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Research Clips

A weekly roundup of research news items curated from the professional development groups within the AAMC’s Scientific Affairs cluster, and other sources.

From the Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (CFAS)

An Inside Higher Ed piece discussed the effects the House tax bill could have on graduate students and their institutions’ academic missions.
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Similarly, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article this week, “How the GOP Tax Plan Could Hurt Graduate Students—and American Research,” noting that the proposal creates a major disincentive for people to go to graduate school.
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The AAMC joined the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) in a letter urging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reconsider barring scientists who receive EPA grants from serving in advisory roles.
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The Atlantic also explored the obstacles to collecting brains for autism research and noted that researchers don’t yet know of any obvious features that distinguish autistic brains from normal brains.
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The UAB School of Medicine established the UAB Obesity Health Disparities Research Center after the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center was awarded a $7 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
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From the Graduate Research, Education, and Training Group (GREAT)

NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding 10-12 grants of up to three million for five years for FY2018 under its Research Traineeship (NRT) program. This program promotes the development and implementation of new and innovative models for STEM graduate education training that help master's and doctoral students develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. For FY2018, there will be a particular emphasis on two topics of national priority - harnessing the data revolution and innovations at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems. The NSF has also provided an FAQ on the NRT Program.

AAMC Comments on NIGMS Undergraduate and Pre-Doctoral Diversity Programs
The AAMC October 26 submitted comments to the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences in response to a Request for Information for identifying strategies that will lead to more effective and efficient organization and administration of the NIGMS' Undergraduate and Pre-doctoral Diversity Programs. The AAMC recommended resources to help potential students better navigate various NIH programs, to increase coordination across programs, and strengthen program evaluation and tracking of student outcomes. For information, contact Karey M Sutton, PhD, AAMC Lead Specialist, Health Equity Research and Policy and Jodi Yellin, PhD, Director, Science Policy.

Save the Date: NIH Train the Trainers Conference
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) is hosting a Train–the–Trainers conference on July 16-17, 2018, for advisors, staff and faculty who work with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences. This will be the second time that NIH is holding this event that will include comprehensive training sessions to provide expertise in training in the areas of career planning and personal development. There is no fee to attend this training; however advanced registration is required and participants are responsible for their own travel and food. Registration will open in Spring 2018. To receive notification when registration opens, please sign up here.

Inside Higher Ed: The (Possible) Postdoc Union Boom
An article in Inside Higher Ed explored the possibility of upcoming postdoc unionization. As covered in the article as well as the 2014 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, serious problems in the postdoc system, such as inadequate pay, lack of training and mentorship, and career prospects, have become more prominent in recent years. In light of the recent National Labor Relations Board decision that postdocs should be able to unionize, postdoc unionization may emerge as the way to combat these problems. Currently, there are only 5 postdoc unionizations in the US.

Nature: Graduate Survey: A Love-Hurt Relationship
Nature performed a 2017 survey of 5,700 PhD students worldwide to determine their satisfaction with their PhD programs. While the respondents indicated high levels (75%) of satisfaction overall, 25% of respondents listed concern over mental health, and 12% stated they had sought help for depression. Students found their work to be stressful, as well as uncertainty for their future careers, with approximately 40% expressing dissatisfaction with career guidance. The survey also found an important connection between a well-matched PhD advisor and success and satisfaction - nearly one quarter of students said they would switch advisors if they could.

Open Mike: What Can We Learn from the NIH Director's New Innovator Awards?
In an Open Mike blog post, NIH Deputy Director Mike Lauer, PHD, puts a spotlight on the NIH Director's New Innovator Award. This award supports early-career investigators with innovative ideas, without requiring preliminary data. A recent analysis evaluates the early outcomes from the first three cohorts that recently completed the award. The analysis concluded that for the first three years of the program, the award did foster risky, innovative research, with no significant impact, positive or negative, on the awardees' careers.

Congressional Hearing on F&A
Four research institutions October 24 testified before the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee about the essential role of federal support for facilities and administrative (F&A) costs in advancing medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Subcommittee members widely panned the president's FY 2018 proposal to limit NIH support for F&A to 10 percent of the agency's extramural budget, a 72 percent cut below current level. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), however, noted that some foundations do not support F&A costs and suggested that NIH funding should be restructured to more explicitly support early career investigators. Read more in AAMC Washington Highlights and an article in Science.

NIH Expands Funding of the BRAIN Initiative
In its continuing effort to understand the brain, the NIH announced an expansion of funding for its Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. There are 110 new awards totaling $169 million, bringing the total funding for 2017 to $260 million. 2017 funding will increase support of the development of new tools to understand neural circuit function and brain activity. The announcement also summarizes the areas of focus, including cell census projects, the human brain, and whole brain activity mapping.

Funding the Next Generation of Learning-Health-System Researchers
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced that they are awarding up to $8 million annually to up to 10 institutions to support training programs for learning-health-system researchers. As stated in an AHRQ blog post, the goal of these awards is to create a health care workforce, including clinician scientists and research scientists, capable of conducting research in a learning health system. Both academic institutions and health systems can apply for the award, and it is encouraged that applicants have collaborative relationships with the other of the two types of institution. Letters of intent were due October 6, 2017, and applications are due January 24, 2018.

2018 Understanding Interventions Conference
Registration is open to the 10th Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers. The conference is meant to facilitate the exchange of research that broadens participation in science and engineering research careers by creating a dialogue between social scientists, education researchers, education evaluators, and faculty in STEM. Graduate students in these field are strongly encouraged to attend. The conference will be held in Baltimore, MD from March 2 - March 4, 2018.

AAMC Learn Serve Lead: Proceedings of the 56th Annual Research in Medical Education Sessions
The proceedings of the annual Research in Medical Education (RIME) sessions at the AAMC Learn Serve Lead meeting have been published as a supplement to the November 2017 issue of Academic Medicine. All RIME content is free to access.

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From Washington Highlights

Conferees Remove NDAA Provision Limiting Biomedical Research
House and Senate negotiators Nov. 8 agreed to remove language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2018 that would restrict the Department of Defense (DOD)'s Congressional Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). Read More.

Subscribe to Washington Highlights for updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

From the Research on Care Community Health Equity subgroup (ROCChe)

Subscribe to the AAMC Health Equity Research Updates for the latest news in health equity research and policy.