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December 12, 2012

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD)  announced implementation plans for certain recommendations made by the ACD Biomedical Workforce Working Group in June 2012.

An NIH news release summarized the plan for recommendations directly impacting the biomedical postdoctoral community:

  • Enhance training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers:
    • through a grants program that would support innovative approaches to complement traditional research training
    • by encouraging the adoption of individual development plans for all trainees
  • Explore increased support for training mechanisms designed to accelerate the development of independent research careers, including NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) and Early Independence Awards.
  • Increase emphasis on ongoing assessment of the biomedical research workforce, including a proposed follow-up study on clinician scientists.
  • Identify and track more comprehensively all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH to provide a sound basis for assessing workforce needs and planning future training activities. More comprehensive career outcomes data also would help to inform prospective graduate students and postdoctoral researchers contemplating careers in biomedical research.

One recommendation not included in the implementation plans was to increase the proportion of postdoctoral researchers supported by training grants and fellowships and reduce the number supported by research project grants, without increasing the overall number of postdoctoral researchers. It was also not clear whether the use of the IDP would be required or encouraged.

The news release also noted plans for increasing diversity in the biomedical workforce:

  • Launch a new NIH program called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) intended to provide rigorous mentored research experiences for undergraduate students at participating schools; financial support to pursue biomedical research careers; faculty support for training highly effective mentors; and innovation space to develop new approaches for increasing diversity in the Ph.D. training pathway.
  • Establish a National Research Mentoring Network to connect students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty with experienced mentors; develop standards of good mentorship in biomedical research; and provide workshops and training opportunities in grantsmanship, among other goals.
  • Promote fairness in peer review through interventions including implicit bias and diversity awareness training for both scientific review officers and members of review panels, and piloting a program that would make grant applications completely anonymous.
  • Increase engagement of NIH leadership by:
    • recruiting a chief diversity officer to coordinate NIH initiatives designed to enhance the diversity of the NIH-funded workforce
    • establishing an NIH steering committee working group on diversity to help ensure that diversity remains a core consideration of NIH governance.

To read the recommendations presented in June, follow this link.

To read the NPA's response to the group's request for information, download it here: NPA Response to the NIH Biomedical Working Group, NOT-OD-11-106-3 (Oct. 7, 2011)



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