent experiences when participating in a given activity.

Reach, Scale, Sustain (expanded)🚲

Reach, Scale and Sustain are called community principles because they emerge and evolve at the level of groups of individuals. In particular, each of these three features focuses on the benefit of specific types of individuals involved in training:

The provided definitions are valid in the context of the current document, although we recognize that the same terms have been used with different or interchangeable meaning in the literature; e.g. “sustainability” used referring to building instructors capacity 5.

Understanding and addressing the problems of each group of individuals involved in training is essential to engage them all and achieve a good quality training experience for everyone involved in it. A deep understanding of the learning dynamics is demonstrated to be more important in facilitating learning than the course content itself 6. We argue that when the interests of any of these groups are not met, the training is not effective or it cannot be supported in the long term, and both features are needed for career-spanning learning 7.

Learners’ issues may start at the level of the course selection, in being aware of the training offer, in navigating it and in evaluating its quality. The significance of a training opportunity 8 is specific and it should be tailored to the training audience. During a course, learners’ experience is influenced by the course format - e.g. specific educational design principles are applied to online learning 9 10 - as well as their own needs, preferences and motivation. Meeting the learners’ values and expectations, adjusting to their feedback, designing activities for a diverse audience, are all practices that improve the course quality, learning experience and sharing 11.

The instructors’ job is facilitated by the existence of a community around them. Peers can provide feedback, help during courses, and training materials to reuse or inspire. However, building these communities is not a responsibility of the instructors themselves 12. A heterogeneous spectrum of entities might provide these communities: training institutes, consortia, projects, relevant societies and associations, professional accreditors, groups of volunteers, community managers, etc. These entities are responsible for encouraging and providing benefits for collaborative lesson development and delivery, or for actions that widen the initial scope/audience of a given lesson (the original format of a lesson may differ from the best way of scaling it) . In addition, they may design programs to train and certify new instructors and facilitate their communication 5 13 14 to ensure the scalability of training.

These entities are interested in increasing the sustainability of training through training materials. This can be achieved by making training materials as Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) 15 as possible. However, it may be difficult to estimate how much effort, funding, and resources will be needed to do so, especially when the training is changing context or scale. In addition, ideally one would want to reach the widest possible audience, however this requires a well-planned and concentrated effort to be accessible and inclusive. Both institutions and funders involved in training may struggle in appreciating the benefit of such initiatives, as well as in elaborating long-term plans for sustaining training when the funding scheme is based on fixed-term short projects.

Ideally, any training community should aim at identifying and tuning all the different interests involved, to encode them in the community practices and allow everyone to benefit from them at all stages of the community development.


  1. Iwarsson, S., & Ståhl, A. Accessibility, usability and universal design—positioning and definition of concepts describing person-environment relationships. Disability and Rehabilitation, (2003). 25(2), 57-66. 

  2. Robeva, R.S., Jungck, J.R. & Gross, L.J. Changing the Nature of Quantitative Biology Education: Data Science as a Driver. Bull Math Biol 82, 127 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11538-020-00785-0

  3. Tractenberg, R. E. (2022). Catalytic learning requires metacognition, sustainable learning, and cognitive schema change. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/hp4k6

  4. Budd A, Corpas M, Brazas MD, Fuller JC, Goecks J, et al. (2015) A Quick Guide for Building a Successful Bioinformatics Community. PLOS Computational Biology 11(2): e1003972. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003972

  5. McGrath, A. et al. (2019) ‘From trainees to trainers to instructors: Sustainably building a national capacity in bioinformatics training’, PLOS Computational Biology, 15(6), p. e1006923. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006923

  6. Bain, K. (2004) What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press. Carvalho-Silva, D. et al. (2018) ‘Ten simple rules for delivering live distance training in bioinformatics across the globe using webinars’, PLOS Computational Biology, 14(11), p. e1006419. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006419

  7. Knapper, D.C. (2006) ‘Lifelong learning means effective and sustainable learning’, p. 11. 

  8. Fink, L.D. (2013) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. John Wiley & Sons. 

  9. Searls, D.B. (2012) ‘Ten Simple Rules for Online Learning’, PLOS Computational Biology, 8(9), p. e1002631. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002631

  10. Tractenberg, R.E. (2019) ‘Degrees of freedom analysis in educational research and decision-making: leveraging qualitative data to promote excellence in bioinformatics training and education’, Briefings in Bioinformatics, 20(2), pp. 416–425. doi:10.1093/bib/bbx106

  11. Ambrose, S.A. et al. (2010) How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. John Wiley & Sons. 

  12. Wilson, G. (2016) ‘Software Carpentry: lessons learned’. F1000Research. doi:10.12688/f1000research.3-62.v2

  13. Morgan, S.L. et al. (2017) ‘The ELIXIR-EXCELERATE Train-the-Trainer pilot programme: empower researchers to deliver high-quality training’, F1000Research, 6, p. ELIXIR-1557. doi:10.12688/f1000research.12332.1

  14. Via, A. et al. (2019) ‘A new pan-European Train-the-Trainer programme for bioinformatics: pilot results on feasibility, utility and sustainability of learning’, Briefings in Bioinformatics, 20(2), pp. 405–415. doi:10.1093/bib/bbx112

  15. Garcia, L. et al. (2020) ‘Ten simple rules for making training materials FAIR’, PLOS Computational Biology, 16(5), p. e1007854. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007854