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.
You may be interested in these following NIH Guide announcements:
Request for Information (RFI): Inviting Comments and Suggestions on the Reagent-Related Barriers to Reproducible Research
Purpose: Provide input on reagent-related barriers to reproducible biomedical research
Response date: December 22, 2014
NIH contact: Questions concerning this RFI should be directed to NIHReproducibilityEfforts@nih.gov
Administrative Supplements for Research on Sex/Gender Differences (Admin Supp)
Purpose: Request supplemental funds to existing grants to study the impact of sex/gender differences (or similarities) and/or sex and gender factors in human health and disease processes, including basic, preclinical, clinical and behavioral studies to inform the development and testing of preventative and therapeutic interventions
Application due date: January 12, 2015
NIGMS contact: Regine Douthard, 301-435-1759
Regional Consortia for High Resolution Cryoelectron Microscopy (U24)
Purpose: Provide regional access to state-of-the-art data collection capabilities to cryoelectron microscopy (cryoEM) laboratories; more information is available on the Guidance for Applicants Web page
Letter of intent due date: December 27, 2014
Application due date: January 27, 2015
NIGMS contact: Paula Flicker, 301-594-0828
Change in Application Due Dates for PAR-14-021 "Biomedical Technology Research Resource (P41)"
Purpose: Notice that applications for Biomedical Technology Research Resource grants will no longer be accepted for the September 25 due date; applications will continue to be accepted for the January 25 and May 25 due dates
NIGMS contact: Douglas Sheeley, 301-451-6446
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.
Although researchers have made major progress in achieving a balance between male and female subjects in human studies—women now account for roughly half of the participants in NIH-funded clinical trials—a similar pattern has not been seen in pre-clinical research involving animals and cells. To inform the development of policies that address this issue, NIH has issued a request for information (RFI) on the consideration of sex as a biological variable in biomedical research.
As NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey wrote in a recent blog post announcing the RFI, “Sex is a critical variable when trying to understand the biological and behavioral systems that fundamentally shape human health.” Appropriate representation of animals and cells is also relevant to NIGMS and NIH efforts to enhance scientific rigor and data reproducibility in research.
And in her own blog post about the RFI, NIH Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health Janine Clayton said that while many scientists have already expressed support for the policy change, she has also heard from many sources that it needs “to be carefully implemented, as a true benefit to science—and not become a trivial, bureaucratic box to check.” She noted that comments in response to the RFI will guide NIH in creating “meaningful change in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”
Since NIGMS supports a significant amount of basic biomedical science that utilizes animal models and cells, we encourage our grantees to submit their input on this topic by the October 13 deadline.
UPDATE: The deadline for submitting input has been extended to October 24.
In February, we asked for input on training activities relevant to enhancing data reproducibility, which has become a very serious issue for both basic and clinical research. The responses revealed that there is substantial variation in the training occurring at institutions. One reason is that “best practices” training in skills that influence data reproducibility appears to be largely passed down from generation to generation of scientists working in the laboratory.
To increase the likelihood that researchers generate reproducible, unbiased and properly validated results, NIGMS and nine additional NIH components have issued a funding opportunity announcement to develop, pilot and disseminate training modules to enhance data reproducibility. Appropriate areas for the modules include experimental design, laboratory practices, analysis and reporting of results, and/or the influence of cultural factors such as confirmation bias in hypothesis testing or the scientific rewards system. The modules should be creative, engaging, readily accessible online at no cost and easily incorporated into research training programs for the intended audience, which includes graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and beginning faculty.
The application deadline is November 20, 2014, with letters of intent due by October 20, 2014. Applicants may request up to $150,000 in total costs to cover the entire award period. For more details, read the FAQs.
A current research challenge is harmonizing vast amounts of heterogeneous biological data so that it can be stored, extracted, analyzed, presented and shared in a broad, uniform manner. An important step to overcoming this obstacle is creating data-related standards.
Toward this goal, NIH has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking comments on information resources for data-related standards widely used in biomedical science. Feedback on standards considered most critical, as well as existing relevant resources, could inform plans to develop a publicly available, Web-based information resource on data-related standards.
The deadline for responding to the RFI is September 30, 2014.