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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Submits Comments to NCATS on Strategic Planning Process

    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy
    Anurupa Dev, Director, Science Policy & Strategy

    The AAMC Jan. 8 submitted comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) in response to the center’s Request for Information soliciting input for the NCATS strategic planning process.

    In its letter, the AAMC encourages NCATS to advance connectivity and collaboration across disciplines and research venues (“breaking down silos”) as a means to catalyze the development of new therapeutics and other health interventions. “By networking projects and programs, individual research venues become like nodes in a larger system for detecting and evaluating emerging discoveries or interventions,” the AAMC notes.

    The association recommends that NCATS be clear in its expectations for networking and collaboration by continuing to note such expectations in program announcements, review criteria, and evaluations. The AAMC also notes the importance of diversification in research. The letter adds, “It is not necessary to dissolve or remove distinctions among disciplines or institutions—variation and diversity in systems are a source of strength—but [rather] to ensure that traditional or presumed boundaries are not obstacles.”

    The AAMC’s other recommendations focus on the use of comprehensive health records in research, promoting the interoperability of data systems (urging NCATS to coordinate with other NIH or federal data science initiatives), and supporting training of translational scientists pursuing broad careers; i.e, not to focus training programs primarily on careers in academic or NIH-funded research.

    The AAMC emphasizes that patient and community engagement should be a high priority for the NCATS’ strategic plan, “recognizing the value of patients and other individuals’ experiences in living with various conditions, and the environment that influences health and shapes health outcomes.”

    NCATS recently extended the deadline for submitting comments to Feb. 8. A timeline issued by the center states that it will analyze stakeholder comments in the winter, and draft and publish a strategic plan in spring 2016.