FASEB Policy Update

Last week, FASEB submitted letters on policies of concern to working scientists.  Two of the letters pertained to the humane use of animals in biomedical and biological research, and the third on data science in biomedicine.

FASEB addressed the leadership of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, requesting that they reject an amendment that would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from conducting research using canine models. The amendment, submitted by Rep. Dave Brat (VA-7), was attached to H.R. 3219, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018, which was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives with the amendment intact. The FASEB letter states that VA research using dogs has resulted in many health advances; precluding their use may create obstacles in the quest to improve health for veterans.

Another letter was transmitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to a request for information (RFI) on identifying regulatory reform initiatives. While the RFI pertained to all USDA programs, FASEB focused its comments on USDA’s role in overseeing the use of animals in research. Based on recommendations within the report that FASEB, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Council on Governmental Relations, and the National Association of Biomedical Research released last month, the letter highlighted four areas where burdens could be reduced at USDA.

These proposals included establishing a risk-based protocol review process; reducing the frequency of protocol reviews from one to every three years; allowing for multiple survival operative procedures with approval from institutional oversight committees, and removing the requirement to perform a database search when evaluating alternatives to potentially painful or distressful research. USDA will accept comments on this RFI two more times in 2018, (February 12 and July 17).

FASEB also responded to a National Library of Medicine (NLM) RFI seeking ideas for new data science research initiatives. NLM has issued an extension to this RFI and will accept comments via their online form through November 20.

FASEB’s comments highlighted the need for more core data resources – such as databases and analytics – as well as better business models and infrastructure to sustain existing resources. FASEB described several areas where NLM could provide much needed leadership toward those goals. For example, greater coordination of data science initiatives could increase interoperability, and the creation and deployment of metadata standards could facilitate appropriate data reuse.  Finally, FASEB recommended that NLM’s workforce efforts promote data literacy across the entire research enterprise, not just among data science specialists.