It has been quite a year. Francis Collins, NIH Director for over 12 years, stepped down after an extraordinary tenure, a tenure marked by “a calm hand, a scientific mind, and a deep commitment to the well-being of all Americans.” The stresses and ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic continued in almost roller-coaster like fashion; at this writing, we are in the midst of the Omicron surge. As some COVID-19 grant-related flexibilities remain in place, anxieties persist about intermediate- and long-term effects of the pandemic on research productivity, mental health, financial well-being, and family responsibilities. NIH leadership and top advisors remain focused on the effects of structural racism on biomedical research and public health, along with efforts to address them. At the same time, biomedical research, including NIH-funded biomedical research has realized unprecedented triumphs, including the rapid development of effective vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Some estimates suggest that COVID-19 vaccines have saved over 1.1 million lives already (according to the Commonwealth Fund).
As the snow fell outside last week, I virtually sat down with Dr. David Kosub from the NIH Office of Extramural Research’s communications group to look back and reflect on these issues and others from 2021, and where we may be going in the new year. Please take a few minutes and join us for this conversation.
One way we gauge community interest is through blog topics that draw the most attention. Table 1 below shows the top 10 calendar-year 2021 blog posts as measured by page views. It should be no surprise that topics focusing on funding and the biomedical workforce, especially those related to COVID-19, were highly read. Interestingly, the most shared @NIHGrants tweet from 2021 was on our post announcing childcare costs for NRSA trainees.
Looking ahead, many of our current priorities in the NIH Office of Extramural Research will continue to be priorities for 2022, including COVID-19, structural racism, and efforts to support the biomedical research workforce. We will also continue to focus on enhancing communications and outreach. One positive lesson from the pandemic is that with virtual platforms we can significantly expand the reach of our outreach efforts, such as through our successful and widely attended virtual seminars on grant administration and funding. In the new year we will be exploring how we can provide additional virtual conference opportunities, and we will continue to add to our popular All About Grants podcast.
If there are other topics that you would like discussed this year, leave us a comment below. We really do read each one.