As part of a comprehensive approach to enhance the visibility of endocrinology among research funding agencies, the Society participated in the June 4 meeting of the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council (NACHHD). The Council advises the director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) on research, support activities, and functions of the Institute.
During the Director’s Report, NICHD director Alan Guttmacher, MD, provided updates on several projects of interest to the extramural research community. Guttmacher highlighted a new online system, the NICHD Data and Specimen Hub (N-DASH), which will allow the storage and access of de-identified data from NICHD supported studies. The N-DASH platform launched in late June with data from 14 initial studies. The director then noted that they are closer to delivering an interactive mobile app to develop crowd-sourced data to detail the natural history and variations of human pregnancy. The app will also allow women to receive accurate information about pregnancy from trusted sources and let pregnant women know about opportunities to participate in research. Additionally, Guttmacher announced the launch of a new Spanish-language website to broaden community outreach.
The Council was joined by the director of the National Institute for General Medical Studies (NIGMS), Jon Lorsch, PhD, to discuss NIGMS’ efforts to refocus its portfolio on investigator-initiated research. Lorsch described the institute’s rationale for increasing the funding of “programs” rather than “projects” through the institute’s Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA) program. Specifically, the institute’s data suggest that research funding is skewed towards a top tier of researchers, and that additional efficiencies might be enabled through a more equitable distribution of funds, for example, by reducing investigator time spent writing grant applications. The MIRA program proposes to award grants of up to $750,000 per year for up to five years. However, the awards will be open to established investigators with at least two existing R01 grants who make the MIRA award their primary source of funding. This implies that researchers will be comfortable trading a greater overall dollar amount for additional efficiency and funding security. The NICHD has established a working group to consider whether to implement a similar program through the R35 mechanism. The working group is weighing many options, including identifying a target career stage and evaluating how many awards NICHD should support through this mechanism.
In a separate concept clearance and review session, the three proposals shown in the table below were discussed by the Council and passed with no objection. Concept clearance represents an early step in the process of developing Requests for Application and Program Announcements, and the final details and eventual publication are subject to additional approval.