How Could You Use the NIH Clinical Center for Your Research?


Back in June, I mentioned that we are looking at opening up the Clinical Center to the extramural community. Now, we are asking for your input. We need you to identify opportunities that could involve use of the NIH Clinical Center in collaboration with NIH intramural investigators. We are interested in general paradigms for these collaborations.

We’ve provided a list of the resources that would be available, including equipment, patient cohorts, training, and goods and services. Here are some questions that we thought of that you might want to address:

  • How would partnering with NIH intramural investigators and use of the NIH Clinical Center resources help advance your research project or enhance your science?
  • What special Clinical Center resources would you be most interested in using and why?
  • What current barriers or challenges exist for you in accessing the Clinical Center or in partnering with the NIH intramural community?
  • What actions should the NIH and Clinical Center consider taking to address these challenges or to make it more feasible for you to access the Clinical Center and NIH intramural investigators? If you have ever utilized the Clinical Center or partnered with an intramural program at the Clinical Center, how did the partnership/utilization work and how satisfied were you with your overall experience?

December 1, 2011 is the last day to submit a response, and you must submit electronically. For more details, see the request for information.


  1. This could be really good or really bad, depending on how it is set up. A major concern would be favoritism for those submitting NIH grants in partnership with NIH investigators. Extramural researchers not partnering with NIH could be at a tremendous disadvantage when applying for funding. The community of researchers could become very small and driven by an elite. Probably senior investigators would be at an advantage over more junior ones. NIH investigators already have little time to spare (they never respond to invitations to review for journals, for example). What would be the incentive for them to partner with unknown, especially junior investigators? I have already seen this happen to some extent. Extramural researchers become friends with program officers and have a better chance of getting funded because the PO knows them and is heavily involved in their research. With such tight funding, we are moving toward a place that other countries with limited resources are already in. That is, it becomes more an issue of whom you know than what you know.

  2. Although the review and submission process needs a major overhaul with a goal of drastically simplifying and shortening the length of applications while increasing the criteria for initial submissions, which will impact both the number of submissions and the time for review and comment, the ultimate goal of generating quality and purpose-driven research would only be advanced via partnerships with members of the NIH Community.

    In fact, in conversations with scientists in three Institutes over the last 15 years, a single-minded dedication to achieving excellence and advancing knowledge prevails. The suggested partnerships would only be help any level of investigator sharpen and extend their skills. Other concerns suggesting bias, which could be treated by cautionary language, pale in comparison with potential benefits.

    In a changing society where fluidity is important, where individual scientists condition their knowledge among colleagues and concentrate their efforts in laboratory research, as they mature many seek positions in business and industry and, therefore, partnering with individuals who may already be attached to industries will provide valuable contact sources and much needed perspective experience.

  3. I fully agree that the industry and NIH intramural investigators will benefit. For them, the benefits are far greater than the risks. No doubt about this.
    However, this will rapidly become an elite. For everyone else, the risk of disaster is a real one. This is particularly true for extramural, individual scientists/entrepreneurs, adventuring into the study of rare, unexplored, and understudied diseases. This highly innovative group will be squeezed out of the picture. Junior investigators will only have a chance to succeed if they hide under the wing of these large industry-NIH partnerships. This is already happening. No new paths will be opened unless they fall under this umbrella.
    There is also a real possibility that some taxpayers/NIH money could end up paying for industry work. I cannot imagine anyone in the industry not liking this partnership.
    I think it is dangerous to have NIH become such a tight partner of the industry. The industry’s objective is financial before being scientific. There is too much conflict of interest. The hundreds of manuscripts I read that are supported by industry are full of bias and exaggerated conclusions. It is a mess already. It will be a huge mistake if this proposal is all about increasing NIH-industry partnership. The line will become so blurred that many more biased manuscripts will fly under the radar screen under the NIH stamp of approval. What a disaster.

    1. Thanks for your comment. This request for information will help us determine whether extramural investigators could and would use some of the excellent resources available at the NIH Clinical Center, the nation’s largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research. This is separate from the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

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