Government Relations Update

NIGMS and NICHD to Seek Input from Scientists on Future Programs


By Pat Kobor

Both the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) will soon be requesting advice from the scientific community as they develop plans for the future shape of their programs. Psychologists are encouraged to share their ideas directly with these institutes as well as with APA, which will submit its own comments and suggestions.

NIGMS to Develop Strategic Plan on Research Training

At the January 22 meeting of the Advisory Council to the NIGMS, Director Jeremy Berg announced the institute's intention to develop a strategic plan focused on research training. NIGMS is widely considered to be the "training institute" at NIH, by virtue of the number and breadth of its programs, which include post-doctoral Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Awards.

The goal of the strategic plan, according to Berg, is to examine existing activities and articulate strategies to help the institute build and sustain a scientific workforce. Two internal NIGMS workgroups are wrestling with core assumptions about training, the distinctive features of an ideal training model, and potential obstacles. For example, a widely held assumption is that the mark of a successful training program is that trainees will eventually compete successfully for R01 awards; Berg suggested that assumption might need to be re-examined. The institute will seek stakeholder input via a website in the spring of 2010. It will also hold public meetings in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The plan will be drafted in the late summer of 2010 and finalized before the end of 2010.

Berg said that NIGMS intends to issue a Request for Information (RFI) seeking responses to several questions from the stakeholder community, including:

  1. What constitutes success in biomedical research training from the perspective of an individual trainee, an Institute, and society?
  2. What can NIGMS do to encourage an optimal balance of breadth and depth in research training?
  3. What can NIGMS do to encourage an appropriate balance between research productivity and other training activities for mentors' trainees?
  4. What can NIGMS do through its training programs to promote and encourage greater diversity (broadly defined) in the biomedical research workforce?
  5. Recognizing that students have different career goals and interests, should NIGMS encourage greater flexibility in training, and if so, how?
  6. What should NIGMS do to ensure that the Institute monitor, measure, and continuously improve the quality of its training efforts?

APA will solicit input from its members to respond to the RFI. Please plan ahead so that you can share your views when the RFI is released within the next three months. Read about NIGMS’s current training programs.

NICHD to Seek Input on Scientific Opportunities

Chairing his first National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council meeting on January 28th, new NICHD Acting Director Alan Guttmacher discussed his plans over the coming year to begin a process to identify those areas of scientific opportunity that NICHD should be focused on and assess how well the institute’s current extramural programs are designed to leverage those opportunities. Guttmacher indicated that the extramural scientific community would be heavily involved in this effort and that a detailed process for soliciting input will be outlined by the time the Advisory Council meets in June.

Scientists can begin now to develop recommendations for NICHD and may consult with APA for discussion by email.