At last week’s Advisory Council meeting, I presented a report on the comments we received in response to our request for information (RFI) on a potential new program for research funding.
As described in the blog post announcing the RFI, the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program would provide a single award in support of all of the projects in an investigator’s lab that are relevant to the NIGMS mission. A MIRA would be longer and larger than the current average NIGMS R01 award.
We received more than 290 responses through the official RFI comment site. We heard from individual investigators as well as several scientific organizations. Most of the responses were positive, and both established and early stage investigators indicated that they were very likely to apply.
The respondents identified the most valuable aspects of the proposed program as:
- Increased flexibility to follow new research directions as opportunities and ideas arise,
- Savings of time and effort currently spent on writing and reviewing applications, and
- Enhanced stability of research support.
However, some responses expressed concerns, which we are taking into consideration. Despite the intention of the program to optimize the distribution of NIGMS resources, some respondents thought that it could lead to funds becoming concentrated in fewer labs at the most elite institutions. This was in part a reflection of the phased implementation plan, which would focus initially on investigators with more than one NIGMS grant. Respondents urged NIGMS to broaden the eligibility criteria as quickly as possible following the initial pilot phase. Other concerns that were raised related to peer review and program evaluation.
For more about the RFI results, including a breakdown of responses by question, watch my presentation, which begins at 2:18 on the archived videocast.
The Advisory Council discussed the MIRA proposal and then approved plans to proceed with developing the program. We plan to issue a funding opportunity announcement in early 2015, with the first awards being made in Fiscal Year 2016. We intend to evaluate the MIRA program and if it is successful, will broaden it.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which supports research training leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual) degree. Starting with only three institutions and a handful of supported students, the program has grown to 45 institutions and more than 900 trainees per year.
We’re marking this milestone year with a symposium on Thursday, July 17, from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The event will feature remarks by NIH Director Francis Collins and Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell Kirch as well as talks by seven current and former MSTP trainees.
Although the symposium is free, we would like participants to register to attend. If you can’t join us in person, you can watch the event live online.
Plans for a scholarly article highlighting the history of the MSTP are under way. If you have comments, anecdotes, historical data, photos or other relevant images, please let us know by writing a note in the comments box on the meeting registration site or by sending me an e-mail message.
Last November, I announced that NIGMS was conducting an assessment of its Large-Scale Collaborative Project Awards (glue grant) program and solicited your input.
We have now posted the report of this assessment, which is based on an analysis of input from six different sources, including comments we received from the scientific community.
The assessment’s conclusion is that the glue grant program has had mixed results. All of the projects accomplished some of their goals, and some of the projects had a substantial impact in their fields. However, the assessment also found that the program as a whole had not achieved outcomes commensurate with the scope of the awards and the overall investment in them.
The panel members felt that “the successes and challenges of the Glue Grant Awards Program provide a useful guide for the development of future programs.” While they recommended discontinuing the program as it currently exists, they did not recommend abandoning all support for collaborative research, even in the face of tighter budgets. Rather, they suggested a number of ways to improve support for larger-scale projects and indicated that these projects cannot be accomplished with R01 grant support alone.
Last week, I presented the outcomes of the assessment to our Advisory Council, which embraced the recommendations of the assessment panel and encouraged NIGMS to develop alternative mechanisms to support the varied accomplishments that were supported through the glue grant program. We will take the report and Council’s advice into consideration as we develop future plans for funding collaborative research.
In September 2009, we announced that we were not reissuing the funding opportunity announcement for our Large-Scale Collaborative Project Awards (Glue Grant) program, which has supported research teams tackling significant and complex problems that are beyond the means of any one research group. We are currently assessing the need for this type of support and how best to manage programs of such scope and magnitude.
As part of this effort, we are conducting an assessment of the glue grant program’s major outcomes and their impact. We’re seeking your views through voluntary input forms posted on the NIGMS Web site. The forms will ask about various aspects of the glue grant program as a whole and about specific glue grant projects, including:
You can read more about the assessment and view the forms at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/Collaborative/
GlueGrants/OutcomeAssessment (no longer available). The site will be open for input until December 15, 2010.
UPDATE: We have extended the comment period from December 15 to January 15.
A new Recovery Act funding announcement from the NIH Office of the Director came out last week, and it offers plenty of opportunities for the NIGMS community.
If you plan to apply for the NIH Director’s Opportunity for Research in Five Thematic Areas (RC4), think big! Only projects with budgets of more than $500,000 in total costs per year for three years will be considered. A key requirement is that the application must be for a research project—no bricks and mortar; no high-end, off-the-shelf instruments—although it can be for a project that develops infrastructure.
The five thematic areas included in the program were enunciated by NIH Director Francis Collins in his first town hall meeting and in the January 1, 2010, issue of Science (PDF 240KB, Acrobat Reader ). They include:
- Applying genomics and other high-throughput technologies to address questions in a comprehensive way (often described with the word “all,” as in all genes in an organism, all human proteins and their structures, or all major pathways for signal transduction);
- Translating basic science discoveries into new and better treatments, diagnostics and therapeutics;
- Using science to enable health care reform—this includes prevention; better and cheaper treatments; research on health disparities, social and behavioral factors; large population studies; comparative effectiveness research; personalized medicine; pharmacogenomics; and health services research;
- Focusing on global health, from discovery to the development and formulation of prevention and intervention strategies that tackle infectious, parasitic and chronic diseases worldwide; and
- Reinvigorating the biomedical research community by encouraging new collaborations and by recruiting and retaining new investigators (applications addressing this theme are still expected to be research projects).
Since the funding is limited to three years, projects must have a high short-term impact. Applications for projects with a longer timeframe should include a plan for maintaining the research efforts without any expectation of further financial assistance from NIH.
Letters of intent are due February 15, 2010, and applications are due March 15, 2010.
If you have questions, you can e-mail or call me at 301-594-1158.
The Blue Waters petascale computing system, under construction by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, will be the most powerful computer in the world when it comes online in 2011. The National Science Foundation is currently soliciting proposals for computing time to explore big questions that can’t be addressed with other existing computer systems.
We will be hosting a virtual workshop and applicant briefing on Blue Waters to encourage our grantees to develop high-impact community proposals for computing time on this very important new resource. Given the amount of NIGMS-supported biological and biomedical research that utilizes a variety of computing platforms, we think there are a lot of great research opportunities.
The videocast is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17, from 2-4 p.m. You will be able to access it at http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=8324. During the discussion, we will tell you about the opportunity, identify areas of science within the NIGMS mission that may benefit from Blue Waters, and help interested scientists form collaborations to submit proposals.
Presenters include Jeremy Berg, Stephen Meacham from NSF, Eric Jakobsson and Thom Dunning from the University of Illinois, and John Moult from the University of Maryland. You may join the live discussion by e-mailing questions and comments via the NIH Videocast Web site or by sending them to me. You also can send me your ideas or questions ahead of time.
Because of the considerable NIGMS investment in protein folding and prediction of protein structure from sequence, we will explore this area during the videocast. We realize that many other areas within the NIGMS mission may also benefit from access to Blue Waters, and we welcome discussion about those as well.
We have also set up a Web site where you can post your ideas and interests in using Blue Waters and/or forming collaborations.
This is just a reminder that letters of intent for the three PSI:Biology funding opportunities are due on Monday, Sept. 28. If you’re still thinking about applying, please view these resources:
You can access this and other relevant information from our PSI:Biology Web site. Please continue to direct any additional questions to me by e-mail or phone (301-594-0828).
Since my last post about PSI:Biology, I’ve received lots of questions about the initiative and the new funding opportunities. To answer these questions more broadly and encourage more applicants, we’re hosting a live videocast briefing on Monday, August 31, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. EDT. You’ll hear from Jeremy Berg, Cathy Lewis and myself.
Participants will have the chance to ask questions, make comments, get input on possible research projects and identify potential collaborators. You can use the live event feedback form on the videocast page, or you can send your questions in advance by e-mailing me or posting a comment here. If you would like to remain anonymous, please be sure to let us know so we don’t share your name during the briefing.
To watch the live event, go to http://videocast.nih.gov next Monday and look for “PSI: Biology VideoCast Briefing” in the “Today’s Events” section. Later, you’ll be able to find the archived version of the briefing on the past events page.
A number of you have wondered if NIGMS can help you identify other researchers with whom you might collaborate to develop an application to establish one of the PSI:Biology partnerships. In response, we’ve established a Web form that will allow you to enter your name and contact information and a brief description of the research area for which you would like to apply. Participation is entirely up to you and is not a requirement for application. The form and the public page with submissions will be posted until the application deadline.
This brings me to my final update: We have extended the due dates for submitting letters of intent and applications. They are now September 28, 2009, and October 28, 2009, respectively.
UPDATE: We just issued an NIH Guide notice that includes some additional information.
Whether you’re interested in a single protein or many, you now have the chance to join the Protein Structure Initiative’s PSI:Biology network, which will apply high-throughput structural approaches to solve interesting biological problems.
We have just released three funding opportunities that will establish the core of the PSI:Biology research network:
Centers for High-Throughput Structure Determination – large-scale centers that will have the capacity to solve structures on the order of several hundred per year.
Centers for Membrane Protein Structure Determination – small centers that will devote special effort to solving the structures of these proteins.
Consortia for High-Throughput Enabled Structural Biology Partnerships – these awards will support functional studies of proteins proposed by individuals or groups of researchers from across all fields of biology as well as support the structural determination of those proteins through consortia with the PSI:Biology structure centers. Ideal projects will integrate functional and structural data for a large number of protein structures to solve significant biological problems.
In addition to these opportunities, we plan to issue program announcements for experimental technology development, computational and molecular modeling and more ways for partners to bring their interests to the target-setting table. We’ll announce these in the NIH Guide and here in the Feedback Loop.
If you have just one or two proteins that need to be solved, you can nominate them as targets for structure determination via the PSI Structural Genomics Knowledgebase , which offers a cool widget so you can easily access the site from your Web page.
UPDATE: The due dates for letters of intent and applications have been extended to September 28, 2009, and October 28, 2009, respectively. For more details, see NOT-GM-09-026.