NIH Advisory Committees Discuss Diversity, Intramural Research, Children’s Study, Peer Review, and the Grant Application and Award Process

By | December 18, 2014

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently hosted meetings of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) and the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB), both of which provide advice to agency leadership on issues affecting the biomedical research community. During its meeting on December 11 and 12, the ACD received updates on a wide-variety of topics, including efforts to enhance diversity of the NIH-funded workforce, proposed policies to improve sharing of clinical trials results, and progress made toward implementing recommendations included in a report of the Physician Scientist Workforce Working Group that was released in June.

In addition, reports from two other ACD Working Groups were introduced for further consideration. The report of the Long-Term Intramural Research Program Planning Working Group proposed recommendations to enhance the research, workforce, infrastructure, and administration of the NIH Intramural Research program that will be considered during future ACD meetings. A second report evaluating the feasibility of the National Children’s Study (NCS) prompted swift action by the ACD and NIH Director, Francis Collins, MD, PhD. Not only were the report and recommendations to discontinue the NCS unanimously accepted, Dr. Collins also released an immediate plan to close out study contracts and preserve data already collected.

On December 15, the SMRB convened to continue its discussion of the Grant Review, Award, and Management Process (GRAMP) and evaluate the feasibility of proposed solutions to streamline existing procedures. Challenges that the GRAMP Working Group hopes to address include: the length of time between grant application and award; the increasing number of grant applications; budgetary uncertainty; and amount of time spent by principal investigators on the development of proposals for federal research funds. SMRB members discussed the pros and cons of potential changes such as decreasing the number of grant cycles from three to two; implementing a pre-application review or pre-proposal process; seeking authority for NIH to extend spending beyond the current fiscal year; providing funding for research programs rather than individual projects; and exploring strategies to increase the numbers of peer reviewers in the system. In anticipation of a final report and recommendations from the working group, the FASEB Research Enterprise Evaluation Subcommittee is developing comments related to GRAMP and the possible solutions under consideration by SMRB.