Take the ASAPbio survey! #ASAPbio #publications

Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio) will be an interactive meeting to discuss the use of preprints in biology held on February 16-17, 2016. The meeting will be streamed online, and all interested parties can participate through the website and on Twitter (#ASAPbio).

Most scientists believe that the present publication system is in need of change. Of many possible innovations in communicating biological research, the widespread use of preprints has the potential to be both transformative and feasible in the near-term. The purpose of this meeting is to gather scientists and a variety of other stakeholders for focused discussions on preprints and the role that they might play in catalyzing scientific discovery, facilitating career advancement, and improving the culture of communication within the biology community. The meeting will identify actionable next steps that emerge around areas of consensus, and the organizing committee and other interested participants will be involved in subsequent follow-through.

For those of you interested in these matters, please take less than 5min to fill out this survey! Thanks!!

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Senate approves $2billion boost for NIH!

HALLELUJAH! This is great news (and a great birthday gift for myself).  The senate appropriations panel has just approved a $2 billion raise for the NIH in 2016. More details on the next steps and what this means for biomedical research in Science.

Biomedical research funding problem brought up in The Onion #satire #tooreal

The Onion pokes fun at current problems, and yesterday they posted an article about how “seeking funding” has become an official step in the scientific method, along with forming a hypothesis and conducting experiments.  While satirical, this problem is ALL TOO REAL. We have discussed numerous times how lack of funding is impacting biomedical research in the US and worldwide, and obtaining funding has become a serious problem for researchers (and postdocs applying for fellowships- like me!).  Check out the article:

‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method

 PARIS—In an effort to modernize the principles and empirical procedures of examining phenomena and advancing humanity’s collective knowledge, the International Council for Science announced Thursday the addition of a “Seek Funding” step to the scientific method. “After making an observation and forming a hypothesis as usual, the new third step of the scientific method will now require researchers to embark upon an exhaustive search for corporate or government financing,” said the group’s president, Gordon McBean, adding that the new stage of the process, which will be implemented across every scientific discipline, also entails compiling and forwarding grant proposals to hundreds of highly competitive funding sources. “Next, scientists simply modify their study’s goals to align with the vision of potential funders and wait for several months to hear back. At this point—should this step be successful, of course—they can move on to the experimental stage, and then to analysis.” McBean confirmed that the council was also developing a new initial step for the scientific process, “Assess Profitability of Research,” which would help determine if systematic investigation is even worth pursuing in the first place.

Happy #NobelPrize Week – 12 Surprising facts about Nobel Prizes!

From Scientific American:

12 Surprising Facts about Nobel Prizes

From prison time to the intricacies of transporting the prize itself, this award can be rife with complications

By Dina Fine Maron | October 5, 2015
Difficulties associated with the Nobel Prize started even before the world’s most prestigious award was first given out in 1901. See our list below of favorite tales and factoids, some offered up by the laureates themselves

1. Mincing words. Laureates can’t speak off the cuff during the awards ceremony banquet, according to 2013 Nobelist Randy Schekman who won for his research into cellular transport. He says the text for that speech must be turned in to the Nobel Foundation more than 24 hours in advance to allow for translation into Swedish.

2. Doing time. Three laureates were in prison when they received the award, all of them winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

3. How much is it worth? Physics winner Leon Lederman, who won in 1988 for his co-discovery of the muon neutrino, sold his Nobel earlier this year to cover medical care expenses. The buyer, whose identity was not released by the auction house, paid$765,000 for it. Only two Nobels have ever been sold during a winner’s life. Both such sales occurred in the past year.

4. Return policy. Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov paid $4.7 million to buy the gold Nobel medal awarded to biologist James Watson for his work deciphering DNA’s double helix, but he then gave the medal back to the laureate. Usmanov said the medal should remain with the winner and that the monies he paid for it should go toward research.

5. Pesky security. Nobelist Brian Schmidt, who won the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for co-discovering dark energy, had trouble bringing his gold medal through airport security. “You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo, [North Dakota,] with it and went through the x-ray machine,” he says. (Read more about it at Scientific American)

6. Over the hill? The average age of Nobel laureates, across all prize categories, is59. But the oldest prizewinner was 90-year-old Leonid Hurwicz, who won the Economics Nobel (technically called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) in 2007. The youngest winner is Malala Yousafzai. She won the Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17 years old.

7. Where’s my cash? Adolf Hitler forbade three German Nobel laureates from accepting the Nobel Prize—Richard Kuhn (Chemistry, 1938), Adolf Butenandt (Chemistry, 1939) and Gerhard Domagk (Physiology or Medicine, 1939). Later, all of them eventually went on to receive their diploma and medal but not the prize cash.

8. Rocky start. In November 1895 Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, setting aside most of his wealth for the establishment of the Nobel Prize after his death. At the time his move caused controversy. His family contested the will and his selected award committee also refused to carry out his wishes. It was five years before the first Nobel was awarded.

9. Do-over. When John Bardeen co-won the Physics Nobel in 1956 for helping develop a theory of superconductivity commonly known as the BCS theory (after its inventors’ initials), he left most of his family at home rather than bringing them along for the awards ceremony. “His son told me that his father wanted them all to stay in school and study for whatever tests they had,” explains Scientific American video editor, Eliene Augenbraun. “He was loath to take time off work himself.” The king of Sweden noted the absence at the ceremony and scolded Bardeen. The laureate promised he’d bring them “the next time.” Then, in 1972 Bardeen indeed won a second Nobel (making him the third person in the history of the prize to win twice). That time, he made sure to bring his entire family.

10. Time of death. In the 1970s the Nobel Foundation decided a prize could not be awarded posthumously (previously, it had been given out twice to dead people). Yet in 2011 one winner in Physiology or Medicine, Ralph Steinman, actually passed away three days earlier without the awarders’ knowledge. The Foundation decided not to rescind his Nobel.

11. Turnaround time: There is often a substantial delay between when a scientist makes a Nobel-worthy discovery and receiving the award—the average time varies from 20 to 30 years, depending on the award category. Sometimes the wait is even longer: In 1966 Peyton Rous was awarded the Physiology or Medicine prize for his work on viruses that can cause tumors, a discovery that was based on research done in the early 1910s, a difference of roughly 50 years. On the other end of the spectrum, in 1957 Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee received the Physics prize for work on the parity laws in particle physics—work that had been done in 1956.

12. Shameless self-promotion. 152 Nobel laureates have written for Scientific American. They have collectively penned 246 articles.

Boost in funding for NIH?! #AboutTime #StillNotEnough

Covered in Politico last week, looks like NIH is finally getting the attention it deserves and hopefully a much-needed boost in funding as well.

In summary, the “21st Century Cures Act” just passed the vote in the house of representatives (yippee), and now goes on to the senate.  A lot of the provisions on this bill are administrative stuff (think: how long the NIH director can serve, etc); HOWEVER a key provision creates a new NIH Innovation Fund and calls for $9.35 billion in funding.  This will be particularly helpful for those of us early in our careers.

After a dozen years of flat funding, the National Institutes of Health has become a top target on Capitol Hill — not for less money but more, potentially billions more by 2020.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for the huge medical research agency, one triggered by a confluence of circumstances. Fears that the United States is losing ground to international competitors in science and technology synched with lawmakers’ need to show frustrated voters that they can work in a bipartisan manner, and NIH offered “an easy win” on both, advocates say

Add in the institutes’ director, Francis Collins, a scientific celebrity with guitar-playing, motorcycle-riding everyman charm, who has wooed over 300 lawmakers in recent years. Plus crowds of patients flooding the halls of the Capitol and headlines about the fantastic promise of new cancer immunotherapies.

All of this has made for a billion-dollar movement — or $2 billion, as Senate appropriators have proposed adding to NIH’s budget next year. Even lawmakers whose usual mantra is fiscal restraint and less government spending are now among the agency’s most vocal cheerleaders.

If anything, said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Health Funding, there’s “competition among lawmakers of who is going to save NIH first.”

As the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, NIH has long had an aura about its work that gave it almost sacred space amid partisan bickering. Although that didn’t protect it from sequestration in 2013, the fallout may have been a blessing in disguise, underscoring the urgency for funding and reinvigorating efforts by advocates and the research community to help the agency regain ground.

“The broader pressures of sequestration and austerity” have “really put a lot of pressure on lawmakers, and rightfully so, that this is not acceptable,” Holubowich said.

Yet those other factors played heavily into the recent moves for greater resources. The emergence of key research-driven efforts like the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative and the House’s 21st Century Cures Act only intensified the interest.

Continue reading

Make your voice heard at the NIH! #FutureOfResearch #WeAreTheFuture

The NIH is calling for a Request for Information (RFI) in order to optimize funding policies and other strategies to improve the impact and sustainability of biomedical research.  This comes at a time where our biomedical research enterprise is suffering from an unsustainable cycle of not enough funding, too many postdocs/grad students, and not enough faculty positions.

The NIH wants to maximize the impact of the taxpayers’ investments in biomedical research.  The NIH is especially interested in identifying strategies that will: a) maximize the productivity and creativity of the biomedical research workforce it funds and b) ensure funding for a broad and diverse group of investigators studying a wide range of important questions.  These strategies should enhance the stability of individual research teams and the sustainability of the overall research enterprise. The NIH seeks input from researchers, academic institutions, professional societies and other stakeholders on potential strategies to achieve these goals.  We invite comments on any or all of the following areas:

1.  Key issues that currently limit the impact of NIH’s funding for biomedical research and challenge the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise. We welcome responses that explain why these issues are of high importance.
2.  Ideas about adjusting current funding policies to ensure both continued impact and sustainability of the NIH-supported research enterprise.  We welcome responses that point to specific strengths or weaknesses in current policies and suggest how we can build on or improve them.
3.  Ideas for new policies, strategies, and other approaches that would increase the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research.
4.  Any other issues that respondents feel are relevant.

It is critical that anyone involved or invested in biomedical research participate.  The deadline is May 17th.  Submit your comments here!

Or for more info, example responses, and commonly raised issues, check out the Future of Research blog.

Good news for the NIH budget?!

From Kevin Wilson for ASCB , an uplifting update on the NIH budget:

There is a certain smell in the air on Capitol Hill these days. While spring break tourists might credit the tulips and cherry blossoms in bloom all over the grounds of the Capitol, science policy advocates are sniffing the sweet smell of renewed support for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Or is it just the usual public relations perfume associated with politicians who want to make constituents happy?

Regardless of the source, there is something new in the air in the halls of Congress when it comes to the NIH. After years of flat funding and flatter congressional interest in doing anything about it, the first whiffs of something different were detected wafting through Congress almost as soon both chambers came back into session this winter. Serious legislation was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would make significant changes to the accounting used to establish the NIH budget each year. Other legislation would make major changes to the sources of funding for the NIH. In ASCB’s view, not all these bills are good but at least Congress is trying. 

As reported in the ASCB Post two weeks ago, members of Congress charged with overseeing the NIH budget have been more vocal in their support for the NIH. At a critical hearing on the NIH budget, new subcommittee chair Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he has developed a new appreciation for the work of the NIH. Subcommittee member Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) went even further, telling NIH Director Francis Collins that he was “in awe” of the NIH. “I am grateful for the NIH,” Womack continued.

Finally, several members of Congress who normally oppose “big government” and increased deficits have been speaking out in support of significant, long-term increases for the NIH budget. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, former House Republican Eric Cantor called for his former colleagues in the House to provide the NIH with significant budget increases without worrying about how to pay for it. (Normally, increases in one program have to be offset with cuts to another program).

In the interview, Cantor said, “My position would be, let’s go ahead and commit to long-term creation of value, let’s go in and put all the incremental dollars on the domestic side into scientific and medical research.” Cantor admitted that, when it comes to funding biomedical research in tight fiscal times, “The hang-up has always been on my side of the aisle.”

This is not just the view of a former member of Congress who doesn’t have to worry about the next election. Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS) recently called for another doubling of the NIH budget to $60 billion without making matching cuts in other places in the budget.

Representative Yoder told the Huffington Post, “Honestly, I’m not a big fan of deficit spending. I’m not a big fan of deficits. Certainly, as a conservative Republican, I believe the fiscal health of our nation is one of the most critical issues long term. But I think I can go to my 16-month-old daughter and I can say, ‘I borrowed money in your name to cure cancer’ and she would thank me.”