Where we’ve been: attending the February NINDS advisory council meeting ?>

Where we’ve been: attending the February NINDS advisory council meeting


The National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke held its advisory council meeting on Feb. 1.

NINDS Director Walter Koroshetz provided institute updates and a primer for an extended discussion on the Next Generation of Researchers Initiative scheduled for the advisory council meeting in May.

Institute program directors proposed funding opportunities to facilitate new methods of training basic researchers with translational focuses, increasing diversity at the professoriate level, as well as revisions to the institute’s special council review policy.

In addition, National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins presented an update on relevant NIH initiatives.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee submitted written comments to the advisory council. The PAAC expressed support for NINDS efforts to provide funding opportunities for basic researchers and lauded the reissuance of the Promoting Research in Basic Neuroscience awards (PAS-18-483). The PAAC also urged the institute to adopt new policies (such as the Next Generation of Researchers Initiative) to better support early and mid-career investigators.

View the ASBMB PAAC’s full written comment here.

You can watch a recording of the meeting here. Highlights, with timestamps, are below:

  • 15:28 — Koroshetz updated the advisory council on the institute’s funding status under the continuing resolution (in place at the time). The director also noted that the time it takes for investigators to establish their own independent research programs is a deterrent for people pursuing careers in science. The institute will present data at its meeting in May on its support for early and mid-career investigators and outline the path forward for addressing NGRI recommendations. The director finished also highlighted breakthroughs that have resulted from NINDS funding and provided updates on NIH initiatives.
  • 1:21:28 — Stephen Korn, director of the Office of Training & Workforce Development, introduced a new Translational Research Training Program (T32). The goal is to support basic, disease-related research projects by graduate students and postdocs geared toward translation and practical applicability. The programs, which will not have human subjects or clinical trials, will seek to bridge basic research trainees with clinical researchers and create new cohorts of trainees and advisers.
  • 1:43:42 — Michelle Jones-London, chief of the Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity, presented with Korn on a new Center Core Grants (P30) program to promote opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in neuroscience. The goals are to mitigate the decline of women and minorities at the transition between postdoc and faculty and to increase hiring of these demographics in neuroscience departments.  Winning institutions will get five-year awards and be required to hire two to three people into a single organizational unit. Program directors hope that the new funding opportunity will help change hiring practices at institutes as well as impact trainee demographics.
  • 2:50:05 — Robert Finkelstein, director of the Division of Extramural Research, proposed changes to the institute’s Special Council Review Policy. Many of the proposed revisions stem from the abandoned Grant Support Index. The proposed changes would continue to use the current SCR threshold for funding applications of $1 million in support. The primary motivation of the policy change is not financial; it is, rather, to increase the number of investigators who are funded as well as increase investigators’ bandwidth.  Finkelstein questioned the “remarkable PI“ idea: the notion that someone who has 20 R01s is very effective. “It creates a poor lab culture,” Finkelstein said.  NINDS will re-evaluate the situation next year.

The remainder of the meeting included additional concept clearances for a Clinical Trials Network for Pain, Biomarkers to Accelerate the Development of Non-Addictive Pain Medications and a Stroke Preclinical Assessment Network.

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