The National Institute of General Medical Sciences Advisory Council convened Jan. 25 to reissue funding announcements for existing programs, propose new funding opportunities and provide a report on the evaluation of the institute’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship.
Highlights from the meeting are below.
NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch discussed a new initiative to create accelerator hubs in states that have received grants through the Institutional Development Awards program. This initiative will seek to improve transfer of federally funded technologies from lab to market. These awards, Lorsch noted, align with President Donald Trump’s agenda to modernize the government. States in the IDeA program will create hubs to generate education and training resources.
The advisory council approved rereleasing funding opportunity announcements for the following programs with minimal changes:
- Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Research Advancement (SC1, SC2, and SC3) awards.
- The NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository (U42) award.
- The NIGMS Legacy Community-Wide Scientific Resources (R24) award was approved for one more round of solicitations.
- Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) (K12).
- Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) (R25).
Alison Gammie, director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity, presented a new grant program called Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC).
The program’s goal is to increase diversity in biomedical research by providing a mentorship structure to postdoctoral fellows from underrepresented communities. The program will utilize Research Career K99 and Education Project UE5 grant mechanisms.
The K99 mechanism will provide independent funding to 75 scholars for five years. The first two years will provide fellows with mentored research experiences.
The UE5 mechanism will fund independent organizations that are not institutions of higher education, such as scientific societies. These organizations will facilitate the development of strength-based individual development plans, skills, and professional and mentorship networks of fellows aligned with the organization’s scientific interests.
These organizations also will convene regular meetings with leaders at the institutions where MOSAIC fellows conduct research to mitigate equity issues and enhance institutional accountability.
The UE5 funding opportunity announcement will be published in the spring, and the K99 announcement will be published in the fall.
In July, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology responded to a request for information by the NIGMS to assist the institute with identifying strategies to increase diversity in the biomedical research enterprise. The MOSAIC program was developed using input from the community in response to the RFI.
Peter Preusch, chief for the NIGMS biophysics branch, presented a new program to fund national and regional resources for conducting biomedical research. These resources will include equipment and facilities for data collection as well as organism and tissue banks.
The program will award investigators with funds to support technology development and activities that improve resource efficiency, scientific leadership, personnel salaries, maintenance, operation costs, user training, collaboration, travel and lodging for users. The funding opportunity announcement will be a limited competition with one submission deadline each year. The award will last five years and be renewable indefinitely with no budget maximum and an average of $750,000 in direct costs per year.
NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship F31 program evaluation
Nathan Moore, from the Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation, presented the results of an evaluation on the effectiveness of the institute’s NRSA predoctoral fellowships to promote diversity in health-related research. The program, launched in 1991, targets predoctoral students from underrepresented groups. To date, the program has supported fellows in 43 states, 15 percent of whom have come from California.
The evaluation compared students with F31 fellowships with those who applied but did not receive the fellowship and NRSA predoctoral T32 trainees. The evaluation discovered that:
- Predoctoral fellows supported by F31 grants were more likely to earn their PH.D.s than unsuccessful applicants but not more than trainees supported by T32 grants, who had slightly shorter degree finish dates than F31 fellows.
- F31 fellows were more likely than applicants and T32 trainees to transition to an F32 individual postdoctoral fellowship.
- F31 fellows were not more likely to apply for or receive major research grants than F31 applicants or T32 trainees
- F31 fellows were not more likely to be employed in research than F31 applicants or T32 trainees, though F31 fellows earned more money than F31 applicants and T32 trainees.
The benefit of continuing the F31 diversity program was questioned, given these results. Concerns were voiced that eliminating the grant may in effect prohibit students who are at institutions without T32 programs from having adequate support to complete their degrees. Lorsch mentioned that a majority of F31 recipients are at institutions with T32 programs. He followed by stating that the institute is not trying to spend tax payer money to give someone a line on their CV, and that the F31 fellowship has to instead make a difference. The institute will continue to look into the issue of ensuring that the program is adequately addressing diversity issues within the biomedical research enterprise. MOSAIC fellows will be considered in future evaluations of the effectiveness of the institute’s programs that support training biomedical researchers.
A recording of the open session is available here.