Next week marks the one-year anniversary of NIH shifting to maximum telework in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like employers and employees across the country, overnight we needed to adapt our entire enterprise and reinvent our jobs in the virtual workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with extensive mitigation measures, has adversely affected progress in many biomedical research settings. Evidence from multiple sources, including a survey NIH issued to its supported extramural research workforce last fall, indicates legitimate concerns about career trajectory for early career scientists, including those with caretaker responsibilities. An article by Dr. Erin Gibson and her colleagues argued for a “reset” with focus on early career investigators. One point I took away from this paper is that a reset does not necessarily mean for us to go “back to normal” after the pandemic is over, because that time may have favored certain investigators and disfavored others (something I reflected on in this video and this blog).
Hearing your concerns, NIH issued a Guide Notice last week detailing our approach to support early career scientists whose career trajectories may have been significantly affected by the pandemic as funding will allow). Specifically, NIH is providing an opportunity for recipients in their last year of NIH Fellowship (“F”) and NIH Career Development (“K”) awards who have been impacted by COVID-19 to request extensions. Such extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, within the existing constraints of available funding. We encourage you to read the Guide Notice and if appropriate reach out to NIH staff as directed.
You may submit data as post-submission material under the special exception for the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for directions and reminders.
We are pleased to announce that the new NIH COVID-19 website launched earlier this week. The site provides a central location for trusted, up-to-date, accurate information about NIH research and our strategic role in COVID-19 research. The site complements information made available on our COVID-19: Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding webpage.
NIH grant applications should NOT include contingency plans that would outline steps needed to recover from temporary, emergency situations, or institutional return-to-the-workplace plans, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Contingency plans will not be considered in peer review but, if needed, COVID-19 contingency plans will be requested and carefully considered by NIH staff before funding.
It’s been over eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic crisis struck, changing every facet of life as we knew it. The U.S. biomedical research enterprise was not spared, as lockdowns and severe restrictions on activities took hold across the country. At the time, we offered our perspectives on efforts we could take to cushion the shock. Since that time, much has happened. COVID-19 research has blossomed with impressive results including FDA approval of a therapeutic agent (remdesivir, which was found to have value in a large-scale NIH-funded trial), development of several candidate vaccines that have already made to pivotal Phase 3 trials, and the rapid development of a variety of diagnostic testing platforms. However, research unrelated to COVID has seen a different picture.
Conducting research involving human subjects during COVID? Read here for information on requesting an exception to the use of a single IRB.
NIH released a Guide Notice to inform the extramural research community how NIH is implementing the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP)’s determination of Exception to the Single IRB Review Requirements for Certain HHS-Conducted or -Supported Cooperative Research Activities Subject to the 2018 Requirements During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency.
Since March, COVID-19 has greatly impacted the way we all work. NIH has been tracking how well our policies meet the needs of our research community in response to the ongoing pandemic. To get a better understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting our extramural researchers, we launched the Impact of COVID-19 on Extramural Researchers Survey in mid-October. If you received an invitation to take this survey, please take 15-20 minutes to complete it. This survey will be open until Friday, November 13th. The results from the survey will inform policy and program decisions, so participation is critical.
From shifting public health needs to the unprecedented pace of biomedical discovery, everything about the coronavirus response is evolving. This goes for the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research as well, so too must it evolve.
We want your help on the next iteration of the Plan. A Request For Information released yesterday seeks public feedback on the current Plan (NOT-OD-21-018). You or your organization can submit ideas here by December 7, 2020.
NIH has been working diligently to support the extramural research community since the pandemic began in March. We are now preparing to reach out with surveys to gather data on how COVID-19 is impacting our extramural researchers and their institutions. If you receive such a survey, we hope that you will take the time to provide us with your perspective. The results of the surveys will be extremely valuable to inform policy and program decisions as NIH seeks to identify ways to continue to support the biomedical research enterprise as we move forward.