Washington Update

New Data Science Funding Opportunities Highlighted by NIGMS Council

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, May 23, 2019

On May 17, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) hosted its second of three annual National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council meetings. In his opening report, NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch, PhD, summarized the institute’s fiscal year 2018 application and funding trends. His analysis emphasized NIGMS’s shift away from the total number of awarded grants to the number of unique investigators funded. Since 2013, the yearly number of first-time awardees (R01/R35/DP2) continues to grow, surpassing 200 total unique awards.

Dr. Lorsch also highlighted NIGMS’s support for early stage investigators and discussed the doubling of awardees since 2013, in large part due to the significant increase in applicants for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) R35 program. The institute will continue to encourage ESIs to apply early in the application process for MIRA awards, with the goal of bringing median applicant age down from 37 to 35. This information was also discussed in a recent post on NIGMS’s blog, Feedback Loop.

The second half of the meeting involved review and approval of concept clearances, many of them re-issues from previous funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Two new data science FOAs were introduced by Susan Gregurick, PhD, Director of the NIGMS Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences, and Senior Advisor to the new NIH Office of Data Science Strategy.

These FOAs are the next steps in implementing the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science, adopted last year. The first is a resource-related research project cooperative agreement award (U24) to support biomedical knowledge bases. These knowledge bases will enhance efforts to accumulate and link the growing body of information that is dependent on trans-NIH datasets. The second FOA is a resource cooperative agreement award (UG5) that aims to support data repository resources and cloud computing, two vital components for improving data storage, organization, and accessibility. NIGMS plans to introduce these funding opportunities in August 2019, with three or four five-year awards issued in summer 2020.

Across campus, the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives Council of Councils met to review Common Fund concept clearances and discuss ways to encourage use of Common Fund data. In addition to providing council members with an update on NIH’s data science strategy as described above, Dr. Gregurick highlighted a pilot project involving Figshare, an online digital repository designed to make research data citable, shareable, and discoverable.

Additional information about NIGMS Advisory Council, including meeting materials and archived videocasts, can be found here. Further information on the Council of Councils meeting can be found here.