Rock Talk ceases talking as of today, but someone else will be talking, so please keep your bookmarks active and stay tuned for continued dialogue with NIH. I want to thank all of you for a conversation worth having and for making the last portion of my federal career spectacular. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to know and interact with many of you, which was hands down the highlight of my travels around town and across the country to learn first-hand the issues facing the biomedical research community at large. Particularly inspiring were my many meetings with graduate students and postdocs who are going to propel this enterprise forward in the future. It gave me great impetus to always think about the impact of our policies on the next generation of biomedical researchers and our continuing emphasis on workforce. Our supported PIs always welcomed me into their laboratories and I learned more science in this job than I ever could imagine. And finally I hope that my rapport with research administrators across the nation made it clear that you had a colleague and friend in Bethesda who, while perhaps a bureaucrat, learned to relate to your issues and became adept at government-speak translation!
Rock Talk has in many ways lifted the curtain to NIH decision making. If nothing else, this communique is designed for you — we wanted it always to tell you about something important to you, and something that would help you understand NIH in ways that help you in achieving funding, conducting your research or training your students. Data blogs have always been the most popular — as a science agency we wanted to demonstrate that our decisions are made based on data, and we did that. While not all our decisions have been popular, we laid out our thinking through the blog for all to see. And your response has always been vigorous, sometimes humorous, but always valuable. I loved that Rock Talk often generated more discussion on other social media sites, through Twitter, other blogs, etc. than the actual blog itself. And believe me: I was checking out other sites to listen to the conversation about NIH wherever it was happening. I can hands down tell you that the biosketch, the emeritus award and the end of the A2 were the three policy discussions that generated the most comments, both positive and negative. But in all three cases, we made modifications based on the input from you. Some of our discussions were not easy, we were often critical of ourselves, whether it be when discussing the lack of diversity in our funded investigators, or how the integrity of our science was in question because of inabilities to reproduce prior research. Covering topics like this and discussing NIH plans to address these sensitive issues was made easier because of the blog, where you could look for the frank discussion and then have input into as to how we could develop an approach that would strengthen the enterprise as a whole.
There are a number of people behind the scenes who I want to thank for what has been a hugely successful experiment in social media. Nicole Garbarini is the true author of the blog, even though I put each blog into my own voice; she gave me beautiful drafts from which to work. Megan Columbus encouraged me to jump into the blogosphere and worked closely with Della Hann, Liza Bundesen and Dorit Zuk who were all great editors and contributors to the final product, as were my team of data analysts. Virtually all of my staff had input to one or more blogs so thanks to all for their contributions.
So while Rock Talk ends today, it is only a title. I expect the blog will continue and so will the conversation about this agency and work that we all hold so precious. Keeps the conversation flowing, the research cranking, and the science hopping. And I will end on my signature punctuation mark, because your impressive science and our great partnership deserve it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!