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  • Washington Highlights

    NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Next Generation Working Group Presents Final Recommendations

    Amanda Field, Specialist, Science Policy
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Dec. 13-14 held a public meeting covering a range of topics, including the next generation of researchers initiative, foreign influences on research integrity, and sexual harassment.

    Massachusetts General Hospital Chief of the Diabetes Unit and Harvard Medical School Professor Jose Florez, MD, PhD, presented the final recommendations from the ACD’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) working group, which was mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255). The recommendations followed five major themes: 1) modify the original NGRI policy, 2) develop methods to identify and support “at-risk” investigators and early stage investigators, 3) promote sustainable training opportunities that incorporate diversity and inclusion, 4) monitor outcomes and optimize workforce stability through improved metrics and further research, and 5) continue transparency efforts and engagement with scientists across career stages to inform policy decisions. The ACD expressed its acceptance of the working group’s recommendations.

    Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, MD, MS, an ACD member, presented a report by the working group on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity. Wilson explained that the NIH has identified undisclosed foreign financial contributions, peer review violations, and diversion of intellectual property to foreign bodies as the main issues affecting the integrity and security of research. Many of the working group’s recommendations, directed towards the NIH and its grant-recipient organizations, emphasized the need to educate investigators of their disclosure requirements to avoid accidental disclosure failures.

    Wilson also emphasized the importance of NIH partnerships with foreign researchers and the need to foster these valuable relationships. He urged the NIH to collaborate with the AAMC and other higher education organizations to communicate the importance of these issues. The ACD members expressed their general support of the recommendations, which will next be evaluated by NIH legal counsel.

    NIH leadership presented updates on intramural and extramural sexual harassment policies and approaches. NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Hanna Valantine, MD, described an internal NIH-wide survey effort to understand the NIH workplace climate. The report from the survey is projected to be complete by August 2019, and NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, emphasized NIH’s intentions to act on the results immediately.

    NIH Associate Director for Science Policy and Acting Chief of Staff to the NIH Director Carrie Wolinetz, PhD, discussed the National Academies 2018 report on sexual harassment of women in science, emphasizing the report’s recognition of gender harassment as a critical subset of sexual harassment and the need for long-term cultural change to end harassment [see Washington Highlights, June 15]. Wolinetz also discussed the charge of the newly formed ACD working group on sexual harassment to present preliminary findings and recommendations no later than June 2019. Referencing the National Academies report, the working group expressed the need for deep cultural change and its intentions to explore the role of NIH in incentivizing this change.

    Other updates during the meeting included presentations on the moderate alcohol and cardiovascular health trial working group, the HeLa working group, the helping to end addiction long-term initiative, the high risk high reward working group report, feedback on the enterprise ethics system, the brain research through advancing innovative neurotechnologies 2.0 working group, investigation of co-occurring conditions across the lifespan to understand down syndrome, and the artificial intelligence working group.