Where have we been? Attending the NIGMS advisory council meeting

 

The second quarterly NIGMS council meeting of 2017 was held May 25-26 with an open session on the 26th.  The council meeting was led by NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch and covered upcoming NIH program/policy changes and events.

Highlights from the meeting are below.

  • Lorsch presented an overview of the proposed Grant Support Index, which was announced May 2.  This new policy will effectively cap the number of awards an investigator can be involved in by imposing a scoring system with a maximum score of 21.  In response to the proposed Grant Support Index, ASBMB sent a letter to Mike Lauer and NIH leadership addressing the concerns of ASBMB’s membership and providing recommendations for improving the policy.  ASBMB and the PAAC generally support attempts to distribute funding as equitably as possible, but cautioned NIH to consider unintended consequences carefully. As a result of the feedback from ASBMB and other members of the community, the NIH has begun to adjust the scoring rubric. Specifically, PIs involvement in training and center grants will no longer be included in the GSI, and the points for collaborative proposals have been reduced from 6 to 5. ASBMB also highlighted potential loopholes that have not yet been addressed, such as how best to credit sub-awards/contracts.  Lorsch closed his presentation by emphasizing that the policy is still a work in progress and that the NIH will continue to seek community input in the coming months.
  • In 2016, Congress moved the Science Education Partnership Awards program from NIH’s Office of the Director to NIGMS. The addition of the SEPA program completes NIGMS’ training and workforce development portfolio by adding support for partnerships that connect pre-K to 12 students with biomedical and clinical researchers. Tony Beck, program director for SEPA, provided the council with an overview of the program and projections moving forward.
  • Richard Nakamura, director of the Center for Scientific Review, presented updates from CSR. Nakamura addressed challenges with funding, reviewer recruitment, rigor and reproducibility, implicit bias, and award processes.  Nakamura also presented the Agreement Index Study. This collaborative study with NIGMS will assess whether study section reports with scoring information can identify applications with the highest scientific merit and potential impact to biomedical research.
  • The Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study program evaluation was presented to the council. The evaluation found that the program produced high-quality modeling for infectious diseases; however, MIDAS shared its resources in a suboptimal way and outreach outcomes were difficult to assess. It was decided that a fine-tuned data-to-decision-making model was needed so that products are used in policy-making decisions.  NIGMS plans to reissue the program next year.  Future activities for MIDAS will be presented during the September NIGMS council meeting.
  • NIGMS in collaboration with the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology will also be holding a workshop entitled Responsible Communication of Basic Biomedical Research: Enhancing Awareness and Avoiding Hype on June 22.

View the full NIGMS Council meeting here.

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