Public Affairs

Public Affairs

NIH Proposes Critical Initiatives to Sustain Future of U.S. Biomedical Research

At its semi-annual meeting, the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of NIH launched three initiatives to strengthen biomedical research in the US. All stem from recommendations released by working groups in 2012. The new initiatives are focused on creating a sustainable biomedical workforce, increasing diversity within its ranks, and managing data. “The future of biomedical research depends upon our ability to support a research ecosystem that leverages the flood of biomedical data, strengthens the research workforce through diversity, and attracts the next generation of researchers,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins MD, PhD. “I’m grateful to the experts, both inside NIH and from the broader biomedical research community, who have given these matters extensive thought and made it possible for NIH to put forward actions designed to benefit our entire research community for years to come.” The actions that NIH is seeking to implement are broken down by area.

The Future of the Biomedical Research Workforce:

  • Enhance training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through a grants program that would support innovative approaches to complement traditional research training to include science-related career outcomes and by encouraging the adoption of individual development plans for all trainees.
  • Increase support for training mechanisms that promote independent research careers, including NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) and Early Independence Awards. According to a blog post by Sally Rockey, deputy director for Extramural Research at NIH, the agency also plans to increase the initial postdoctoral researcher stipend and examine postdocs’ access to workplace benefits.
  • Expand NIH’s ongoing assessment of the biomedical research workforce.
  • Identify and track all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH more comprehensively to provide a basis for assessing workforce needs and planning future training activities.

Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce:

  • Launch a new program called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) intended to provide rigorous mentored research experiences for undergraduate students, financial support, faculty support for training mentors, and innovation space to develop new approaches for increasing diversity in the PhD training pathway.
  • Establish a National Research Mentoring Network to connect students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty with experienced mentors; develop standards of good mentorship in biomedical research; and provide training opportunities in grantsmanship.
  • Test multiple interventions to assess and mitigate the effects of implicit bias in peer review, includingdiversity awareness training for both scientific review officers and members of study sections.
  • Recruit a chief diversity officer to coordinate NIH initiatives designed to enhance the diversity of the NIH-funded workforce and establish an steering committee working group on diversity to help ensure that diversity.

Data and Informatics:

  • Launch the NIH Infrastructure Plus adaptive environment to advance high-performance computing, agile hosting and storage approaches, and modernization of the network, among other approaches.
  • Facilitate broad use of biomedical big data through new data sharing policies, catalogs of datasets, and enhanced training for early career scientists.

The ACD advises the NIH Director on policy matters important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training, and translating research results for the public.

Lamar Smith to Chair House Science Committee

With the wave of retirements and newly-elected Congressmen, a new Congressional session is accompanied by the shuffling of committee assignments. The 113th Congress will bring some new faces to the committees that handle issues important to the scientific workforce. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is one such committee. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is taking over the role of Chairman of this committee, which has jurisdiction over all Department of Energy (including the national labs), National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Science Foundation programs. Smith, who was just elected to his 14th term in Congress, has served on the Science Committee for 26 years. This committee will be faced with reauthorization of the America Competes Act, which includes authorization for the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, in the coming year. Smith is skeptical of climate change and a strong NASA supporter.

“As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America’s innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration, and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers,” Smith said in a statement. Congressman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will remain the Ranking Member of the Committee for the 113th Congress. The Ranking Member is the lead member of the minority party on the committee. View all the members of the Science committee at http://science.house.gov/about/membership.

February 2013 Table of Contents