The U.S. National Institutes of Health is seeking to launch multiple initiatives designed to help strengthen the biomedical research enterprise and sustain the global competitiveness of the U.S. scientific community well into the future.
Faced with significant challenges affecting the biomedical research workforce and the storage and use of large biomedical datasets, the NIH Director charged the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) to develop recommendations. The ACD used three specialized committee working groups, each of which included additional outside experts on the relevant topics.
“The future of biomedical research depends upon our ability to support a research ecosystem that leverages the flood of biomedical data, strengthens the research workforce through diversity, and attracts the next generation of researchers,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D. “I’m grateful to the experts, both inside NIH and from the broader biomedical research community, who have given these matters extensive thought and made it possible for NIH to put forward actions designed to benefit our entire research community for years to come.”
The ACD presented its recommendations to the NIH director in June 2012. NIH leadership further deliberated on the recommendations and presented its implementation plan at the 105th meeting of the ACD on Dec. 6 and 7. The actions that NIH is seeking to implement are:
- Launch a new NIH program called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) intended to provide rigorous mentored research experiences for undergraduate students at participating schools; financial support to pursue biomedical research careers; faculty support for training highly effective mentors; and innovation space to develop new approaches for increasing diversity in the Ph.D. training pathway.
- Establish a National Research Mentoring Network to connect students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty with experienced mentors; develop standards of good mentorship in biomedical research; and provide workshops and training opportunities in grantsmanship, among other goals.
- Promote fairness in peer review through interventions including implicit bias and diversity awareness training for both scientific review officers and members of review panels, and piloting a program that would make grant applications completely anonymous.
- Increase engagement of NIH leadership by:
- recruiting a chief diversity officer to coordinate NIH initiatives designed to enhance the diversity of the NIH-funded workforce
- establishing an NIH steering committee working group on diversity to help ensure that diversity remains a core consideration of NIH governance
- Enhance training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers:
- through a grants program that would support innovative approaches to complement traditional research training
- by encouraging the adoption of individual development plans for all trainees
- Explore increased support for training mechanisms designed to accelerate the development of independent research careers, including NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) and Early Independence Awards.
- Increase emphasis on ongoing assessment of the biomedical research workforce, including a proposed follow-up study on clinician scientists.
- Identify and track more comprehensively all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH to provide a sound basis for assessing workforce needs and planning future training activities. More comprehensive career outcomes data also would help to inform prospective graduate students and postdoctoral researchers contemplating careers in biomedical research.
- Maximize the value of biomedical data through a new Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative that would create:
- improved data and software sharing policies, catalogs of research data, and data/metadata standards development to facilitate broader use of biomedical big data
- analysis methods and software development and dissemination
- enhanced training for biomedical big data
- proposed new centers of excellence
- Launch the NIH InfrastructurePlus adaptive environment to advance high-performance computing, agile hosting and storage approaches, and modernization of the network, among other approaches.
The ACD advises the NIH Director on policy matters important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training, and translating research results for the public. For more information on the ACD and the full agenda of the 105th meeting, visit: https://acd.od.nih.gov/index.htm. The full presentations with more detailed information on NIH’s implementation plans will be posted on the meeting and working group pages of the ACD website in the coming weeks and are available upon request.
The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at https://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.