Your Perspectives: Strategies for Enhancing Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity

Continuing our longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the careers of students and postdoctoral scientists from diverse backgrounds, for example groups underrepresented in biomedical research, we sought input from the community through a request for information (RFI) on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity, specifically in research-intensive institutions. The RFI was open May 24 to July 20, 2018, and received a total of 89 unique responses from stakeholders including postdoctoral scientists, faculty members, and professional societies.

Continue reading

Give Us Your Input on Strategies for Advancing Sepsis Research Supported by NIGMS

Although NIGMS is not the only source of federal funding for sepsis research, the Institute supports a substantial portfolio of research that includes both fundamental and clinical studies, from the molecular to the organismal, that emphasizes the host’s response rather than causative factors such as infection or injury. In an effort to more rapidly move NIGMS’ sepsis research program and its translation forward, we’ve issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain feedback, comments, novel ideas, and strategies that address the challenges and opportunities in sepsis research to accelerate advances in detection of and treatment for this condition.

Continue reading

Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the training of students from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research, through fellowships, career development grants, and institutional training and student development programs. These programs, and other efforts, have contributed to a substantial increase in the talent pool of well-trained biomedical Ph.D.s from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. However, increasing evidence shows that transitions of these talented scientists from postdoctoral training into independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions is a key point at which they exit the NIH-funded research workforce. Similarly, women have earned a majority of biomedical Ph.D.s since 2008Link to external web site but approximately one-third of NIH-funded principal investigators are women.

We have undertaken a number of efforts to facilitate the career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate including Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards and research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research and re-entry into biomedical research careers. Additionally, we administer the NIH Common Fund’s National Research Mentoring Network, a nationwide consortium of biomedical professionals and institutions collaborating to provide biomedical trainees from all backgrounds and at all levels with evidence-based mentorship and professional development programs. While these efforts have supported the development of highly-trained biomedical scientists who have the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue independent biomedical research careers, we need additional strategies to promote transitions to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.

Continue reading

Requesting Your Input on the Draft NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science

UPDATE: NIH has released the Strategic Plan for Data Science. The plan was informed by community and public input, and NIH will continue to seek input as it implements the plan, many elements of which are well underway. By maximizing the value of data generated through NIH-funded efforts, the pace of biomedical discoveries and medical breakthroughs for better health outcomes can be substantially accelerated.

To capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing a Strategic Plan for Data Science. This plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. As part of the planning process, NIH has published a draft of the strategic plan [PDF 490KB], along with a Request for Information to seek input from stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public.

As co-chair of the NIH Scientific Data Council, which is overseeing development of the Strategic Plan for Data Science, I encourage your comments and suggestions. Responses should be submitted via an online form by April 2, 2018.

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.