This is the 500th Feedback Loop post. We’ve made numerous changes since the blog launched in 2009, but one of the things that’s stayed the same is the importance of your input. Your responses to our posts have given us valuable information and insights on our policies and plans. They’ve also helped us identify topics that interest you or that we could clarify.
If there’s a topic you’d like us to write about—or if you have any other feedback for us—please leave your suggestions in the comment section below or email me.
UPDATE: The response deadline has been extended to November 13.
On July 29, 2015, the White House issued an Executive Order establishing the National Strategic Computing Initiative as a government-wide effort to create a coordinated, cohesive, multi-agency strategy to maximize the benefits of High Performance Computing (HPC) for the United States. In support of this initiative, the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health are seeking your input to identify scientific research that would benefit from a greatly enhanced new generation of HPC computing technologies and architectures. The request for information (RFI) asks for responses in scientific domains including the biomedical and physical sciences, mathematics, geosciences, energy sciences and engineering research.
We hope to hear from our research communities on topics that include:
- Research challenges that would need the projected 100-fold increase in application performance.
- Specific barriers in current HPC systems that limit scientific research.
- Capabilities needed for the data-intensive sciences.
- Additional barriers in such areas as training, workforce development or collaborative environments.
While this RFI invites comments on several specific topics, we would also welcome any comments that you feel are relevant to this initiative.
To respond to this RFI, send an email to NIGMS_exascale@nigms.nih.gov by
If you have any specific questions about the RFI, please let me know.
UPDATE: The proposed rulemaking comment period has been extended to January 6, 2016.
I would like to draw your attention to proposed revisions to the federal policy for the protection of human subjects , often referred to as the Common Rule. Even if you’re not currently involved in human subjects research activities, your research might be affected by the proposed changes.
The modifications are intended to enhance the ability of individuals to make informed decisions about participating in clinical research and also to modernize and streamline the regulatory approval process. One of the major reforms would expand the definition of human subjects research to include the secondary use of human biospecimens, regardless of identifiability. Some of the other proposed changes would affect the processes for obtaining informed consent and for determining the exemption status of human subjects research activities.
I encourage you to review the notice of proposed rulemaking and submit comments by the December 7, 2015, deadline. Please note that each proposed change described in the document includes specific questions for public comment.
NIGMS is in the process of 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 strongly related, but there are aspects of each that should be explored independently. An important part of this process is getting input from the community, so we’ve issued a request for information (RFI) focused on technology development. A subsequent RFI will extend the discussion to the support of research resources.
There are two main issues that we’re thinking hard about right now as we consider how our technology development programs should be structured:
- The relationship between technology development and question-based biomedical research. We’re particularly interested in whether and how technology development and question-driven research should be coupled in different circumstances. Coupling technology development with addressing biomedical research problems can help ensure the relevance of the tools that emerge, but it may not always be necessary or appropriate.
- Supporting the full range of biomedical technology development. We’re interested in the effective support of all aspects of technology development, from the exploration of emerging concepts to the conversion of fragile technologies into standard tools.
Membrane proteins and large macromolecular assemblies are important targets for understanding cell function and for drug discovery, but their characterization presents unique technical challenges. We’re considering how best to help researchers meet these challenges.
To give the biomedical research community the opportunity to offer comments on this topic, we have just issued a request for information (RFI). We want your opinion on the most effective methods for the determination of membrane protein and large macromolecular assembly structures and/or the need for new tools to aid in structure determination of these proteins or protein complexes.
We support a variety of resources for biomedical research, and we’re considering a new addition: one or more facilities for protein expression. These resources would offer protein expression expertise and high-throughput expression capability for the benefit of the entire research community.
We just issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on the needs within the biomedical research community for such resources and the types of protein expression services that would be most beneficial. Examples might include the expression of proteins from a large number of sequences, orthologs and homologs; prokaryotic and eukaryotic protein expression; and expression for special needs, such as for large numbers of mutants, proteins requiring anaerobic expression, and the incorporation of nonproteogenic amino acids like seleno-methionine.
As part of our longstanding commitment to fostering a highly trained and diverse biomedical research workforce, we have launched a review process to ensure that our programs contribute most effectively to this goal. An important part of this effort is to seek your input.
To this end, we just issued a request for information for feedback and novel ideas that might bolster the effectiveness of our undergraduate student development programs. Some of the things we’re particularly interested in are:
- The advantages (or disadvantages) of supporting a single program per institution that begins after matriculation and provides student development experiences through graduation.
- Approaches to leveraging successful institutional models for preparing baccalaureates for subsequent Ph.D. completion.
- Strategies to build institutional capabilities and effective institutional networks that promote undergraduate student training programs that lead to successful Ph.D. completion.
- If applicable, your specific experiences with any of our student development programs and their outcomes in preparing participants for biomedical research careers.
More broadly, we welcome your suggestions regarding the most important issues we can address in this arena.
I encourage you to share your views (no longer available) on these and associated topics by the response deadline of April 15, 2015.
We have just issued the first funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in the pilot of our new Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. The development of this program was greatly informed by responses to our request for information, which I summarized in a previous Feedback Loop post.
The goal of this FOA is to test the MIRA concept under well-controlled conditions with a small group of investigators. We’re initially targeting established investigators who have received two or more R01-equivalent awards or a single award of $400,000 or more in direct costs from NIGMS in Fiscal Year 2013 or 2014, and who have at least one grant expected to end in Fiscal Year 2016 or 2017. We think that this approach will help these investigators transition smoothly from their current grants to MIRA support. In the future, we plan to issue MIRA FOAs for additional groups of investigators, and if the pilot is successful we will open the program to any investigator working on research questions related to the mission of NIGMS.
If you’re eligible for this FOA and on the fence about applying, consider that MIRA awards:
- Will be for 5 years instead of the current NIGMS average of 4 years,
- Will continue support for other research currently funded by NIGMS without requiring a separate renewal application,
- Will provide flexibility to pursue new ideas and opportunities as they arise,
- Will increase funding stability, and
- Will reduce time spent managing multiple grant awards and writing grant applications.
We’ll post additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions, on the NIGMS MIRA Web page.
NOTE: The FOA lists the earliest award date as December 2016. This is an error. The earliest award date is actually April 2016.