Washington Update

FASEB Asks NIH for Increased Communication on Trainee Initiatives

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Last week FASEB transmitted a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) expressing disappointment in the lack of engagement on issues pertaining to creating inclusive environments and supporting early-career researchers. The December 2020 ACD meeting did not include an update on implementing Working Group recommendations from the Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment and Next Generation Researchers Initiative reports.

Echoing prior comments regarding sexual harassment, FASEB requested

  • Clear communication regarding expected process and outcomes for extramural individuals reporting incidents of sexual harassment to NIH, including those who choose to report anonymously
  • Professional conduct training for all members of a research group supported on NIH funds
  • Policy solutions to address superstar Principal Investigators (PIs) being allowed by their institutions to remain PIs on a grant even when found in violation of the institution’s harassment policy.

NIH has worked diligently to swiftly implement administrative flexibilities when able, and FASEB appreciates these efforts. Extensions of K and F awards have tremendous positive impact on trainees. FASEB is also looking forward to the newly introduced Stephen I. Katz Early Stage Investigator Research Project Grant, as well as the proposed Research on Emerging Areas Critical to Human Health Loan Repayment Program. Similar to efforts on ending sexual harassment, FASEB reiterates hopes to receive updates on aspects of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative implementation. Specifically, information on the status of an analysis of salary support from grants and an administrative data enclave would be welcomed.

FASEB recognizes the challenges the pandemic has created for key NIH staff and volunteers working on these critical initiatives. Nonetheless, transparency in implementation efforts is crucial for stakeholder engagement and institutional awareness. Therefore, FASEB looks forward to future engagement regarding implementation of key trainee-focused initiatives during the June 2021 ACD meeting and through avenues such as the Open Mike and Under the Poliscope blogs.