Supporting Early Stage Investigators

Entry of new investigators into the ranks of independent, NIH-funded researchers is essential to the health of this country’s biomedical research enterprise. I believe they bring fresh ideas and technologies to existing biomedical research problems, and they pioneer new areas of investigation. Over the years, NIH has created special programs to assist new investigators in obtaining independent research funding. These programs have resulted in the recruitment of more new investigators; however, new investigators are often still many years past their degree-conferral date. Recently, we have focused our attention on encouraging earlier transitions into independent research careers by developing programs that focus specifically on early stage investigators (those researchers that are within a set number of years of their terminal degree). By shifting new investigator incentives to those at earlier career stages, we hope to shorten the prolonged periods of training.

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Promoting Research Integrity, Ensuring Public Trust

I believe only when the highest standards of research integrity are upheld do we maintain the public’s trust in the research we conduct, support and administer. I expect that everyone involved in scientific research–investigators, trainees, administrators, and NIH staff–promotes these high standards. To assist the community in achieving these goals, OER recently developed a new Web page that explains research integrity and the processes that ensue from allegations of inappropriate conduct in research. On the new site you can learn about the definition of research misconduct, what is expected and/or required of investigators and trainees, and what happens when NIH learns of an allegation of research misconduct.

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Understanding the Impact of ARRA

I am thrilled that as of the last day of September, 2010, NIH has completely obligated all $10.4B we received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Thanks to the hard work of the extramural community–the investigators, reviewers, NIH staff, applicant organizations, professional societies and others–we have invested in thousands of biomedical research projects, each with the potential to affect the health of the nation, literally and economically.

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Dr. Sally Rockey Named NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research

For the past two years, I have enjoyed working in partnership with you, the biomedical community, through some tremendous times. From welcoming a new NIH director and implementing ARRA, to enhancing peer review, financial conflict of interest and stem cell polices, it seemed something new, exciting and challenging was always right around the corner. I am delighted to have been named as NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research at this important time.

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Importance of Communicating Research Value in Your Application

Application titles, abstracts and statements of public health relevance that are part of your application are read by reviewers, program officers and other NIH staff, but once funded, this information is also available to the public via NIH’s RePORTER website. It is essential that the public is able to learn about the research projects in which our nation is investing. The extramural community has a responsibility to clearly communicate the intent and value of their research to all those interested in learning more–Congress, the public, administrators, and scientists. Take every opportunity to tell people what you do, why you do it, and why they should care.

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Investing in Translational Research

Translational research, transforming discoveries made the in the laboratory into treatments and improvements to health for patients, is an important, yet difficult task. Many promising therapeutic targets are uncovered as part of basic biomedical research, but the path to actually demonstrating clinical potential is long and expensive. Many discoveries languish at this transition point. NIH and the federal government have several programs to address this gap, including the Therapeutic Discovery Program for which applications are soon due.

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Public-Private Partnerships Help Entrepreneurs Develop Innovative Ideas

For nearly 30 years, NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program has been providing small businesses the opportunity to pursue innovative projects with commercial potential. I value the contributions small businesses make to improve public health. NIH has continued its support of small businesses and for-profit organizations by awarding them more than $36M in Recovery Act grants.

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We Need Your Input on the Proposed Rule Revising the Financial Conflict of Interest Regulations

Last summer you commented on whether the regulations on the responsibility of applicants for promoting objectivity in research should be amended. I am pleased to share with you the draft of the revised regulations. Many aspects of the regulations have changed, including what is disclosed by investigators, what information is submitted to NIH, and what information is made public.

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Fostering Workforce Diversity

Beginning this month, we will be accepting applications for the NIH Director’s ARRA Pathfinder Award to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce. This program challenges the research community to develop new approaches to biomedical workforce diversity. We hope that creative scientists will accept this challenge. We anticipate making five, 3-year awards, for $2 million each, to stimulate the development of new ideas to address this very difficult problem.

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