It’s Just the Beginning . . .


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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. Dear Dr. Rockey,
    Your blog has been invaluable for me as a Research Administrator. I will truly miss your posts! Your explanations, usually in easy to understand lay language, have assisted me so much in my day to day duties and have given me a depth of understanding about the NIH and many of the policies that I would never have had.
    Thank you so much for listening, sharing and paying attention to our questions.
    Good luck!

  2. Dear Dr. Rockey –
    Thank you SO much for all of your fabulous communications. As an Associate Dean for Research, PI, NIH reviewer, teacher of faculty and students, etc., I feel that I can unequivocally say that at no time has anyone been as clear and straightforward with the research community about what is going on at NIH and no one has solicited our input as much as you have. Many, many thanks for the excellent service you provided to all of us. We will certainly miss you and wish you the best of luck!

  3. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and dedication in putting together these well-written, informative and even entertaining updates. They have been invaluable to me in understanding the inner workings of NIH. I really appreciate your vision in starting this blog and hope that the next person to take on this challenge will be able to follow in your footsteps.

    I wish you all the best in your retirement from federal service!

  4. Dr. Rockey, Thank you for your service and for reaching out to the research community through your blog. It’s been a tough few years, and for the sake of those we serve I will hope for better times ahead. Best of luck in your next adventure.

  5. Dear Dr. Rockey,

    I am looking forward to reading the next incarnation of your blog and newsletter. As a PI, I found them to be one of the most effective way to understand how to do business with the NIH.

    Thank for everything you brought to the NIH and the community it serves.


  6. I have enjoyed and appreciated the Rock Talk entries tremendously and I do hope someone keeps this kind of insightful and well-informed discussion going. Best wishes to you in your next phases!

  7. Thanks for all you have done. Thanks to your blogs, i can at least understand a little of what is behind some of the more suprising policy decisions that have occured over the last 15 years or so. I know you have often been the favorite target bullseye of us researchers, and we have all disagreed often at the NIH mandated changes. Yes the research life has got a lot harder in the last two decades. But i realize you are in part an essential and effective messenger, who has helped us know what is going on and how to deal with it. Enjoy retirement, you have earned it.

  8. Dear Dr. Rockey,
    I appreciate the time and effort you put into creating and maintaining Rock Talk. It has kept us informed on the required changes with NIH grants, effective dates, and interpretation of policies and their updates, which made for the review of our institutional grant routing to go smoothly and successful eRA submissions. I hope your successor will continue it.

    All the best in your next adventure!

  9. I have learned so much about how to deal with NIH as a foreign institution from your friendly and accessible communiques. Thank you!

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