New NIGMS Initiatives for Supporting Technology Development

The January 2016 Advisory Council meeting presentation on the initiatives begins at 1:14:43
The January 2016 Advisory Council meeting presentation on the initiatives begins at 1:14:43.

We would like to tell you about two new technology development initiatives recently approved by our Advisory Council. These programs are part of an ongoing effort that we’ve previously described to facilitate early stage, investigator-initiated work to create or improve tools for biomedical research.

Developing and providing access to technologies that enable biomedical research is a high priority for NIGMS, as expressed in our 2015 strategic plan. Historically, support for technology development has generally been coupled to using the technology to answer a biomedical research question. Although in the later stages of technology development this coupling is often useful, in the early stages it can hinder exploration of innovative ideas that could ultimately have a big impact on research.

We think the two initiatives 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.

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Webinar for MARC U-STAR Program Applicants

UPDATE: The slides from the MARC U-STAR program applicant webinar have been posted.

If you are preparing an institutional MARC U-STAR grant application, you might have questions about the funding opportunity announcement, data tables and FORMS-D package required for the upcoming May 25 receipt date. We will be available to discuss these topics during a webinar on Thursday, April 7, from 3:15-4:45 p.m. EDT. You may send questions to me before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter meeting number 622 362 803 and the password “NIGMS.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-877-668-4493 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.

NIGMS Staff Participating in April 7 Webinar

Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Richard Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

Sailaja Koduri, Scientific Review Officer (on detail from NCATS), Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Mona Trempe, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

Justin Rosenzweig, Grants Management Specialist, Division of Extramural Activities

Educational Outcomes of the NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) Program

UPDATE: The MARC U-Star report includes an addendum on the demographics of the program’s alumni.

We recently analyzed the educational outcomes of trainees who participated in the NIGMS MARC U-STAR program. The goal of the program is to enhance the pool of students from underrepresented groups earning baccalaureate and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical research fields. MARC U-STAR is part of a larger effort at NIGMS to support the development of a highly skilled, creative and diverse biomedical research workforce. This study was designed to identify the educational outcomes of over 9,000 MARC U-STAR alumni appointed at 114 institutions between 1986 and 2013.

MARC U-STAR grants are awarded to undergraduate institutions. Each grant supports a continuous 2-year program for the junior and senior (or final two) years of college that provides the trainees with academic enhancement, research training and professional skills development. In addition to these on-campus enhancements, MARC U-STAR institutions are expected to provide each trainee with a summer research experience at a research-intensive institution. The recently released Funding Opportunity Announcement describes the expectation that a majority of MARC U-STAR alumni nationwide will matriculate in a research doctorate program.

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MIRA Program Continues with New FOA

UPDATE: The March 21 MIRA webinar slides and video have been posted.

We just issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the second year of our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. This FOA continues pilot testing of the MIRA concept with a small cohort of investigators. For this reason, the current FOA is for established investigators, although we’re working on plans to expand the program to allow all NIGMS-funded investigators to apply. Applications are due by May 20, 2016. The earliest start date is April 2017.

We have made a number of modifications to the FOA based on what we learned in the first round. In particular, we have clarified the text in a number of places to avoid confusion by applicants and their institutions. We have also broadened the MIRA eligibility window to include later R01 renewal dates to enable more investigators to apply and for more of them to have the possibility of submitting renewal applications for their R01s if their MIRA application is unsuccessful or if they choose to decline an award. Therefore, please read the new FOA carefully if you are considering applying for this opportunity.

We’ll hold a webinar on Monday, March 21, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. EDT to discuss this FOA, the status of the first group of awards and our future plans for the program. You’ll be able to access the webinar at https://face2face.nih.gov/anthony.eam/JGQLDQ9J and submit questions via the chat function.

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Wanted: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program Director

We’re recruiting for a program director (also known as a program officer or health scientist administrator) to manage research grants and other types of awards in our Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology. Candidates should have expertise and research experience in computational biology, bioinformatics, biostatistics and/or data science for biomedical research. We prefer candidates with a broad background in the application of computation for solving biological problems or expertise in two or more of the areas listed above.

Please see the vacancy announcement for the position description and requirements and detailed application procedures. The position closes on March 14.

NIGMS Symposium on Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education

NIGMS is actively involved in efforts to catalyze the modernization of graduate education. As part of our work on this issue, we will host a symposium at NIH on Monday, April 11, where we will convene stakeholders from the biomedical graduate education community to continue the momentum for positive change and showcase innovative approaches in Ph.D. training. You can register to attend in person or watch the meeting live or later.

The agenda for the morning session includes an overview of the current landscape from the perspective of various stakeholders (students, institutions and employers) followed by a discussion on implementing change and assessing the effectiveness of educational innovations. The afternoon session will highlight experiments in various areas of graduate education such as curriculum redesign, quantitative skills enhancement, rigor and reproducibility, diversity and inclusion, and career and professional development. We will hear about why and how these experiments were implemented, their outcomes to date and aspects that could be exported to other institutions.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a broad and stimulating discussion.

Webinar to Answer Your Questions About the New Research Training Tables

UPDATE: The webinar slides and answers to frequently asked questions are available.

NIGMS Staff Participating in March 8 Webinar

Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Dick Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

John Laffan, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

If you’re preparing an institutional training grant application, you might have questions about the new research training tables required for receipt dates on or after the one coming up on May 25. We’ll field these questions during a webinar on Tuesday, March 8, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST. You can send questions to me or post them here before the webinar.

The revisions reduce the number of tables from 12 to 8, minimize the reporting of individual-level information and extend the tracking of trainee outcomes from 10 to 15 years. Table 8A must also be used to prepare annual progress reports. Table formats, instructions and samples are available on the NIH website.

To access the webinar, visit https://face2face.nih.gov/hope.mabry/7GZSC5SY Exit icon and click “OK.” If you’re away from your computer, you can access the site from a mobile device. You can also listen to a voice-only option by calling 1-888-390-0678 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering access code 50106.

We look forward to talking to you about the new training tables.

The Importance of Your Input

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.

MIRA Status and Future Plans

Now that we have completed the review process for Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) applications from the first eligible cohort of established investigators, I would like to update you on the program’s status and plans for its future. I shared this information with our Advisory Council at its recent meeting in January.

Screenshot of video
My update on the MIRA program at the January 2016 Advisory Council meeting begins at 26:06.

The first funding opportunity announcement (FOA) we issued (RFA-GM-16-002) was for established investigators who had either two NIGMS R01s or one NIGMS R01 for more than $400,000 in direct costs. In either case, one grant had to be expiring in 2016 or 2017. Out of the 710 investigators who could have met these criteria, 179 submitted applications, corresponding to 25% of the eligible pool.

Among the eligible investigators, 80% were male and 20% were female. This ratio was unchanged among those who applied, as were the percentages across racial and ethnic groups (Figure 1). Thus, although the demographics of the group of investigators that was eligible for this first FOA were skewed in several ways, the skewing was not exacerbated in those who chose to apply. Continue reading

Analysis of NIGMS Funding Rates for Early Stage Investigators and Non-Early Stage New Investigators

NIH and NIGMS have policies to promote the successful entry of junior investigators into independent biomedical research careers. NIH classifies investigators who have not previously had a major NIH grant into two categories: new investigators (NIs) and early stage investigators (ESIs), a subset of NIs who are within 10 years of completing their terminal research degree or medical residency. The goal of these policies is to support R01-equivalent awards to both of these categories of investigators at success rates (the percentage of new Type 1 R01 applications that were funded) similar to those of established investigators (EIs) who submit new R01 applications.

Given that the NI and ESI policies have been in effect for some time, we wanted to update and extend an analysis of success rates by investigator status performed in 2010 to see if NIGMS has been able to meet these objectives. While we found that the success rates for all NIs were comparable to or greater than that of EIs, our new analysis also revealed that the subset of NIs who completed their terminal research degree at least 10 years ago (non-ES NIs) had consistently lower success rates in obtaining R01s relative to both ESIs and EIs.

We focused our analysis on NIGMS Type 1 R01 applications for Fiscal Years 2011-2014. Figure 1a shows the success rates for EIs and NIs. During the time period analyzed, success rates for both EIs and NIs were comparable. However, when the NIs are separated into ESIs and non-ES NIs, the data show a more nuanced result (Figure 1b). ESIs consistently had higher success rates than either EIs or non-ES NIs when applying for new R01s.

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