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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)

The Trump administration is weighing whether to terminate a seven-year, multimillion dollar NIH contract with UCSF to test new treatments for HIV using fetal tissue, reported the Washington Post.
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But according to CNN, the NIH has denied that any decision was made regarding the contract.
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Against the backdrop of Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s controversial CRISPR experiments, Eli Adashi, MD, a professor of medical science at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, co-wrote a Viewpoint in JAMA that explored the ethics of heritable genome editing.
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The Atlantic detailed 15 reasons why Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s CRISPR experiments on babies are so wrong. The New York Times also explained why the international scientific community is troubled by the news.
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NIH is requesting input on recommendations outlined in a draft report, “Reducing Administrative Burden for Researchers: Animal Care and Use in Research.” Comments can be submitted through Feb. 5, 2019. NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Michael Lauer, MD, covered the report and the review request in an article in his “Open Mike” blog today. The AAMC submitted a response to a previous Request for Information in the creation of the draft report, and will additionally respond to this request.
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The Virginia Tech Carilion Academic Health Center in Roanoke, Va., will receive a record $50 million gift from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and Heywood and Cynthia Fralin, leading to the newly named Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. The gift will “support recruiting and retaining world-leading biomedical researchers” at Virginia Tech, reports the Roanoke Star.
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TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune, touted state investment in biomedical research as a way to make Texas the “third coast” for biotech.
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Harvard Medical School profiled its research cores in a piece that described their unique capabilities and specialized resources.
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The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a draft green paper detailing steps to modernize America’s system of technology transfer and innovation. The paper aims to maximize returns on federally funded research and development.
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From the Group on Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT)

NRSA Stipends, Tuition/Fees and Other Budgetary Levels Effective for FY 2019
The NIH has set new budgetary levels for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) for fiscal year (FY) 2019. This includes an approximately 2% increase in stipends at all trainee levels and a $1,000 increase in the Training Related Expenses and the Institutional Allowance for postdoctoral trainees and fellows. The NIH also posted a notice on NIH-wide FY 2019 budget policies, summarized in an NIH Extramural News post, including a continuation of FY 2018 awards at their original commitment level, a prioritization of support for early-stage career investigators, and a salary limit of $189,600.

PLOS One: Publications as Predictors of Racial and Ethnic Differences in NIH Awards
A PLOS One article analyzes the racial and ethnic disparities in the awarding of NIH grants. An “applicant’s publication history as reported in the NIH biographical sketch and the associated bibliometrics narrowed the black/white funding gap for new and experienced investigators in explanatory models,” the authors find, adding that black applicants reported fewer publications in their biosketches, for example. As reported in Science, the study explains approximately a quarter of the gap in the discrepancy for funding these scientists, but does not account for the entire gap.

OSTP Releases Report on STEM Education
The White House Office of Science and Technology’s (OSTP) Committee on Stem Education December 4 released a report “Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education,” which “presents the Federal Government’s five-year strategic plan for STEM education, based on a vision for a future where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment.” To achieve this, the report sets three goals: 1) build strong foundations for STEM, 2) increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, and 3) prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future. The National Science Foundation announced its support of the White House plan and is partnering with other federal agencies to expand its INCLUDES National Network with the goal of making a lasting impact on diversifying the STEM workforce of the future.

NIH Releases Data Book Update
The NIH released this month its on-line Data Book, providing summary statistics on extramural grants and contract awards, grant applications, organizations that NIH supports, trainees and fellows supported through NIH programs, and the national biomedical workforce. The site also provides an FAQ about the data book and links to books from previous years.

NIH Explains Efforts to Protect the Integrity of NIH-funded Research
In an Open Mike blog post, Mike Lauer, MD, NIH deputy director of extramural research, describes the steps NIH is taking against research misconduct, including the recent NIH notice on institutional reporting. The post links to an NIH video “Working Together to Promote Research Integrity.” The NIH also announced that it is providing a new financial conflict of interest training module, which NIH-funded investigators will be required to complete “prior to engaging in NIH-supported research and at least every four years.”

Open Mike: Changes to the R15 AREA Program and Introducing the R15 REAP Program
An Open Mike blog post explains that the NIH’s R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA), which traditionally supports undergraduate and graduate students at institutions that receive little NIH funding, is being restructured. The R15 AREA award will support undergraduate students only, and a new award, the R15 Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP), will support “graduate schools of arts and sciences and health professional schools that grant baccalaureate or advanced degrees.”

NIH Statement on Claim of First Gene-Edited Babies by Chinese Researcher
The NIH expressed deep concern over claims of Chinese scientist He Jiankui, PhD, that he used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit human embryos, targeting a cell membrane protein that allows HIV to enter cells in an effort to prevent future HIV infection, resulting in the birth of twin girls. The NIH concerns included that the work “was largely carried out in secret, the medical necessity for inactivation of CCR5 in these infants is utterly unconvincing, the informed consent process appears highly questionable, and the possibility of damaging off-target effects has not been satisfactorily explored.”

IHE: Proposed Rule Benefits Advanced Degree Holders Seeking H-1Bs
An Inside Higher Ed article reports on a proposed rule change that will likely make it “easier for advanced degree holders from US universities to get H-1B skilled worker visas.” The H-1B visa recipients are chosen by lottery, and by changing the rules of the lottery system, the Trump administration predicts that the number of advanced degree holders from US institutions receiving H-1B visas will increase by 16%. Comments on the proposed rule are due January 2, 2019.

AAMC/FASEB Hosting Webinar on NAS Graduate STEM Ed Report
AAMC and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) are hosting the second webinar in their 2018 National Academies reports webinar series. Study director Layne Scherer, of the National Academies, will unpack the key findings of the report “Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century,” focusing on two essential recommendations: 1) creating an incentive structure that supports quality mentoring and 2) building an institutional culture that values a full array of careers in the biomedical and medical workforce. This webinar will also feature examples of institutional implementation of these recommendations. The webinar is being held on December 17, 1:00-2:00 PM ET and free registration is required. The video for the first webinar, which provides an introduction to the National Academies and overviews of the five reports in the series, is available here.

Reminder: NPA Hosting Webinar Series for Newer Postdoc Administrators
The National Postdoc Association is hosting a webinar series on topics relevant to newer postdoc administrators. The next webinar, “To Be (a Postdoc), or Not To Be? Choosing the Next Step After Your Ph.D." will be held December 5 from 1:00-2:00 PM ET.

Nature: Stop Exploitation of Foreign Postdocs in the United States
An editorial in Nature uses data from an October study in Research Policy, for which researchers interviewed 97 postdocs and others from 5 major US research institutions in 2016-2017, to examine the conditions of foreign postdoctoral researchers in the US, who are dependent on their PIs for the continuation of their visas. These postdoctoral researchers are often forced to “to work longer hours and endure unacceptable conditions.” The article argues that such exploitation is “unacceptable” and “must stop.”

Recent Articles on Mental Health
Several recent articles address the issue of mental health in research. An article in Nature describes a Francis Crick Institute in London investigator’s volunteer role as a “mental-health first-aider.” A sociology PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin Madison shares why she finds disclosing her own mental health issues to her students empowering in Inside Higher Ed. A PhD candidate studying environmental science explains in a Chronicle of Higher Ed article that graduate school should be challenging, not traumatic, and what makes the difference between those two situations. And in Nature, a PI argues that, “the key to running a healthy and productive lab can be summarized in a single word: happiness” and gives advice on maintaining a nurturing and collaborative environment.

Quick Links
Science: Beyond Hierarchical One-on-One Mentoring

IHE: Breaking Down Diversity Statements

Nature Ecology & Evolution: How the Entire Scientific Community Can Confront Gender Bias in the Workplace

IHE: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Nature: First Law of Leadership- Be Human First, Scientist Second

IHE: Disabled in Graduate School - Mentorship, Complicated

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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.