Give Input on the Organization and Administration of NIGMS Undergraduate and Predoctoral Diversity Programs

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to training the next generation of biomedical scientists and supports training of students from underrepresented (UR) groups through a variety of institutional training and student development programs including Bridges to the Baccalaureate, Bridges to the Doctorate, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development, and the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program. The goal of these programs is to increase the number of students from UR groups who matriculate in and complete Ph.D. degree programs in the biomedical sciences and become leaders in the U.S. research enterprise.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community, including students, undergraduate faculty, graduate faculty, scientific societies, and academic institutions, as well as from the public, through a Request for Information (RFI) on the organization and administration of NIGMS undergraduate and predoctoral diversity programs.

Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • The potential challenges and opportunities created by changing NIGMS R25 programs to NRSA training (T) grant activity codes, and strategies for overcoming any potential challenges
  • The potential advantages or disadvantages of having a single, unified NIGMS-funded undergraduate or predoctoral diversity program vs. multiple NIGMS-funded diversity programs at a given institution
  • Strategies for building effective intra- and inter-institutional networks that minimize unnecessary duplication, leverage existing resources and create synergies to more efficiently and effectively promote the development of a well-trained and diverse biomedical research workforce
  • Any other comments or recommendations regarding NIGMS programs that support the training of students from UR groups

Responses can be submitted via an online form Exit icon and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is October 31, 2017.

Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Physician-Scientist Training Through the Medical Scientist Training Program

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing the next generation of biomedical scientists through a variety of programs, including the M.D.-Ph.D. dual degree Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). This program provides Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) awards to medical institutions that are responsible for training physician scientists. The Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group Report [PDF, 6.2 MB] of NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director highlighted the decline of physician scientists as a percentage of overall NIH principal investigators. NIH data presented at the 50th Anniversary Medical Scientist Training Program Symposium showed that while earlier cohorts of MSTP trainees were highly successful in achieving independent research careers and NIH grant support, more recent graduates have been less successful. Many factors may contribute to this difference, including lengthening of the post-M.D.-Ph.D. training period before achieving independence and increased competition of investigators for limited research funds and positions.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups through a Request for Information (RFI) on strategies and ideas for the modernization of physician-scientist training that can be addressed through the MSTP.

More specific topics are included in the RFI, but examples of broad areas of interest are:

  • Trainees (e.g., time of recruitment to the MSTP, diversity of the applicant pool and selection criteria)
  • Financing/funding (e.g., how different M.D.-Ph.D. funding models influence the range of institutions that apply for MSTP support, the pool of trainees and the trainees’ commitment to research careers)
  • Dual-degree training (e.g., time-to-degree, integration of curriculum, training areas, mentoring and career advising)
  • NIGMS management of MSTP grants (e.g., size, number and distribution of training programs; evaluation of outcomes; and peer review)
  • Anything else specific to MSTP training that you feel is important for NIH to consider with respect to enhancing M.D.-Ph.D. training and the persistence of physician-scientist trainees in research careers (note that changes in post-M.D.-Ph.D. training and future research support are outside of the scope of this RFI)

Responses can be submitted via an online form Exit icon and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is August 9, 2017.

New NIGMS Technology Development Program Announcements

We would like to tell you about two new technology development funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) recently published in the NIH Guide. We previously wrote about the approval of these programs by our Advisory Council. They are part of an ongoing effort to facilitate early stage, investigator-initiated work to create or improve tools for biomedical research. We think the two FOAs briefly described below will stimulate early stage technology research and development by allowing scientists to focus on making the technology work before they begin to apply those tools to biomedical research questions.

Exploratory Research for Technology Development (PAR-17-046): This program will support modest 2-year R21 grants to develop a new technology or radically improve an existing one. Projects will be high-risk and have no preliminary data. The proposed technology should be justified by a significant biomedical research need, but the proposal should not include the application of the technology to a biomedical problem—it should focus on technology development.

Focused Technology Research and Development (PAR-17-045): This program will support R01 grants that are entirely focused on the development of an emerging technology with a strong potential to impact biomedical research. The program will not allow inclusion of a significant biomedical research problem because the technology will not be ready for that until the project is over. These grants will be renewable only once.

The deadline for the first round of applications is February 16, 2017.

To help investigators determine which technology development program is right for their project, we’ve posted a decision tree on the NIGMS website. It includes descriptions of the programs designed to support all stages of technology development.

We welcome questions or comments about these FOAs or our technology development programs in general.

Your Perspectives: Catalyzing the Modernization of Biomedical Graduate Education

NIGMS actively supports efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education. We have undertaken a number of initiatives to stimulate this process, including hosting a symposium to showcase innovations in biomedical graduate education and providing administrative supplements to T32 predoctoral training grants to enhance rigor and reproducibility, career development and skills development.

On June 8, 2016, we took another step to encourage such change with the release of a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on how our institutional predoctoral training grants program can be used to promote innovations in training. The RFI asked members of the community to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, the skills the next generation of graduate students should acquire, barriers to change and strategies to promote change through our institutional predoctoral research training grants.

We received 90 unique responses from stakeholders ranging from students and faculty to institutions and professional societies. Themes represented in the responses were organized around five major categories:

  • Institutional and training-related issues,
  • Skills development,
  • Systemic issues within the research enterprise,
  • Careers, and
  • Administrative and review issues.

Figure 1. Major Categories in Graduate Education RFI Responses. Bar chart showing the number of RFI responses in which one of the major categories was represented. A total of 90 unique responses were received for the RFI.

While NIGMS recognizes that those who responded to the RFI are unlikely to represent a random subset of the individuals and organizations who have a stake in graduate biomedical education, these responses provide insights regarding how members of the extramural community view the current challenges and opportunities in graduate biomedical education. As such, these comments will inform NIGMS’ ongoing efforts to catalyze the modernization of graduate education through a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement, which is currently under development. For more details about the analysis, we encourage you to explore the report.

Final FOA for NIGMS Program Project Grants

We have reissued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for program project grants (P01) in areas related to NIGMS’ mission. The program remains unchanged from the previous FOA. The next application deadline is January 25, 2017. The program project grant is designed to support research in which the funding of several interdependent projects offers significant scientific advantages over the support of these same projects as individual regular research grants.

We’re exploring alternative approaches to fund team science projects. We recently requested community input on this topic. The responses we received included a recommendation to support interdisciplinary, challenging science beyond multiple-PI R01s that would allow greater flexibility than what is possible with the existing P01 program. We’ll keep you posted on our plans.

NIH Request for Information: Metrics to Assess the Value of Biomedical Digital Repositories

NIH is requesting input from the community on existing and desired approaches for measuring and assessing the value of biomedical data repositories. The request for information (RFI) seeks input on a number of topics related to these repositories, including but not limited to:

  • Utilization metrics.
  • Quality and impact indicators.
  • Service indicators.
  • Governance and infrastructure metrics.
  • Use case studies.

RFI responses should be sent to NIH_Repository_Metrics_RFI@mail.nih.gov by September 30, 2016. Please see the RFI for additional information on submitting input.

If you have any questions about the RFI, please let me know.

NIH Request for Input: Transformative High-Resolution Cryo-EM

NIH is requesting input from the community on scientific opportunities, critical needs and strategies for realizing the scientific potential of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The request for information (RFI) seeks input from researchers, institutions, professional societies and others interested in cryo-EM, including those who have not done any work in the area but have an interest in doing so in the future.

The RFI solicits input on a number of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Cryo-EM needs and capacity.
  • Workforce development and training.
  • Technology development.

RFI responses should be sent to cyro-em@mail.nih.gov by August 8, 2016.

If you have any questions about the RFI, please let me know.

Give Input on Strategies for Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education

We’ve been examining how best to support the modernization of graduate education at the national level to ensure that trainees gain the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to be successful in the biomedical research workforce.

We’re involved in a variety of efforts. For example, we and other NIH institutes and centers provided support for the development of training modules on rigor and reproducibility. We encouraged graduate programs at institutions that receive predoctoral T32 support from us to make their alumni career outcomes publicly available to prospective and current students. We’ve also offered administrative supplements to predoctoral T32 training grants to support innovative approaches in the areas of rigor and reproducibility, career outcomes and graduate education. In April, we held a symposium covering these and other topics in graduate education. Finally, we plan to write a new predoctoral T32 funding announcement.

We’re now soliciting input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups in response to a new request for information (RFI) on strategies for modernizing biomedical graduate education. We’d like to know your thoughts on:

  • Current strengths, weaknesses and challenges in graduate biomedical education.
  • Changes that could enhance graduate education to ensure that scientists of tomorrow have the skills, abilities and knowledge they need to advance biomedical research as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  • Major barriers to achieving these changes and potential strategies to overcome them.
  • Key skills that graduate students should develop in order to become outstanding biomedical scientists and the best approaches for developing those skills.
  • Potential approaches to modernizing graduate education through the existing NIGMS institutional predoctoral training grants.
  • Anything else you feel is important for us to consider.

Responses can be submitted via an online form Exit icon and can be anonymous. They can also be emailed to modernPhD@mail.nih.gov. The due date for responses is August 5, 2016.

Give Input on Needs and Opportunities in Team-Based Science

We’ve been examining the benefits and challenges of team science and considering approaches to support this mode of research.

We use a variety of mechanisms to fund collaborative and team-based science, including program project grants (P01s) and different types of center grants (e.g., P50s and U54s). At our recent Advisory Council meeting, we heard a report on P01 outcomes compared to those of other mechanisms. We also heard a report from an external review panel on the National Centers for Systems Biology program.

To explore team science approaches, we have set up an internal NIGMS committee that includes representatives from across the Institute. Our goal is to develop better ways to identify and support research teams that will produce scientific advances not attainable by single individuals or by standard collaborative efforts.

One of the committee’s first efforts was issuing a request for information (RFI) on approaches for supporting team science in the biomedical research community. We’re soliciting input on a number of topics, including:

  • Interest in team science.
  • Management and advisory structures in team science.
  • Team composition.
  • Resources and infrastructure.
  • Assessment of team science.
  • Past or current NIGMS team-based programs and funding mechanisms.

RFI responses should be sent to TeamScience@mail.nih.gov by June 17, 2016. We also welcome comments here.

Give Input on the Support of Biomedical Research Resources

NIGMS is considering how best to support two important activities: the development of biomedical technologies and access to those technologies as they become research resources. These topics are closely related, but there are aspects of each that should be explored independently.

Last summer, the Institute issued a request for information (RFI) on the support of biomedical technology development. The responses we received contributed significantly to initiatives for exploratory and focused technology development to be launched later this year. We now request your input in response to a new RFI on the need for and support of research resources (NOT-GM-16-103).

We’d like to know your thoughts on a number of topics, including:

  • The appropriateness and usefulness of existing research resources to the biomedical research community.
  • Examples of unmet needs for research resources.
  • The relative value of resources that serve many investigators versus specialized resources used by fewer investigators.
  • The value and manner of coupling technology development to research resources.
  • The review of research resource applications and the evaluation of funded projects.
  • The role of academia, other biomedical institutions and industry in developing and providing access to research resources.
  • The role of investigators and user fees in supporting institutional, regional and national resources.
  • The role of NIGMS in supporting research resources and technology development at various levels.

We also welcome any other comments that you feel are relevant to supporting research resources.

To respond to this RFI, send an email to nigmsresource@mail.nih.gov by June 3, 2016.

If you have any questions about the RFI, please let us know.