A banner year for FASEB: Five highlights of 2015

By | December 17, 2015
Yvonne Reid, Leonard Freedman, Teresa Good, Elizabeth Iorns and Jon Lorsch at the FASEB Science Policy Syposium Photo credit; Joe Shymanski

Yvonne Reid, Leonard Freedman, Teresa Good, Elizabeth Iorns and Jon Lorsch at the FASEB Science Policy Syposium on May 31, 2015. Photo credit: Joe Shymanski

It’s been a busy year for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). As always, advocating for science funding was a top priority. In 2015, many of FASEB’s messages echoed prominently in legislation, indicating that our work is making a difference. For example, the Federation was influential in shaping the final version of the 21st Century Cures Act, and the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill contained FASEB’s recommended funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Nerve fibers coursing through the human brain—Xiawei Ou, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Nerve fibers coursing through the human brain—Xiawei Ou, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Investment in research funding wasn’t the only issue we focused on this year. When NIH announced the development of new requirements for grant applications to address research rigor and reproducibility, FASEB quickly began to develop strategies to help scientists navigate the new policies.

FASEB stepped up efforts to inform the public about the benefits of biomedical research with the release of four new articles in our Breakthroughs and Horizons in Bioscience publications. We addressed issues affecting the biomedical workforce with an important study published in The FASEB Journal on the decline of the number of postdocs in the United States. The Federation also grew by three new member societies.

And these were just the highlights. Here’s a list of some of this year’s top initiatives:

Sustaining discoveries
We kicked off the year by unveiling a long-anticipated analysis of the threats to continued progress in biological and medical science research. Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Science: A Framework for Discussion examines the challenges facing researchers and presents a series of recommendations to alleviate them. The document, released in January, was developed over a two-year period in an effort that included extensive data analyses and roundtable discussions.

In the discussion framework, FASEB called for greater use of shared resources to extend the value of funding and provide greater access to new technologies. Later in the year, FASEB launched a new subcommittee to lead efforts related to shared instrumentation, core facilities, and other resources that can be jointly utilized by research groups.

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FASEB President Joseph R. Haywood, PhD, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on April 29, 2015.

FASEB goes to Congress
In April, our largest Capitol Hill Day ever brought 50 scientists from 27 states to Washington. Representatives of 21 FASEB member societies and seven of the eight biomedical science chairs associations met with more than 100 members of Congress and congressional staffers to advocate for sustainable and predictable funding increases for NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the competitive research program at the Department of Agriculture.

And participation in Hill Day reached far beyond the nation’s capital. On Twitter, FASEB’s posts and photos reached more than 100,000 Twitter users across the globe and the Chronicle of Higher Education mentioned the event in an article. Next year’s Capitol Hill Day will be held on March 3.

Later in April, FASEB’s President Joseph R. Haywood, PhD, was selected to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. In his testimony, Haywood underscored the importance of sustained, predictable increases in research funding and asked the subcommittee to consider a five year commitment to a five percent annual increase to help restore the buying power of the NIH budget, which has declined by more than 22 percent since 2003.

Margaret (Kenny) Offermann, FASEB President-elect Hud Freeze, Past President Joseph R. Haywood and President Parker Antin at the FASEB Science Policy Symposium on May 31, 2015. Photo credit: Joe Shymanski

Margaret (Kenny) Offermann, FASEB President-elect Hud Freeze, Past President Joseph R. Haywood and President Parker Antin at the FASEB Science Policy Symposium on May 31, 2015. Photo credit: Joe Shymanski

We tackled the rigor and reproducibility of biological research
In response to a rising tide of concern about the replicability, reproducibility, and generalizability of published research, FASEB led a discussion about scientific rigor and reproducibility during its annual Science Policy Symposium. The conversation helped raise awareness of ways in which scientists can improve the reproducibility of reported research findings.

Following the success of the symposium, FASEB convened additional expert panels to discuss the challenge to rigor and reproducibility in scientific studies involving mouse models and antibodies. As part of our commitment to developing processes and policies to foster objectivity and ensure rigor, we will issue recommendations to facilitate investigator compliance with new NIH guidelines on reproducibility in January 2016.

Heat map of the essential nutrient zinc in plant leaves—Suzana Car, Maria Hindt, Tracy Punshon, and Mary Lou Guerinot, Dartmouth College

Heat map of the essential nutrient zinc in plant leaves—Suzana Car, Maria Hindt, Tracy Punshon, and Mary Lou Guerinot, Dartmouth College

We published notable findings on the scientific workforce
After more than 30 years of steady growth, the number of postdoctoral fellows in the biological and biomedical sciences in the United States is declining, according to a study published in The FASEB Journal. The study shows that despite continuing increases in the number of PhD students, there was a 5.5 percent loss in the postdoctoral population from 2010–13, the most recent survey year. The findings have important implications for the biomedical workforce.

BioArt reaches new highs
Now in its fourth year, our BioArt image and video competition features visually compelling research produced by members of FASEB constituent societies and other federally funded researchers. This year’s images represent a wide range of research in the biomedical and life sciences, from the study of Ebola virus proteins to nanoscience that targets drug delivery to particular cells.

Winning entries were shared by the NIH Director’s blog and publications in nine countries across the globe, including Gizmodo.com in the United States, France’s Le Monde, and  Walla! in Israel, and will be displayed at the NIH Visitor’s Center in 2016.’

Ed Rosa-Molinar, Sonia Hall, Roy Jensen and Adam Fagen on Capitol Hill during FASEB's hill day on April 14, 2015.

Ed Rosa-Molinar, Sonia Hall, Roy Jensen and Adam Fagen on Capitol Hill during FASEB’s hill day on April 14, 2015.

JR Haywood and LHHS Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole

J.R. Haywood and LHHS Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole

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