When world famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, visited the NIH campus, he shared a story from the history of music, in which the peak of stringed instrument quality occurred in the late 17th century at a time of great collaboration and sharing of knowledge. When instrument makers began to compete, all of that changed: secrets of craftsmanship were held close and the quality of instruments plummeted. This decline lasted, according to Ma, until the 20th century, when again the free-flow of knowledge resumed. NIH Director Francis Collins noted, “There’s a lesson here about science.”
By the time many researchers have completed their education and training, they have amassed on average $160,000 in student loan debt. The NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) are a set of programs established by Congress and designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. The LRPs counteract early-career researchers’ financial pressure by repaying up to $35,000 annually ($70,000 over a two-year contract) of a researcher’s qualifying educational debt in return for a commitment to engage in research areas important to the mission of NIH. Continue reading
Several months ago, we learned in the press that an NIH-supported investigator was banned from his university campus pending an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. The institution, which was the recipient of the awards in which this investigator was designated as principal investigator (PI), had not informed us of this situation. Once aware, we contacted senior institutional officials to discuss the need to ensure the effective stewardship of the award under these circumstances. We requested that the institution provide us with alternative plans for conducting the research given that this individual would no longer serve as PI and would have no other involvement in the NIH-funded research, and we reminded them (as we recently reminded the community and as reiterated below) that they are responsible for notifying NIH of any change in status that might affect the ability of an individual identified as key personnel to conduct NIH-supported research. Continue reading
For nearly 10 years, more women than men received PhDs in the biomedical sciences, yet women are still underrepresented at every subsequent stage of academic advancement. In 2015, for example, women earned 53% of PhDs, but they comprised only 48% of post-doctoral fellows, 44% of assistant professors, and 35% of professors. To better understand what might be contributing to women’s underrepresentation in later stages of academia, Dr. Lisa Hechtman and her colleagues at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) analyzed “funding longevity by gender” among funded NIH investigators. Their analysis, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, yielded a number of interesting findings which I’d like to share with you.
We have written several blogs and articles over the past two years about our efforts to enhance stewardship and transparency in clinical trial research. Indeed, earlier this year Congress applauded our efforts thus far and reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring public access to the results of the NIH-funded clinical trials through timely registration and results information reporting on ClinicalTrials.gov. However, we have heard concern about how the NIH’s Policy on the Dissemination of NIH-Funded Clinical Trial Information applies to fundamental studies involving human participants. Continue reading
As highlighted in many previous blog posts and the recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report, promoting a strong biomedical workforce is a top priority for the NIH. In 2017, NIH launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, which is a multi-pronged approach to increase the number of NIH-funded early stage investigators. An important component of this initiative is the call for increased transparency and availability of data about the make-up of the biomedical research workforce. More complete data will allow NIH leadership to best understand and address the needs of our emerging workforce. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, we touted the value of the NIH’s Research, Condition, and Disease Classification (RCDC) system to give us consistent annual reporting on official research budget categories and the ability to see trends in spending over time. RCDC’s robust scientific validation process, which allows for such consistency, provides public transparency into over 280 different NIH budget categories.
RCDC categories do not encompass all types of biomedical research. So, how can we get this type of data for other research areas that are not encompassed in RCDC categories, especially those which are newly emerging fields? Are we able to use the same thesaurus-based classification system to explore other research trends?
At NIH, we maintain a broad and diverse portfolio of biomedical and behavioral research. To turn discovery into health, promising technologies must move from the laboratory into clinical trials, into the marketplace, into the doctor’s office, and into our every-day lives. A key way to transition promising technologies out of the laboratory is through the commercialization process. Continue reading
Well-conducted randomized trials are considered the best method of providing evidence about the safety and efficacy of treatments to improve health. Each year, NIH Institutes and Centers spend an estimated $3-4 billion supporting clinical trial activities. These activities require high-level understanding of human biology, of manufacturing and pre-clinical research, and of regulatory requirements. The process of translating a new therapeutic from discovery to practice can be robust, but … at the same time is long and expensive – and despite the challenges inherent in complex, multi-disciplinary research sometimes too long and too expensive. Continue reading
Over two years ago, NIH rolled out a policy to enhance reproducibility of its supported research through rigor and transparency. Applicants and reviewers were required to devote more attention to four areas: the rigor of the prior research (scientific premise), the rigor of the proposed research (scientific rigor), consideration of biological variables including sex, and the authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources.
When the 21st Century Cures Act was passed later that same year, we were required, amongst other things, to assemble a working group of the Advisory Council to the NIH Director (ACD). These experts were charged with recommending ways to further enhance reproducibility of the research we fund, while being informed by the current policy.