Judith Greenberg Named Acting Deputy Director of NIGMS

Photo of Dr. Judith GreenbergI am pleased to tell you that Judith Greenberg has agreed to serve as acting deputy director of NIGMS while a search for a permanent deputy director takes place. A news announcement on her appointment is posted at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/News/Results/pages/
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As most of you know, Judith has served in numerous leadership roles at NIGMS and NIH, including two stints as NIGMS acting director.

In her new role, Judith will provide advice and expertise on all Institute activities. She will also continue to serve as director of the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, a position she has held since 1988.

Once the job announcement for a permanent deputy director is posted, I will be sure to alert you via this blog.

Resumption of NIH Extramural Activities

One of the biggest challenges facing NIH after the government shutdown is that it occurred during a peak review period and caused the cancellation of several hundred peer review meetings. On October 22, NIH announced that most of these meetings would be rescheduled so as to minimize the disruption of the submission/review/Council/award timeline.

While NIH may not be able to preserve the timeline for all applications, at this point, it looks as though most will still go to January 2014 council meetings. More details are available in a new NIH Guide notice.

Most of the study sections run by the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review were not affected by the shutdown and will proceed as planned over the next few weeks. While a few meetings will have to be rescheduled, we expect the results of the rescheduled meetings to be available in time for our January council meeting.

The other big challenge facing NIH and the extramural community is the disruption in the application process, since funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) could not be accessed and applications could not be submitted during the shutdown. NIH has rescheduled the submission dates that were lost and extended the dates for those FOAs that were adversely affected. More details are available in the same NIH Guide notice.

Sally Rockey’s blog provides more on NIH’s efforts to minimize the disruption of the shutdown’s effects on the extramural community.

Opening the Shutters

I am pleased to report that NIGMS is back at work. The 16-day lapse in federal appropriations, which shuttered most of NIH and led to the furlough of 98 percent of NIGMS’ staff, ended early yesterday morning when the President signed a bill containing a short-term continuing resolution to fund the Federal Government through January 15. By the time I got to the Institute at 7:45 a.m. that day, many of our staff members were already here, eagerly diving into the piles of work that had accumulated in their absence. I’ve never seen people so glad to be back at their jobs! It was a testament to how dedicated our staff is to promoting the mission of NIGMS.

Although we are all very happy to have resumed operations, I cannot say we have resumed completely normal operations. We have some work to do to recover from the loss of all of the important events that were supposed to happen during the closure. For example, many of the study sections run by the NIH Center for Scientific Review had to be cancelled, presenting a challenge for all of the NIH institutes and centers, as well as for all of the applicants and their institutions. The NIH Office of Extramural Research and the Center for Scientific Review are rapidly developing plans for reviewing the applications that were going to be considered in these study sections. They are also updating relevant application submission deadlines. I strongly encourage everyone to keep informed about what is happening by reading Sally Rockey’s extramural research blog and by checking the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, where information about new deadlines and procedures will be posted.

An important piece of news that might have flown by under the radar during the shutdown was that five past and current NIGMS grantees won Nobel Prizes this year: Jim Rothman and Randy Schekman in physiology or medicine for their work on vesicle transport within cells (along with Thomas Südhof, also an NIH-funded investigator); and Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel in chemistry for the development of multiscale molecular simulation methods. Congratulations to all of this year’s laureates! Their studies are shining examples of the importance of the fundamental, investigator-initiated biomedical research that is the essence of our mission.