How New US Overtime Provisions Will Affect Postdoctoral Researchers

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the law that contains overtime pay provisions for employees across the United States, entitling all US workers to overtime pay unless they are exempted because they are paid on fixed, preset salaries; are engaged in executive, administrative, or professional duties; and are paid at least $23,660 per year. Today, a historic change to this act has occurred – under the new rule, the overtime pay threshold will be increased to $47,476, effective December 1, 2016. …. Continue reading

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Honoring Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers

This week I had the pleasure of meeting the newest recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. These awards, also known as PECASE, are the highest honor given by the federal government to outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. NIH is proud to support twenty PECASE recipients this year …. Continue reading

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Citations Per Dollar as a Measure of Productivity

NIH grants reflect research investments that we hope will lead to advancement of fundamental knowledge and/or application of that knowledge to efforts to improve health and well-being. In February, we published a blog on the publication impact of NIH funded research. We were gratified to hear your many thoughtful comments and questions. Some of you suggested that we should not only focus on output (e.g. highly cited papers), but also on cost – or as one of you mentioned “citations per dollar.” Indeed, my colleagues and I have previously taken a preliminary look at this question in the world of cardiovascular research. Today I’d like to share our exploration of citations per dollar using a sample of R01 grants across NIH’s research portfolio. What we found has an interesting policy implication for maximizing NIH’s return on investment in research. …. Continue reading

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Building a Better Biomarker Glossary

Precise and clear communication across biological and clinical research disciplines supports efficient translation of results from basic research into applied therapeutics and interventions. Both the NIH and FDA are keenly interested in working together to help the biological and clinical research communities speak a common language, so that research results can be clearly understood by both groups. This is especially true in considering the vocabulary used to describe measures of health, disease, or physiological processes….. Continue reading

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Innovating to Make it Easier for You to Find the NIH Grants Information You Need

More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to wading through information on NIH grant policies and processes. We talk about burden frequently, usually in reference to policies and processes that add burden to our grantee community. But there is another source of burden: having to spend time digging through resources to find critical information you need to apply for or manage your grant award. For the past year my staff have been strategizing how to improve upon the way we deliver information, with the goal of reducing the time it takes you to find the information you need. To do this, they embarked on a comprehensive, data-driven approach to understand …. Continue reading

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NIH and FDA Seek Feedback on Clinical Trial Protocol Template

I’d like to call your attention to an opportunity to provide comments on a proposed clinical trial protocol template, developed by the FDA and NIH, and informed by the guidance set forth by the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) E6 Good Clinical Practice. The template provides a standard format, and corresponding instructions and sample text, for… Continue reading

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NIH’s Commitment to Basic Science

Several years ago, my colleagues and I analyzed the diversity of disease research supported by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and wrote about the importance of maintaining a diverse scientific portfolio. In times of scarce resources, it is tempting to prioritize investments that seem to offer a better promise of direct returns. In my current position as NIH’s deputy director for extramural research, I still feel strongly that maintaining a strong commitment to long-term goals and maintaining a diverse science portfolio ultimately balances risk and long- versus short-time pay-offs. Basic science is an essential component of this diverse portfolio. …. Continue reading

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A Pilot Partnership to Find Private Support for Unfunded Applications

When I was an editor at JAMA, we often considered papers that were strong, received favorable reviews, and yet could not be published for lack of space. As it turned out, we had an option other than outright rejection: we could offer authors a user-friendly pathway by which their papers, and the reviews that went with them, could be forwarded for consideration at another journal (e.g. JAMA Internal Medicine). Later, when I came to NIH I wondered whether it was even theoretically possible for a funding agency to do something similar: arrange a way for highly meritorious but unfunded projects to find their way to willing, even eager, alternate private-sector sponsors. Effectively, we could develop public-private partnerships to extend the system’s ability to fund high-quality science and scientists. …. Continue reading

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FY2015 by the Numbers, and a Quick Look at Recent Trends

When I was an extramural program division director, NIH applicants and awardees would often ask me questions like “Do you fund research on certain topics?” or “What’s been happening to success rates for certain kinds of grants?” or “How much money do certain kinds of grants usually get?” Often I would respond by going to the RePORT website and running a query or two (or three or more); I would not only show the results but also show the applicant/awardee how s/he could run even more queries on their own. Indeed the website offers an extraordinary data resource for the public, ranging from the RePORTER query tool to find certain kinds of grants, to a bounty of prepared reports, to tools for exporting large data tables about projects, resulting publications, and (more recently) patents. With the Matchmaker tool, one can even copy and paste some text (e.g. a draft abstract of your next proposal) and find similar funded grants. The NIH Data Book on our RePORT website now incorporates NIH’s fiscal year 2015 data. Let’s reflect on funding trends over the past three years, and other recently updated application and award summary data. …. Continue reading

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Publication Impact of NIH-funded Research – A First Look

In a recent PNAS commentary, Daniel Shapiro and Kent Vrana of Pennsylvania State University, argue that “Celebrating R and D expenditures badly misses the point.” Instead of focusing on how much money is spent, the research enterprise should instead focus on its outcomes – its discoveries that advance knowledge and lead to improvements in health.

Of course, as we’ve noted before, measuring research impact is hard, and there is no gold standard. But for now, let’s take a look at one measure of productivity, namely the publication of highly-cited papers. Some in the research community suggest that a research paper citation is a nod to the impact and significance of the findings reported in that paper – in other words, more highly-cited papers are indicative of highly regarded and impactful research.

If considering highly-cited papers as a proxy for productivity, it’s not enough that we simply count citations, because publication and citation behaviors differ greatly among fields – some fields generate many more citations per paper. …. Continue reading

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