Updates on MIRA and reproducibility at NIGMS advisory council

By | February 4, 2016

During the public session of its January 29 meeting, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council heard updates on several National Institutes of Health (NIH)-wide and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)-specific initiatives. They also discussed the findings of several program assessments.

NIGMS Director, Jon Lorsch, PhD, began the meeting with an update on the first round of applications for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), a pilot funding mechanism introduced last year that provides support for an investigator’s overall research program rather than a specific project. For this pilot, applications were limited to established investigators with two or more R01 (or equivalent) grants from NIGMS and support due to expire in Fiscal Years 2016 or 2017. Institute leaders were pleased with the response to this funding opportunity, with 25 percent of the 710 eligible investigators submitting applications. Applications were reviewed by four review panels based on broad scientific area. Reviewers received extensive training on the purpose and goals of the MIRA program as well as implicit bias prior to reviewing proposals. A second MIRA pilot that focuses on early career investigators received 326 applications. NIGMS is working with the NIH Center for Scientific Review to conduct the review of those applications in March. Dr. Lorsch noted that NIGMS plans to reissue the funding opportunity this year and hopefully expand eligibility soon.

Council member Jean Schwarzbauer, PhD, provided a brief overview of the September 2015 Workshop on Reproducibility in Cell Culture Studies. The workshop focused on three key themes—reproducibility, replicability, and transparency—in research using cell cultures. Panelists identified five key areas to address: cell lines, cell culturing methods, materials and reagents, research records, and experimental design. Workshop and subsequent discussions are being used to develop a comprehensive report and recommendations that will review best practices for cell line authentication, training and education needs, and reporting expectations for publications and grant applications.

The meeting concluded with presentations of several program assessments for the Council’s consideration. The first was an analysis of the National Centers for Systems Biology (NCSB) program, which was established in 2004 and funded through the P50 grant mechanism. Another presentation compared the outcomes of Program Project grants (P01s) to those of single-investigator and multi-investigator R01 grants using bibliometric and other measures. An additional analysis used Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms to examine the research outputs of investigators funded by the MERIT (R37) program. Dr. Lorsch stated that the findings from these evaluations would be used by NIGMS leadership to inform future planning of NIGMS’s research portfolio.

The webcast of the public session can be viewed online.

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