Washington Update

News from National Institutes of Health (NIH)

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, September 6, 2018

Addressing Concerns about Foreign Influence in U.S.-Funded Research

During recent testimony to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, reported that a letter had been issued to the agency’s more than 10,000 grantee institutions, summarizing recent cases where foreign entities engaged in activities to inappropriately influence or subvert the peer review process. In the letter, he requested institutions’ assistance in mitigating such breaches.

The letter highlighted three concerns: 1) diversion of intellectual property in grant applications and/or produced as a result of NIH funding with other entities; 2) sharing of confidential information from grant applications to attempt to influence funding decisions; and 3) failure of investigators to disclose additional sources of substantial financial resources that support a specific line of research inquiry.

In addition to noting NIH’s cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to resolve active concerns, Dr. Collins announced the establishment of a working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) to develop agency policies and procedures to avert future breaches.

The Working Group on Foreign Influence will be co-chaired by ACD member M. Roy Wilson, MD, MS, President of Wayne State University, and Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, NIH Principal Deputy Director, and includes five other university presidents and one medical school dean. The working group is charged with developing robust methods to improve reporting of all sources of financial support for research activities and protecting the integrity of the peer review process. Dr. Collins aims to maintain the long-standing collaborative culture that has produced a vibrant and diverse biomedical research enterprise. Draft recommendations will be presented to Dr. Collins during the next ACD meeting in December.

Read Dr. Collins’s Statement on Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Biomedical Research

Updated Requirements for T32 Applicants

Last month, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) issued a Notice regarding modifications to the application instruction for its Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Predoctoral Institutional Research Training Research Training Grant (T32). Of specific interest was revised language pertaining to Letters of Support that seeks information on institutional policies and procedures to prevent discriminatory harassment, and ways that institutions respond to harassment allegations.

In a related post to the NIGMS Feedback Loop Blog, it was noted that NIGMS will include this requirement in all training grant Funding Opportunity Announcements.

Fall 2018 NIH Regional Seminar in San Francisco (Oct. 17-19)

Geared to new investigators and extramural research administrators wanting to learn more about the NIH grants application and award processes, the NIH Regional Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration will take place October 17-19 in San Francisco. This two-day seminar provides a valuable opportunity for attendees to interact with over 65 NIH and Health and Human Services program, review, grants, and policy officials who are eager to share their expertise.

More than 45 topics are offered over the course of two days, plus more in-depth opportunities during the optional pre-seminar workshop day; topics include electronic Research Administration, human subjects research protections, intellectual property, and even an Administrator’s Boot Camp.