Working Together to Protect the Integrity of NIH-funded Research

When research findings are made up from thin air, misrepresented in some way, or blatantly and without credit copied from others, we risk eroding the public’s trust, damaging institutional reputation, harming careers, incurring skepticism, misleading future research, and, arguably most importantly, hurting patients. NIH takes research misconduct seriously. We are being proactive.
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Understanding Age in the NIH Portfolio: Implementation of the NIH Inclusion Across the Lifespan Policy

Last December, NIH announced a revision to its Inclusion of Children Policy to expand the policy to individuals of all ages. The revised policy, now called the Inclusion Across the Lifespan policy, requires individuals of all ages (including children and older adults) be included in clinical research studies unless there are scientific or ethical reasons to exclude them.
A recent Viewpoint Essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), co-authored by Drs. Marie Bernard (National Institute on Aging), Janine Clayton (NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health), and Michael Lauer, highlights the need for such a policy. The essay summarizes efforts by NIH to implement 21st Century Cures requirements to publish data on the age of research participants, to convene a workshop on age grouping and exclusions, and to make a determination on whether to revise inclusion guidelines on age.
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Protecting Participants, Empowering Researchers: Providing Access to Genomic Summary Results

Today, we are updating the way we manage data related to the NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy to again allow unrestricted access to genomic summary results for most of the studies we support in order to advance health or further research purposes. These summary results are importantly distinct from other genomic research data, most notably in that they do not include individual-level information. Instead, these results come from analyzing pooled genomic data from multiple individuals together to generate a statistical result for the entire dataset. Such information can be a powerful tool for helping researchers determine which genomic variants potentially contribute to a disease or disorder. Continue reading

What Contributes to the Success of Early Career Scientists? – A NIAID Look

At NIH, we are heavily invested in our workforce and in understanding the barriers they face. What characteristics do they share? How do they compete in the current hypercompetitive environment? When do they stop applying to NIH (drop out), even after receiving their first award? Staff from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) delve into these questions in a paper published recently in PLOS ONE , whose findings I’d like to highlight today. Here, Drs. Patricia Haggerty and Matthew Fenton looked at factors that may contribute to the success of early-career investigators and if these factors affect all junior researchers equally. Continue reading

A Data Sharing Renaissance: Music to My Ears!

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.”
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NIH Loan Repayment Programs: A Lifeline for Biomedical and Biobehavioral Researchers: Applications Accepted September 1 – November 15

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

NIH Policies to Address Sexual and Gender Harassment in NIH-supported Extramural Research

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

Funding Longevity by Gender Among NIH-Supported Investigators

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.
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We Want Your Feedback About Results Reporting for Basic Science Studies Involving Human Participants

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

Trends in Diversity within the NIH-funded Workforce

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