Washington Update

ACD Meeting Includes DEAI, Public Access, and Working Group Updates

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm and Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
The 126th meeting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) convened on June 8–9 and included a broad range of science policy updates. During the Acting NIH Director’s report, Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, briefed ACD members about the newly published Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan. Comprised of three priority areas and cross-cutting themes, the plan articulates NIH’s vision for integrating DEIA across all agency activities. To complement this effort, NIH is developing an implementation plan that will soon be publicly available.

Following Tabak’s remarks, Lyric Jorgenson, PhD, Acting Associate Director for Science Policy, shared NIH’s continuing efforts to develop, refine, and implement an updated public access policy, per the 2022 Office of Science and Technology Policy memo. Jorgenson emphasized the importance of engaging with public stakeholders throughout the policy development process, as demonstrated by the recent Request for Information on the agency’s draft proposal. NIH received 143 RFI responses, compiled in a recent report. Moving forward, Jorgenson highlighted common themes the agency seeks to address when finalizing the policy, including monitoring publication costs and easing administrative burden.

During Day 2 of the meeting, the ACD working groups informed committee members about the progress they have made thus far. The first report came from the ACD Working Group on Catalyzing the Development and Use of Novel Alternative Methods (NAMs) to Advance Biomedical Research, a group charged with exploring the types of nonanimal models useful in biomedical research and identifying potential areas worthy of future NIH investment. Since its establishment last December, the working group has conducted a landscape assessment, reviewed federal programs, and hosted multiple discussions with subject matter experts. Emerging themes from these discussions include unique challenges associated with NAMs and areas where they show high scientific value. To inform their final recommendations, the working group plans to collect public feedback through a new RFI focused on the challenges and opportunities of using NAMs in biomedical research. Additionally, the working group will host an expert workshop in August to review progress and discuss potential priority research areas.

As the final working group report, the ACD Working Group on Re-envisioning NIH-Supported Postdoctoral Training co-chairs provided an update to give insight into the working group’s overall vision. Its goal is to “re-envision the postdoctoral experience so that it is more sustainable and inclusive to better recognize and reward the value of postdoctoral scholars to the U.S. scientific enterprise.” As working group discussions continue, members are using a postdoctoral scholar definition of “an individual who has received a doctoral degree or equivalent working in a term-limited position of mentored research and professional development to prepare for an independent career usually in research and teaching.”

Guiding principles the working group are using moving forward to craft recommendations were shared for feedback from the ACD members. These principles center on the importance of appropriate compensation, safe environments, standardization and tracking of the postdoc position, expanded funding mechanisms, supporting international postdocs, professional and career development, and accountability of institutions, programs, and principal investigators for quality mentorship and professional development opportunities. Full guiding principles can be viewed in the working group’s presentation slides, and the recorded presentation and discussion is available beginning at approximately 3:18:10.