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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at afagen@aspb.org Policy Archives available under Group Pages.

 

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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves NIH Funding Bill for FY 2013

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, July 15, 2013

 

FY 2014 Appropriations Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Bill

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – July 15, 2013

On July 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved by a vote of 16-14 the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Education (ED), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), among other agencies. No Republicans on the Committee voted in favor of the bill due to opposition to programs that support the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill totals $164.3 billion, which is an increase of about $7.8 billion above the FY 2013 enacted level. Please note that the FY 2013 enacted level does not include the effects of the sequester.

The funding recommendations in the bill reflect the decision of the Senate Democratic majority to write the FY 2014 appropriations bills to an overall discretionary total of $1.058 trillion. This is the level proposed by the President in his budget request, which assumes the sequester is overturned and the White House and Congress reach a long-term deficit reduction agreement. However, the House funding allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill assumes the sequester will stay in place, creating a $43 billion gap between the overall funding levels for the Senate and House versions of the bill. At this time, it is unclear when the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider its version of the bill.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

For NIH, the bill includes $30.955 billion, a $307 million (1 percent) increase above the FY 2013 pre-sequestration level and $376 million below the President’s FY 2014 request. Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) offered an amendment to increase the NIH budget by $1.4 billion, which would have been offset by cutting funds for the implementation of ACA, but it was rejected by a party-line vote.

The bill includes $40 million for the BRAIN Initiative and commends NIH for engaging in the multi-agency effort with the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as private sector partners. The Committee notes that funding for the initiative would be pooled from several NIH institutes and centers (ICs) and the Office of the Director. The report also states that in supporting this initial investment, the Committee awaits more detailed budget projections for future years.

The bill also includes an increase of $80 million for the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to lead Alzheimer’s disease research. Language in the report accompanying the bill states that while the Committee does not recommend a specific amount for Alzheimer’s research, it expects a significant portion of the recommended increase for NIA to be directed to this area.

Additionally, the bill recommends $276 million for the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, rejecting the $50 million cut to the program proposed in the President’s FY 2014 budget request. The report language urges NIH to reexamine the eligibility criteria for IDeA as some IDeA-eligible states have higher success rates than those of non-IDeA states. The Committee directs NIH to provide a report to Congress within 120 days of the release of a forthcoming National Academies report on IDeA and other Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) programs.

Within the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the bill would provide $50 million for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), which received $10 million in FY 2013, not accounting for sequestration cuts. The Committee does not recommend a specific amount for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) and endorses the recent Institute of Medicine report, noting that NCATS should help the CTSAs function more as a network to realize the program’s full potential.

In report language, the Committee expresses concern that the Administration’s proposed consolidation of government-wide STEM education activities would affect the quality of the Science Education and Partnership Awards (SEPA) program within the NIH Office of the Director and other smaller STEM programs throughout NIH. The Committee directs NIH to continue funding these programs in FY 2014 and to halt the transfer of the programs to the Department of Education. NIH has already begun to implement the consolidation by communicating to NIH STEM education grantees that their programs would be cancelled.

The Committee would continue current policy by maintaining the Executive Level II Salary Cap, which was recommended in the President’s FY 2014 budget request. Also, the Committee rejects the Administration’s proposed increase for HHS program evaluation from 2.5 to 3 percent. This would have resulted in the transfer of approximately $147 million from NIH’s budget to fund HHS evaluation activities.

Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill

FY 2014

National Institutes of Health

As reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee, 7/11/2013

(In thousands)

Agency

FY 2013 Enacted*

FY 2014 Request

FY 2014 Senate Cmte Mark

Senate vs. FY 2013 Enacted

Senate vs. FY 2014 Request

NIH, total

30,647,849

31,101,976

30,954,976

307,127 (1.0%)

-147,000 (0.5%)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

5,062,039

5,125,951

5,091,885

29,846 (0.6%)

-34,066 (0.7%)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

3,072,863

3,098,508

3,077,916

5,053 (0.2%)

-20,592 (0.7%)

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

409,889

411,515

409,947

58 (<0.1%)

-1,568 (0.4%)

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

1,793,450

1,811,786

1,799,745

6,295 (0.4%)

-12,041 (0.7%)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

1,623,113

1,642,619

1,631,703

8,590 (0.5%)

-10,916 (0.7%)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

4,481,730

4,578,813

4,548,383

66,653 (1.5%)

-30,430 (0.7%)

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

2,425,175

2,401,011

2,435,570

10,395 (0.4%)

34,559 (1.4%)

Institutional Development Award (IDeA)

275,406

225,438

275,957

551 (0.2%)

50,519 (22.4%)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

1,318,755

1,339,360

1,330,459

11,704 (0.9%)

-8,901 (0.7%)

National Eye Institute (NEI)

701,307

699,216

701,407

100 (<0.1%)

2,191 (0.3%)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

684,200

691,348

686,753

2,553 (0.4%)

-4,595 (0.7%)

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

1,101,234

1,193,370

1,185,439

84,205 (7.6%)

-7,931 (0.7%)

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

534,715

540,993

537,398

2,683 (0.5%)

-3,595 (0.7%)

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

415,440

422,936

420,125

4,685 (1.1%)

-2,811 (0.7%)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

1,477,304

1,465,782

1,456,041

-21,263 (1.4%)

-9,741 (0.7%)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

1,051,261

1,071,612

1,064,490

13,229 (1.3%)

-7,122 (0.7%)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

458,600

463,848

460,765

2,165 (0.5%)

-3,083 (0.7%)

National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

144,479

146,244

145,272

793 (0.5%)

-972 (0.7%)

National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

511,847

517,319

513,881

2,034 (0.4%)

-3,438 (0.7%)

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

337,681

338,892

337,728

47 (<0.1%)

-1,164 (0.3%)

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

275,887

283,299

281,416

5,529 (2.0%)

-1,883 (0.7%)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

127,800

129,041

128,183

383 (0.3%)

-858 (0.7%)

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

574,216

665,688

661,264

87,048 (15.2%)

-4,424 (0.7%)

Cures Acceleration Network (CAN)

9,961

50,000

50,000

40,039 (402%)

--

John E. Fogarty International Center (FIC)

69,483

72,864

72,380

2,897 (4.2%)

-484 (0.7%)

National Library of Medicine (NLM)

336,963

382,252

379,712

42,749 (12.7%)

-2,540 (0.7%)

Office of the Director (OD)

1,525,125

1,473,398

1,463,606

-61,519 (4.0%)

-9,792 (0.7%)

Common Fund

544

573

568

24 (4.4%)

-5 (0.9%)

Buildings and Facilities

125,093

126,111

125,308

215 (0.2%)

-803 (0.6%)

*Values do not reflect sequestration.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  NIH 

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FY 2013 Appropriations Update: Sequester and Revisiting the Continuing Resolution

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC , Wednesday, March 06, 2013

In the absence of agreement on a long-term deficit reduction plan, on March 1st, President Obama signed an order directing federal agencies to reduce spending subject to sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that to achieve the necessary $85 billion in savings, sequestration would require a reduction of approximately 5.0 percent in non-defense discretionary spending and 7.8 percent in non-exempt defense discretionary spending. Additional reductions will be taken in certain mandatory programs specified in the law.

As federal agencies prepare to implement the sequester, the Congress is turning its attention to the Continuing Resolution (CR), which is currently funding the entire federal government through March 27. There is general agreement between Congress and the White House and between Democrats and Republicans that there should be no government shutdown. It also appears likely that there will be no attempt to try to overturn the sequester in the final appropriations bill.

So what is likely to happen?

  • Due to the significant uncertainty, many federal agencies restrained spending to hedge their bets in the uncertain budgetary situation. Many agencies have implemented the traditional CR formula using the lowest of the FY 2012 enacted level, the President’s FY 2013 budget request, the House appropriations level, or the Senate appropriations level. Agencies have also retained some percentage of funding under the CR in anticipation of a possible sequester.
  • Because of these actions, the impact of the sequester will vary by agency depending on the types of programs it funds. For federal research agencies, the first priority is likely to be funding existing grants and grantees.
  • Until Congress completes action on the FY 2013 appropriations bill, research agencies are likely to delay announcing new funding opportunities.
  • Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working on the CR. The House Committee expects to fund defense-related bills and to continue the CR level for other federal agencies. The Senate Committee may offer an omnibus appropriations bill to complete action on all 12 bills as significant progress on such a bill was made late last year.
  • Once agencies have a full-year budget to implement their programs, there could be a flurry of funding solicitations released with relatively short times for submitting applications in order to obligate funding this fiscal year, which ends September 30.

In the meantime, each federal agency will be refining its plan to implement the sequester (please see below for a list of agency resources on the sequester). Congress and the White House will work to agree on final FY 2013 appropriations, which will be subject to the sequester. The next opportunity to restart negotiations between the White House and Congress on a long-term deficit reduction plan, which may or may not revisit the sequester, will be during consideration of the budget resolution for FY 2014 and discussions on raising the ceiling on the debt limit, which expires on May 19.

 

Sequestration Resources

White House

The President’s sequestration order (released March 1) can be viewed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/2013sequestration-order-rel.pdf.

White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
OMB released a memorandum on federal agency responsibilities for implementation of sequestration (released February 27): http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/2013/m-13-05.pdf.

OMB also sent a report to Congress which provides calculations on budgetary resources that are required to be reduced under sequestration (released March 1): http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/fy13ombjcsequestrationreport.pdf.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH released the following operation plan in event of a sequestration (released February 21): http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-13-043.html.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF released this notice regarding the impact of sequestration on NSF awards (released February 27): http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2013/in133/in133.pdf.

Department of Education

The Department of Education released additional information on sequestration’s impact on Title IV student financial assistance programs (released March 1): http://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/030113ImpactofSequestrationonTitleIVFSAProg.html.

Senate Appropriations Committee

On February 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the impacts of sequestration. The website below will link you to a list of department and agency letters to the Committee with information about how sequestration is expected to impact each entity. Information for NSF, NIH, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Education, Agriculture, and Energy (as well as numerous others) can be found here: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-full.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=17d3dc99-c065-4bec-a7c8-cfd374bf41a3.

The Washington Post

The White House released information on the expected impact of sequestration for each state. The Washington Post published this information and arranged it by category (White House released information on February 24): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/sequestration-state-impact/.

 

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  NIH  NSF  President Obama  Washington Post  White House 

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Obama Administration Announces “Big Data” Initiative

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC , Thursday, April 12, 2012

On March 29, the Obama Administration announced a "Big Data Research and Development Initiative”[1]. The Big Data initiative aims to develop new tools and techniques to manage vast and complex data sets to help address societal challenges in areas such as environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security.

The initiative involves six Federal departments and agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the US Geological Survey (USGS). The agencies will invest more than $200 million to improve how large data sets are accessed, organized and interpreted through a number of ongoing and new activities. According to the White House press release, the initiative aims to:

  • Advance state-of-the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze, and share huge quantities of data.
  • Harness these technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.
  • Expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies.

As part of the initiative, several new competitions were announced at NSF, NIH, and DARPA. Below is information on selected individual opportunities.

 

National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes for Health (NIH) – Joint Solicitation: Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering

This solicitation will advance science and technology to manage, analyze, visualize, and extract information from large data sets. According to the solicitation, proposals should address one of three areas: data collection and management, data analytics, or e-science collaborative environments. All proposals should also address capacity building. NIH seeks proposals that tackle the above issues as part of data sets related to health and disease, especially imaging, molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, chemical, behavioral, epidemiological, or clinical data sets.

Many offices at NSF and NIH are participating in the solicitation. NSF offices include the Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Geosciences (GEO), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Offices of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) and Polar Programs (OPP). NIH offices include the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Library of Medicine (NLM), and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Letters of Intent: Letters of Intent are not required.

Due Dates: No preliminary proposals are required. Full proposals are due June 13, 2012 for mid-scale projects and July 11, 2012 for small-scale projects.

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF and NIH plan to award a total of $25 million to 15 to 20 projects. Small-scale awards will be up to $250,000 per year for up to three years, while mid-scale awards will be up to $1 million per year for up to five years.

Eligibility and Limitations: This solicitation uses regular NSF eligibility requirements. There are no limits on the number of proposals that can be submitted per organization. Principal investigators are limited to two proposals.

Additional Resources: Contacts and additional information are available at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504767.

 

NSF Dear Colleague Letter – IGERT-CIF21 Track

NSF has released a Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that it will establish a Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) track in its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The CIF21 track aims to educate and support the next generation of researchers working on big data issues. NSF will publish a funding opportunity with more details shortly. The Dear Colleague letter is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12059/nsf12059.jsp.

 

NSF Dear Colleague Letter Data-Intensive Education-Related Research Funding Opportunities

EHR, SBE, CISE, and OCI released a joint Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that a solicitation on data-intensive education research will be released shortly. The solicitation will call for participants in an Ideas Lab to "advance teaching and learning focused on transforming large datasets into knowledge that leads to actions that can improve learning environments”. NSF expects to fund a range of research projects generated at the Ideas Lab. The Dear Colleague letter also highlights existing NSF funding opportunities in this area. The Dear Colleague letter is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12060/nsf12060.jsp.

 

Other Activities

In addition to the new competitions listed above, NSF, DOE, and USGS announced newly awarded grants and projects:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – 1,000 Genomes Project Data Available on Cloud

NIH posted the 1000 Genomes Project data on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) computing cloud. According to the NIH press release,[2] the data set is the world’s largest on human genetic variation and will now be available for use by researchers.

National Science Foundation (NSF) – New Big Data Awards in Ongoing Initiatives

  • The Directorate of Geosciences will award the first round of grants to support the Earth Cube[3] initiative, which aims to create a unified data infrastructure for the geosciences.
  • The Expeditions in Computing program[4] will award $10 million for a project at University of California, Berkeley to integrate machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing to convert large volumes of data into useable information.
  • The Research Training Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (RTG) program[5] will award $2 million to the University of California, Davis for undergraduate training in graphical and visualization techniques for complex data.
  • The Focused Research Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (FRG) program[6] will award $1.4 million to an unnamed group to support statistical and biological research on protein structures and biological pathways.
  • The international Digging into Data Challenge announced its second round of awards to support humanities and social science research involving large data sets.[7]

A complete listing of NSF announcements related to Big Data is available at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123607.

 

Department of Energy (DOE) – New Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) Institute

DOE announced[8] a $25 million award to create a new SciDAC Institute, the Scalable Data Management, Analysis, and Visualization Institute (SDAV). SDAV will be led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will bring together six national laboratories and seven universities to help scientists manage and visualize data from large and complex simulations run on DOE supercomputers.

 

US Geological Survey – Big Data for Earth System Science Awards

The John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis[9] announced its latest round of awards, which will contribute towards the Big Data initiative. These awards will help improve understanding of a range of issues including how species respond to climate change, earthquake recurrence rates, and the next generation of ecological indicators.

 

Ongoing Programs

The White House also compiled an extensive listing of ongoing programs across the Federal government that relate to Big Data challenges: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/big_data_fact_sheet.pdf.

Tags:  DOD  DOE  NIH  NSF  President Obama 

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Policy Update: FY 2012 Appropriations Update: Congress Completes FY 2012 Appropriations Process

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Monday, December 19, 2011

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – December 2011

The U.S. Congress voted to accept a package of fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations measures to avoid a shutdown of a significant portion of the Federal Government as the current Continuing Resolution was set to expire Friday night. This action followed months of wrangling over the federal debt and deficit and reducing federal spending. The final bills represent real compromise and sustain important investments in federal research and education programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Department of Defense (DOD) basic research, and Pell grants, at current levels or with modest increases. The House of Representatives passed the package early on Friday while the Senate passed the bills on Saturday.

The final conference agreement details funding amounts and agency directives for federal agencies, including:

  • Defense Appropriations Bill – Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill – Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Bill – Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The $915 billion Consolidated Appropriations bill includes $30.698 billion for NIH for an increase of $299 million (0.7 percent) above FY 2011. The final bill creates the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is the top priority for NIH Director Francis Collins, and includes $10 million for the new Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). The bill decreases the NIH salary cap from Executive Level I ($199,700) to Executive Level II ($179,700)—a better outcome than the House draft bill, which recommended Executive Level III, but the first time Congress has decreased the NIH salary cap.

The DOE Office of Science would receive $4.889 billion, an increase of $46.34 million (about one percent) above FY 2011. The final bill provides $20 million each to establish two new Energy Innovation Hubs – one on Batteries and Energy Storage and one on Critical Materials. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs of the Department are slated for level funding at $1.825 billion. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will receive $275 million, half of the $550 million requested by the President.

DOD basic and applied research programs remain a priority within the bill as the overall increase for the Department was held to $5 billion above the FY 2011 level, a compromise between the House’s $17 billion increase and the Senate’s proposed freeze. For DOD research overall, a total of $72.4 billion is approved. While this represents a $2.5 billion decrease below the current level, the reduction is less than experienced by other aspects of the defense budget.

The final bill includes the necessary funding to continue the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550, while making changes to the program to reduce cost. However, the program is still expected to face increased funding pressures because of the overall growth of the program.

Additionally, the Senate rejected, in a 43 to 56 vote, a resolution that would have triggered a 1.83 percent across-the-board reduction against all discretionary spending except for defense, military construction, and veterans programs. The reduction was designed to pay for an additional $8.1 billion in disaster relief appropriations, which will now be provided as emergency spending following Senate approval of that legislation.

The Congress also passed, and the President has signed, a bill to extend the Continuing Resolution through December 23rd to allow the President to review and sign the Consolidated Appropriations bill into law this week. These actions will finally complete the FY 2012 appropriations process.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOD  DOE  NIH 

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Implications of Supercommittee Collapse for Science Funding and Higher Education

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Media attention has focused on the failure of the 12-member congressional Supercommittee to reach agreement on a package to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years. However, universities and science organizations are not the victims of the deficit impasse. Generally, federal funding for scientific research is not the target of deficit reduction for several reasons: (1) the amount of domestic discretionary funding for science is not large enough to have significant impact on deficit reduction; (2) science has bipartisan support among politicians since it is part of the innovation economy upon which the country’s financial recovery is partially dependent; and (3) dismantling the scientific infrastructure of the country is counter-productive in the global technology-driven forces of the 21st century. There are aspects of the current federal deficit paralysis that indirectly affect higher education – particularly relating to student aid, academic health centers, and tax policy – but reducing direct federal support of scientific research at academic institutions is not front-and-center.

Now, many are trying to determine what happens next as Congress still has much work to do before adjourning next month. With funding fully enacted for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) the competitive funding arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with modest increases (NSF and NOAA), flat funding (AFRI) or a slight reduction (NASA), completion of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations process, especially for NIH funding, is an important challenge. In addition to funding the remaining appropriations bills, which are currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 16th, there are other issues looming before Congress, such as extension of unemployment benefits, doctor payments, and tax extenders. This report describes the impact of the collapse of the Supercommittee at the federal level; however, actions might be taken by state and local governments to respond to possible implications associated with the collapse of the Supercommittee process. 


Near-Term Outlook for Science Funding

Among its many to-dos, Congress must still complete nine remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, including bills that fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education (ED). It is expected that this will be done through one large "omnibus” package before the end of the calendar year. As previously reported, other science agencies for which appropriations bills have been passed—namely NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—fared relatively well in FY 2012, receiving budgets that are about flat or slightly increased above the FY 2011 enacted level. A similar outcome is expected for basic research in agencies like NIH and DOE in the final appropriations agreement.

One caveat is that it is not uncommon for a modest across-the-board reduction to be included in an omnibus appropriations bill should it be warranted to keep discretionary appropriations within the overall cap of $1.043 trillion enacted in the Budget Control Act (debt limit agreement). Should the appropriations process stall, there has been some discussion of extending the current CR into early next year, which would result in a freeze for all programs at the current (FY 2011) level until Congress completes an omnibus bill or enacts a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Planning is also underway by agencies for the President’s FY 2013 budget request which is expected to be more conservative than in past years and may even be delayed due to the uncertainty of future budget cuts. The FY 2013 process remains very uncertain at the moment with flat funding for federal research agencies considered "a win” in the coming years.


Budget Scenarios for FY 2014 and Beyond

In August, the Budget Control Act enacted a process that would institute automatic across-the-board budget cuts over nine years, known as sequestration, in the event that the Supercommittee could not reach a deal. However, given that the cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January 2013 (after the election) and are subject to subsequent revision by Congress, it is possible they will be delayed or never triggered at all. In the event no changes are made to the automatic budget cuts, the White House Office of Management and Budget would be required to reduce the discretionary appropriated budget by $109 billion per year for nine years, allocated equally between defense spending and nondefense spending.

Reductions in discretionary spending from 2014 to 2021 would be achieved by reducing the aggregate overall caps on such spending for each year. While the President could propose specific cuts to agencies such as NIH and NSF, specific appropriations would still be subject to the annual congressional appropriations process and program funding could be increased or further decreased within the overall capped amount for all discretionary spending. As a general rule of thumb, if these cuts were allocated proportionately, it would mean 6 to 8 percent reductions to the domestic spending agencies.

Concerns are already being expressed by the Administration and by both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress over the magnitude of potential spending cuts to defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the DOD budget could be cut by as much as 10 percent in FY 2013 under the mandated sequester with additional reductions in discretionary defense spending over the nine-year period to estimated savings of about 8.5 percent in FY 2021. Such reductions, totaling an estimated $492 billion, could impact big defense programs already at issue in Congress, as well as drive changes in the structure and mobility of the nation’s military services already under consideration. Additional reductions in mandatory defense spending are also likely under current law. While some want to undo the sequester for defense, the President has threatened to veto any bill that focuses only on exempting defense spending.

In short, the budget outlook for the next several years is uncertain at best. The main question on the table is whether and how to skirt the automatic cuts that would be levied against FY 2013 appropriations as required under the Budget Control Act. However, flat funding for science agencies remains a possibility over the next few years and should be viewed as a "win” in the current budget climate.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has produced a graphic that further explains the sequestration process, should that process go forward without changes by Congress: http://www.cq.com/graphics/monitor/2011/11/23/mon20111123-23deficit-cht.pdf

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  NIH  NSF  USDA 

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NIH selects NIGMS director: Chris Kaiser of MIT

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Chris A. Kaiser, PhD, as the new director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Kaiser, a cell biologist, is currently MacVicar Professor and head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is expected to join NIGMS in the spring.

He will replace Judith H. Greenberg, PhD, who became acting director of NIGMS in July 2011 after the departure of Jeremy M. Berg, PhD, who had served as director since 2003.

As NIGMS director, Kaiser will oversee the institute’s $2 billion budget, which primarily funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. NIGMS supports more than 4,500 research grants—about 10% of those funded by NIH as a whole—as well as a substantial amount of research training and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. NIGMS is also the biggest sponsor of plant biology research at NIH.

An NIGMS grantee since 1992, Kaiser uses genetic, biochemical and structural biology methods to understand the basic mechanisms of protein folding and intracellular transport, molecular processes essential to normal cell function. His efforts have led to the identification of numerous genes and related mutations involved in these processes. Kaiser is particularly interested in determining how secreted and other proteins form disulfide bonds, which are important for protein folding and stability. To study these questions, Kaiser uses yeast, a model organism for investigating mammalian genetics.

An initiative Kaiser said he’s particularly eager to join is the Institute’s effort to build and sustain a strong and diverse scientific workforce, as outlined in the recent NIGMS strategic plan for research training. "Fostering scientific careers and improving workforce diversity are critical to research progress, and NIGMS has really taken a lead in this arena," said Kaiser, who oversaw an effort that increased graduate student diversity within the MIT biology department from 5% to 18% over six years.

Kaiser joined the MIT faculty in 1991, became a full professor in 2002, and chaired the Biology Department since 2004. He received an AB in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1980 and a PhD in biology from MIT in 1987, then did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

He is co-author of a widely used textbook, Molecular Cell Biology (5th and 6th editions). He has also organized Cold Spring Harbor scientific meetings, served on NIH review committees, and been associate editor of the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell as well as a member of the editorial board for the journal Traffic.

His honors include a Markey scholarship (1990–1996), a Searle scholarship (1992–1996), the Whitehead Career Development professorship (1994–1997) and election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow (2011). In 1999, he received MIT’s highest teaching honor for the introductory genetics course he taught from 1992 to 2011.

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NIH study shows black scientists less likely to win federal research grants

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, August 19, 2011
A study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed that black scientists were less likely to receive an NIH grant than white scientists, even after controlling for differences in institutions and academic track records.  The results of the study by Ginther et al.—conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, NIH, and Discovery Logic/Thomson Reuters—are published this week in the journal Science.

In an article in The New York Times, NIH Director Francis Collins was quoted as saying, "This situation is not acceptable.... This is not one of those reports that we will look at and the put aside."  "That's a huge discrepancy, and something that we are deeply troubled about and are determined to do something about," Collins added on National Public Radio.

According to the study of 83,000 grant applications from 2000 to 2006, the success rate for white scientists was about 29%, but only 16% for black scientists.  Even after controlling for statistical differences between the pools (applicant’s educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record, and employer characteristics), the gap was still about 10%.


R01 Award Probability

Figure 1 from Ginther et al.  Probability of NIH R01 award by race and ethnicity, FY 2000 to FY 2006.


The gap seems to occur at the level of peer review.  Even though applicants' race and ethnicity are not shared with study sections, Ginther et al. speculate that reviewers often know the application, and it is often not difficult to determine the applicant's race from characteristics such as their name or academic history.

The prevailing view seems to be that these findings are not a result of overt racism.  Rather, it may be an example of unconscious bias or an effect of black scientists' tending to keep a lower scientific profile.  There may also be differences in the quality of educational and mentoring experiences; Ginther et al. argue that even small differences may accumulate to have large cumulative effects.

Another troubling finding is that black PhD scientists were also significantly underrepresented in the pool of proposals for R01 awards, NIH's main investigator-initiated research grant mechanism.  Black scientists submitted only 1.4% of all R01 applications, compared with 3.2% for Hispanics and 16% for Asians.  This means that only 185 of the 23,400 R01 grants in the study went to black scientists.

NIH has announced that it has established two task forces to follow up on the study (including the new Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group) and conduct experiments such as reviewing applications with the names of the applicant and institution removed.  The agency will also recruit more early-career researchers and scientists of color to serve on review panels, providing them with a better understanding of how to write successful proposals.

NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Taback was quoted in an NIH news release as saying, "Recruiting the best minds to biomedical research is a shared responsibility. It's up to the academic community to foster and support inquisitive minds and a love of science in people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And it's up to NIH to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunity for NIH funding to succeed in their scientific endeavors."

The study did not find statistically significant differences for Hispanic or Asian scientists, once controlling for language difficulties.


Citation:  Donna K. Ginther, Walter T. Schaffer, Joshua Schnell, Beth Masimore, Faye Liu, Laurel L. Haak, and Raynard Kington.  (2011).  Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards.  Science 333(6045, 19 August): 1015-1019.

Tags:  diversity  New York Times  NIH  NPR  Washington Post 

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NIH establishes working group on diversity in biomedical research

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has charged the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director to establish a Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group (DBRWG).  This is in response to suboptimal results from a variety of programs designed to foster the participation of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical science workforce pipeline.

The working group will focus on five key transition points in the pipeline:
  1. entry into graduate degree programs;
  2. the transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowship;
  3. the appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position;
  4. the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry; and
  5. award of tenure in an academic position or equivalent in an industrial setting. 
The working group and advisory committee will provide concrete recommendations to the NIH Director on ways to improve the retention of underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds through these critical periods. The DBRWG's analysis will include both the NIH intramural research community and the NIH extramural research community.

The DBRWG is charged with producing interim recommendations by December 2011 and final recommendations by June 2012. In recognition of related tasks within the NIH campus, the DBRWG is expected to collaborate and coordinate with the ACD Biomedical Workforce Working Group, the NIH Diversity Task Force, and the NIH Women in Biomedical Research Careers Working Group.

The members of DBRWG are listed below:

  • Reed Tuckson, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, UnitedHealth Group, co-chair
  • John Ruffin, PhD, Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, co-chair
  • Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, Principal Deputy Director National Institutes of Health, co-chair
  • Ann Bonham, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Jordan Cohen, MD, President Emeritus, Association of American Medical Colleges
  • José Florez, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Gary Gibbons, MD, Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute and Chair, Department of Physiology, Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Renee Jenkins, MD, Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Howard University
  • Tuajuanda Jordan, PhD, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Lewis and Clark College
  • Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, President & Chief Executive Officer, Meharry Medical College; Chair, National Advisory Council on Minority Health & Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health; Chairman, Board of Directors, Association of Minority Health Professions Schools
  • Samuel Silverstein, MD, John C. Dalton Professor of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics, and Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Dana Yasu Takagi, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Maria Teresa Velez, PhD, Associate Dean of the Graduate College, Professor in Psychology, University of Arizona
  • M. Roy Wilson, MD, MS, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
  • Keith Yamamoto, PhD, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, Professor Departments of Cellular/Molecular Pharmacology and Biochemistry/Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco
  • Clyde Yancy, MD, Magerstadt Professor and Chief, Division of Medicine-Cardiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


Tags:  diversity  NIH  workforce 

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ASPB signs on to Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research letter on FY2012 funding for NIH

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, August 11, 2011
ASPB has added its voice to a community letter from The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to the chair and ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education.  The letter, from 214 organizations and institutions, makes the case for robust funding of the National Institutes of Health in the FY2012 budget:

In this challenging budget environment, we recognize the painful decisions that must be made to secure the nation’s fiscal stability. However, it is imperative that such efforts recognize the federal role in promoting the prosperity and well-being of the American people. Especially in times like these, continuing the nation’s commitment to medical research through NIH is essential to ensuring the health of all Americans and to maintaining U.S. leadership in an increasingly competitive global scientific arena. The Ad Hoc Group strongly recommends that the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill uphold the longstanding legacy of bipartisan support for the health and economic benefits afforded by an unwavering commitment to NIH. 

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NIGMS names Judith Greenberg as acting director

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has named Judith H. Greenberg as acting director upon the departure of Jeremy Berg at the end of June.

NIGMS has a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, which make up about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH. NIGMS also funds a substantial amount of research training, including programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. NIGMS supports a substantial fraction of the plant biology research funded by NIH.

A developmental biologist by training, Greenberg has directed the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology since 1988. In Fiscal Year 2010, the division’s budget was $566 million.

Since 1984, Greenberg has been the project officer for the Human Genetic Cell Repository, which provides cell lines and DNA samples to scientists studying genetic diseases.

She served as NIGMS acting director from May 2002 to November 2003. Greenberg’s other leadership roles at NIGMS include overseeing the development of the institute’s strategic plan issued in 2008 and its strategic plan for research training issued earlier this year. She now chairs the implementation committee for the training strategic plan.

Prior to joining NIGMS as a program administrator in 1981, Greenberg conducted research in the intramural program of what is now NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Her focus was on cell migration and differentiation in early embryonic development.

Greenberg earned a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.A. degree in biology from Boston University, and a Ph.D. degree in developmental biology from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.


Additional information

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NIH makes cuts in research grants, increases stipends

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a notice on implementing the final fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget, which cuts about 1% from NIH's budget.

Non-competing (i.e., continuing) research grants from NIH institutes and centers other than the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are reduced 1% below the FY 2010 award level.  NCI research grants will be reduced by 3%.  The cuts do not affect Career Awards, SBIR/STTRs, and Ruth L. Kirschstein-National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Fellowships & Institutional Training Grants.

It is estimated that NIH will support approximately 9,050 new and competing Research Project Grants (RPGs).

The news is not all down, however.  NRSA awards for undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral trainees will see a 2% increase in stipends.  Specifically, predoctoral stipends will increase to $21,180 and beginning postdoc stipends will increase to $37,740.


Additional information:

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NIH names working group on the future biomedical workforce

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established a working group that will examine the future of the biomedical research workforce in the United States.  The working group will make recommendations to the Advisory Committee to the Director to ensure a diverse and sustainable biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman was previously announced as a chair of the working group; the other members were announced today:
  • Shirley Tilghman (co-chair), President, Princeton University
  • Sally Rockey (co-chair), Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH
  • Sandra Degen, Vice President for Research, University of Cincinnati
  • Laura Forese, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer, and Senior Vice President, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • James Jackson, Professor of Psychology and Director, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • Leemor Joshua-Tor, Professor and Dean, Watson School of Biological Sciences, and HHMI Investigator, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Richard Lifton, HHMI Investigator, Yale School of Medicine
  • Garry Neil, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Office of Science & Technology, Johnson & Johnson
  • Naomi Rosenberg, Dean, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University School of Medicine
  • Bruce A. Weinberg, Professor, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
  • Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, and Vice Chancellor of Research, University of California, San Francisco

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NRC releases new report on the national needs for research personnel

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Research Training in the Biomedical, Behavioral, and Clinical Research SciencesThe National Research Council has issued the thirteenth and latest in a series of Congressionally-mandated studies on the national needs for research personnel. The most recent report, Research Training in the Biomedical, Behavioral, and Clinical Research Sciences, advises the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare and Quality Research (AHRQ) on personnel needs as they relate to the National Research Service Awards (NRSA) program. The NRSA program incorporates NIH predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships and training grants (including F30, F31, F32, F33, F34, F35, T32, T34, and T35 awards) as well as programs in nursing, oral health, and clinical and health services research. Training grants support a broad range of grad students and postdocs, including those in plant biology. And although the NRSA program directly impacts only a fraction of trainees, it has set the de facto national standard for graduate and postdoctoral training.

The NRC committee was asked to gather and analyze information on employment and education trends of research scientists in biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences, and in the subfields of oral health, nursing, and health sciences research. They also considered demographic and other changes that would affect the nation’s needs for research personnel. The demographic models developed predict "substantial growth” in the biomedical and clinical sciences, with little growth in the behavioral and social sciences.

The report recommends that the number of NRSA positions in the biomedical and clinical sciences should be maintained and linked to the level of total extramural research funding. The report calls on NIH to reinstitute its 2001 commitment to raise stipends, suggesting, for example, that postdoc stipends should increase to $45,000 for first-year appoints, with subsequent cost of living increases. NIH should consider whether the indirect cost rate on NRSA training grants and career development K awards should be increased from the current 8% cap to the institution’s negotiated rate applied to research grants.

The report acknowledges the role that training grants have had on graduate and postdoctoral training and seeks to make this explicit; in particular, it recommends that

all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are supported by the NIH on Research Program Grants (RPGs) should be required to incorporate certain additional ‘training grant–like’ components into their regular academic training program. These should include RCR [responsible conduct of research] training, exposure to quantitative biology, and career guidance and advising.

The report says that the training programs which educate and train those funded by RPGs "should be subject to the same expectations for diversity of trainees that are expected of training grants” including providing "assurance on R01 grant applications that efforts are being made to increase diversity.” It also recommends a training evaluation questionnaire to provide "confidential, unbiased evaluation” based on program director and trainee input on their training program to allow NIH to evaluate the merit of its broad training approaches.

Recognizing the range of career pursued by NRSA trainees, the report recommends that NIH peer review panels should broaden their concept of "successful” training to "recognize nontraditional outcomes that meet important national priorities and needs.” And it suggests that NIH and the Department of Education work to provide incentives to attract trainees into teaching careers.

The full report is available for purchase and online viewing on the National Academies Press website. The authoring committee was chaired by Roger Chalkley, senior associate dean of biomedical research education and training at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Tags:  NIH  NRC  workforce 

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NIH to develop model for sustainable and diverse research workforce

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, December 27, 2010
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has convened a Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) to develop a model for a sustainable and diverse biomedical research workforce.

The charge to the panel is two-fold:

Develop a model for a sustainable and diverse U.S. biomedical research workforce that can inform decisions about training of the optimal number of people for the appropriate types of positions that will advance science and promote health. Developing the model will include an analysis of the current composition and size of the workforce to understand the consequences of current funding policies on the research framework. The model should include an assessment of present and future needs in the academic research arena, but also current and future needs in industry, science policy, education, communication, and other pathways. The model will also require an assessment of current and future availability of trainees from the domestic and international communities.

Based on this analysis and input from the extramural community, using appropriate expertise from NIH and external sources,and recognizing that there are limits to NIH's ability to control many aspects of the training pipeline, the committee will make recommendations for actions that NIH should take to support a future sustainable biomedical infrastructure.

The Working Group will be chaired by Shirley M. Tilghman, president and professor of molecular biology at Princeton University (shown).  Dr. Tilghman is no stranger to thinking about the biomedical workforce.  Among other activities, she served as chair of the committee that authored the 1998 National Research Council (NRC) report Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists and as co-chair of the committee that authored the 1994 NRC report The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

NIH has not yet named other members of the Working Group, which will likely include--but not be limited to--additional members of the ACD.

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Jeremy Berg to step down as NIGMS director

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, December 06, 2010
Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of Health's (NIH's) National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), has announced that he will be stepping down at the end of June 2011. He will become associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He will also be a faculty member in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology at the university’s School of Medicine.

NIGMS has a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, which make up about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH. NIGMS also funds a substantial amount of research training, including programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. NIGMS supports a substantial fraction of the plant biology research funded by NIH.

Berg's leadership at NIH includes not only programs at NIGMS, but many cross-NIH activities, including the NIH Peer Review Advisory Committee and a major effort to enhance the NIH peer review system, efforts to support Young and Early-Stage Investigators, the NIH Director's Pioneer Award and New Innovator Award programs and trans-NIH initiatives in structural biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, women in scientific careers, and basic behavioral and social science research.

Prior to his appointment at NIGMS, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he also served as professor and director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry. Berg received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Stanford University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1985. He is a coauthor of more than 130 research papers and four textbooks.

NIGMS will launch a national search for Berg's successor.

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