NIH Announces Stipend and Benefit Increases for National Research Service Award Recipients

We are pleased to announce that stipends will be increased for those supported by Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSAs). As a result, approximately 15,000 NRSA training grant appointees and fellows spanning career stages from undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers will receive a two percent stipend increase for Fiscal Year 2018. Please see the recently released NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-175 for the specific new stipend levels. Continue reading

The Issue that Keeps Us Awake at Night

The most important resource for the successful future of biomedical research is not buildings, instruments, or new technologies – it’s the scientists doing the work. But by now, it’s no longer news that biomedical researchers are stressed – stressed by a hypercompetitive environment that’s particularly destructive for early- and mid-career investigators. But those are the researchers who, if we don’t lose them, will comprise the next generation of leaders and visionaries. Almost 10 years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took steps to improve funding opportunities for “early stage investigators”, those who were 10 years or less from their terminal research degree or clinical training. Those steps helped, but many stakeholders have concluded that more is needed. Stakeholders include members of Congress, who included a “Next Generation Researchers’ Initiative” (NGRI) in the 2016 21st Century Cures Act. This act asked NIH to support a comprehensive study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on policies affecting the next generation of researchers and to take into consideration the recommendations made in their report. The National Academy began their study in early 2017 and completed it in April 2018. The NIH has initiated steps to fund more early stage investigators to improve opportunities for stable funding among investigators who, while funded, were still beset by unstable prospects. The NIH also convened a special Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group, focused on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) with members included from all career stages – from a graduate student through senior faculty. Continue reading

Open Mike Perspective: Healthy Skepticism when Focusing Solely on Surrogate Endpoints in Clinical Research

I recently wrote an essay for the NIH’s Science, Health, and Public Trust series to encourage a healthy bit of skepticism about clinical studies that solely involve surrogate end-points (e.g. changes in “biomarkers” like blood cholesterol levels or findings on an electrocardiogram). Continue reading

Impact of Teams Receiving NIH Funding

Almost 11 years ago, Stefan Duchy, Benjamin Jones, and Brian Uzzi (all of Northwestern University) published an article in Science on “The Increasing Dominance of Team in Production of Knowledge.” They analyzed nearly 20 million papers published over 5 decades and 2.1 million patents and found that across all fields the number of authors per paper (or patent) steadily increased, that teams were coming to dominate individual efforts, and that teams produced more highly cited research. Continue reading

Do Reviewers Read References? And If So, Does It Impact Their Scores?

In March 2017, we wrote about federal funders’ policies on interim research products, including preprints. We encouraged applicants and awardees include citations to preprints in their grant applications and progress reports. Some of your feedback pointed to the potential impact of this new policy on the peer review process. Continue reading

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Scientist Spotlight

Women’s History Month quiz question (and no “Googling” allowed): Who was Joan Procter?
I didn’t know either until a few months ago when I learned that my colleague, Dr. Patricia Valdez, wrote a children’s book, called “Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor.” Alfred A Knopf published Patricia’s and her illustrator Felicita Sala’s book a few weeks ago, on March 13, 2018. Critics have already acclaimed the work: Publisher’s Weekly in a starred review wrote, “Valdez paints a portrait of a unique woman whose love for reptiles developed into a gratifying career.”
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Make Your Voice Heard! We want Your Ideas to Reduce Administrative Burden in Research with Laboratory Animals

NIH has, for many years, been concerned about the increasing burden of applying for, reporting on, and the costs faced by researchers when complying with requirements on federally-funded research grants— so much so that it is even called out in our strategic plan as an area to address. Today, as we continue to implement the 21st Century Cures Act, NIH is requesting public feedback on some proposed approaches to reduce administrative burden on investigators use of laboratory animals in biomedical research (NOT-OD-18-152 and Federal Register Notice 2018-05173). Together with our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we are looking for constructive and thoughtful feedback on this topic from individuals, research institutions, professional societies, animal advocacy organizations, and other interested parties. Input will be accepted electronically during a 90-day comment period, that is until June 12, 2018. Continue reading

How Many Researchers, Revisited: A Look at Cumulative Investigator Funding Rates

In May 2016, we posted a blog on “How Many Researchers” NIH supports. We cited the findings of a University of Wisconsin workshop, which concluded that the biomedical research enterprise suffers from two core problems: too many scientists vying for too few dollars and too many post-docs seeking too few faculty positions. We also noted that NIH leadership and others were increasingly interested in describing the agency’s portfolio not only in terms of the numbers of awards and dollars (as we do each year in our “By the Numbers” reports), but also in terms of the numbers of researchers those awards support. Today we show updated figures on how many researchers are vying for NIH support and how many are successful. Continue reading

FY 2017 By the Numbers

We recently released our annual web reports, success rates and NIH Data Book with updated numbers for fiscal year 2017. Looking at data across both competing and non-competing awards, NIH supports approximately 2,500 organizations. In 2017 about 640 of these organizations received funding for competing Research Project Grants (RPGs) which involved over 11,000 principal investigators. Continue reading

Requesting Your Input on the Draft NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science

To capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing a Strategic Plan for Data Science. This plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. As part of the planning process, NIH has published a draft of the strategic plan, along with a Request for Information (RFI) to seek input from stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public. Continue reading