NIH research funding in 2014 ‘by the numbers’ – @rocktalking #NIH

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Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, has posted a summary data on NIH research funding and awards for 2014. She has also compared it to previous funding years. Check out her data summary here at her blog Rock Talk!

These data are of particular interest for all of us this year, considering the historic low of the success rate last year, and the reduction of NIH’s budget in fiscal year 2013, due to sequestration.

Scientists discuss the Future of Research at #ASCB2014 #FORsymp

Superstar Scientists Share visions for the Future of Research at ASCB/IFCB Meeting

by Christina Szalinski

A panel of bioscience superstars tried to throw some light on the gloomy outlook for cell research Saturday at the ASCB/IFCB 2014 meeting in Philadelphia. As NIH funding shrinks, graduate programs grow, and fewer than 10% of PhDs go on to tenure-track position, Bruce Alberts, professor at University of California, San Francisco, best-selling textbook author, and newly minted National Medal of Science winner, wondered aloud, “What brilliant young person wants to become a scientist… if they have to wait until they’re 42 to get their first independent grant?” Alberts continued, “You’re supposed to be famous to get a job as an independent investigator. You would have laughed at my CV when I got hired.” Alberts was joined on the panel by Shirley Tilghman, ASCB president elect and president emerita at Princeton University; Jon Lorsch, Director of the NIH National Institute for General Medical Sciences; and Marc Kirschner, past president of ASCB and chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS); and more.

 

HMS postdocs Jessica Polka and Kristen Krukenberg believe that it’s time for researchers to face the new realities. To that end, they initiated this panel in Philadelphia on the “Future of Research,” pulling in leaders from across the biomedical research enterprise to a special interest subgroup session at the ASCB/IFCB meeting. Krukenberg opened the session by summarizing an earlier Future of Research symposium they organized for postdocs in Boston in October. Krukenberg reported that working groups at the Boston symposium recommended a broadening of training, changes in lab structure, diversification of funding mechanisms, and rewards for scientists who interact with the public.

 

In Philadelphia, Alberts had his own recommendations—techniques and equipment should be freely shared to minimize waste, scientific risk-taking should be encouraged, and labs should be a more moderate size, with 9 to 12 as the maximum. “Howard Hughes (Medical Institute) chose individual scientists to double the size of their labs, thinking they’d do twice as much work, but they started doing less interesting things because they had to manage an enterprise,” Alberts explained.

 

Connie Lee, Assistant Dean for Basic Research at the University of Chicago and chair of ASCB’s Public Policy Committee, said while the research situation at her university wasn’t dire yet, bridge funding for PIs caught between R01s had been increased four-fold in recent years. Lee urged institutions and researchers themselves to find other sources of funding.  “Think outside the NIH box,” Lee said. Chicago now has grant writing-workshops to give critical feedback on first drafts of grants, and someone in Washington, DC, to help them identify new sources of funding. Lee said that institutions have to help create new avenues for scientists to innovate.

 

Kirschner said that science best proceeds in an environment of free inquiry. He cited the example of the Hamilton Smith, who was working in the obscure field of bacterial immunity and discovered restriction endonucleases, which revolutionized DNA modification and earned a Nobel Prize. “These are the kinds of things we should promote that the system is working against,” Kirschner said. “Science progresses most rapidly when scientists can focus on science. Writing grants can stimulate creativity, but rewriting them does not.”

 

Referring to her time as Princeton president, Tilghman joked, “I had a 12 year sabbatical thinking about binge drinking, and college football, and financial aid… In the years that I had been away [from science] the sense of optimism had been eroded… The ground conditions we’re laying out for the next generation… are not the conditions that create the very best science.” The problem, said Tilghman, is too many people chasing too little money. An easy first step, she believes, would be to require every graduate training program that gets NIH funding to post the career outcomes of their students. “I’m begging the NIH, on my hands and knees if I have to, to do this at minimum so students can make informed decisions,” Tilghman declared. She said it’s hard to say where the workforce pipeline could or should be narrowed just as it’s hard to predict who will do well in grad school. But Tilghman said one thing is clear: “We can’t afford to send 75% of students onto postdocs.”

 

Kenneth Gibbs, a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, expressed concern about the “shearing forces inside the biomedical research pipeline.” At NCI, Gibbs investigates biomedical graduate student and postdoctoral training. He said that his data indicate that many PhDs entered graduate training with poor knowledge of career options and that over time in graduate programs, students move away from the goal of reaching a faculty position.

 

Lorsch, whose NIH institute is the primary source of federal funding for basic cell science research, wants to change the way grants are awarded. “RNAi wouldn’t have been discovered if the PI had said, ‘That’s not one of the specific aims, so you’d better get back to working on those so we can get the grant renewed,’” Lorsch said. Soon NIGMS will be piloting a program called Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), which aims to provide one grant per PI that’s bigger and longer than R01 averages and not tied to specific aims, according to Lorsch. The review will be based on track record and overall research ideas and there will be modified review considerations for early-stage investigators. “NIH is taking seriously all these problems, but without reciprocal changes at institutions it won’t work. Everyone is going to have to change what they do in order to right the sinking ship,” Lorsch said.

*This article is from the ASCB Post

Check out the amazing list of NIH Brain Initiative grant awards!! See what $46 million can do! #science #neuroscience #BrainI

The NIH has posted the awards and abstracts of grants funded by the BRAIN Initiative (to the tune of $46 million!). Definitely worth a look if you are into brain science, neuroscience, or the types of projects NIH is funding! More info on BRAIN initiative here, and previous CauseScience posts about it here.

NIH BRAIN Awards

Problems with reproducibility in science? Here are the NIH proposed principles and guidelines to fix it! #science

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In June, the National Institutes of Health, Nature, and Science convened a meeting with editors from over 40 top academic science journals to address problems of reproducibility in preclinical research reported in these journals. The result of this meeting is the “Proposed Principles and Guidelines for Reporting Preclinical Research,” now available on the NIH website.

The principles and guidelines include:

1. Rigorous Statistical Analysis

2. Transparency in Reporting (based on this paper)

3. Data and Material Sharing

4. Consideration of Refutations

5. Consider establishing best practice guidelines for image based data and description of biological reagents

Below is the intro for the proposal, defining who it applies to etc.

The signatories represent journals that publish preclinical biological research — an area of research that encompasses both exploratory studies and hypothesis-testing studies, with many different designs. The reproducibility of these studies is expected to vary. The journals agree to adhere to the following principles with the aim of facilitating the interpretation and repetition of experiments as they have been conducted in the published study. These measures and principles do not obviate the need for replication and reproduction in subsequent investigations to establish the robustness of published results across multiple biological systems.

It is great to see action happening on this front, especially action that appears to be so united~!

CauseScience visits Washington DC and the NIH!! #science

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For Halloween weekend, CauseScience was in Washington DC. This included a fun visit to the NIH (shoutout to all my brother’s lab mates). While in the DC metro, I also came upon an ad for the Life Technologies Beautiful Life Images Contest. Although images had to be submitted by last Friday, keep your eyes out for the winning science images in ad panels around the DC metro. Super cool ads that feature science!!!