The last National Institute of General Medical Sciences advisory council meeting of 2017 was held Sept. 14-15 with an open session Sept. 15. The council meeting was led by NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch and covered collaborations across the National Institutes of Health, program updates and recent events hosted by the institute.
Highlights from the meeting are below. You can watch a recording of the open session here, and we’re including timestamps on our highlights for your quick reference.
- 05:56 – Lorsch led the meeting by providing the director’s report.
- On Oct. 25, the institute will host an upcoming Stetten Lecture on using computational methods to cure disease.
- NIGMS is requesting input on the organization and administration of its undergraduate and predoctoral diversity program. Comments are due Oct. 31.
- To continue an initiative started in 2015, NIGMS is looking for nominations for its Early Career Investigator Council ad hoc member program. The program seeks to help diversify the perspectives on the council’s advisory committee and provide increased transparency in NIGMS’ administrative and review processes.
- Lorsch closed his report by addressing the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, or NGRI. Many of his concerns revolved around the lack of a dedicated fund for the pool of researchers that the policy targets. Additionally, the policy ignores midcareer investigators and may trade support for this group to support more Early Stage Investigators and Early Established Investigators. Some council members weighed in by voicing their support for the now defunct Grant Support Index and expressed concerns with deleting a policy in response to a minority of researchers.
- 48:49 – Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute of Aging, gave a presentation on the pipeline between the basic research supported by NIGMS and the disease-focused studies at the NIA. .
- 1:26:40 – Jake Basson, from NIGMS’ office of program planning, analysis and evaluation, gave an update on the institute’s Early Stage Investigator Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award, or ESI MIRA, review analysis. The review is completing its second round of the program. Preliminary results show that:
- 70 percent of applications come from men.
- Women are scoring slightly better than men in each competition round.
- Success rates for 2017 are projected to be 30.6 percent.
- 1:48:45 – In June, the Federation of Societies of Experimental Biology cohosted a workshop with NIGMS on responsible communication of basic biomedical research. Tom Baldwin, president of FASEB, gave an overview of the workshop and provided some insight on the takeaways from the meeting. FASEB plans to take the recommendations and feedback received from the workshop and develop best practices for communicating basic science to the public.
During the public comment period, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology provided a statement with targeted questions on NIGMS’ implementation of the NGRI.
Specifically, concerns addressed included:
- How the institute plans to support midcareer investigators who are at risk of falling out of the biomedical workforce due to targeted policies for EEI and ESI designations
- What affect the addition of “meritorious scores” will have on funding percentiles for ESIs
- How the removal of the “new investigator” designation from the NIH policy webpage and glossary and acronym list could, in future, affect the protection of researchers who fall under this grouping.
Read the full statement here.
- 3:08:03 – Lorsch took some time to address the questions we brought to the council and provide some insight on how NIGMS is addressing our specific concerns.
- NIH found that the trouble with the “new investigator” designation was that the term encompassed both researchers who were receiving their first independent award and those that were new to receiving funding from the NIH. Since the NIH does not want to give both groups the same consideration, the term was removed in lieu of developing policies that more effectively targeted the former group. These policies may eventually be folding into the evolving NGRI policy. Lorsch mentioned some hesitation to broaden terms too much because one of the institute’s goals is to decrease the time to receipt of an investigator’s first independent award instead of perpetuating a system that has some researchers waiting more than 10 years before receiving their first R0-1.
- In regard to paylines, NIGMS is funding ESIs through the ESI MIRA at a higher percentage than what was included in the now-revised NGRI policy. As a result, Lorsch did not see the change in policy as a significant issue at NIGMS but conceded its importance at other institutes.
- No specific plans for new funding streams like the MIRA for midcareer investigators and researchers who fall outside of EEI/ESI designations were proposed, but, as stated above, Lorsch and the council think these are important aspects that need to be investigated as the policy evolves.
The council also provided clearances for the reissuance of the Science Education Partnership award and the implementation of program concepts for the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study Network Coordination Center award and the Regional Tech Transfer Accelerator Hubs for the Institutional Development Award States.