U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting on foreign influences highlights federal agency urgency without clarity

U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting on foreign influences highlights federal agency urgency without clarity

On Wednesday, the United States Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Foreign Threats to Taxpayer – Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions. The webpage includes a video of the session (which begins approximately 30 mins in) and written testimonies from panelists in attendance. We are preparing a statement to submit to the Committee as part of the testimony – if you have points you would like us to raise or would like to provide input, please contact info@futureofresearch.org   The hearing sought to discuss, particularly with responsive federal agencies, four main issues related to taxpayer research as laid out by the Committee Chair, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): 1) the failure to disclose receipt of foreign contributions 2) espionage – or in the words of Senator Grassley, “some researchers are spies”; 3) vetting of researchers – that the federal government does not vet researchers, and neither do institutions; and 4) integrity – addressing the discovery that some peer reviewers have shared confidential grant information.   Testimony in the first panel was heard from representatives of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Homeland Security, to answer “does the government have the capability to detect and counter these threats?” and discuss legislative and policy solutions to address the issue. Senator Grassley pointed out that the Counterintelligence unit at the FBI had declined to attend and had not explained why. A second panel consisted of a representative from the academic community.   We attempted to capture the discussion in a series of tweets, but some key points appeared to emerge. China, Iran and Russia were...
U.S. Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Foreign Influences in Research: Wednesday June 5th 9.45am Eastern

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Foreign Influences in Research: Wednesday June 5th 9.45am Eastern

On Wednesday June 5th at 9.45am Eastern, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “Foreign Threats to Taxpayer – Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions“.   This is part of the growing discussion about threats to research from foreign nations. NIH and institutions that it funds have recently come under scrutiny for their attempts to deal with these concerns, and the recent removal of five ethnicially Chinese researchers from 2 institutions (see “Chinese American scientists uneasy amid crackdown on foreign influence” in Nature from June 3).   You can watch the proceedings here or follow the @FORsymp twitter account which will tweet about it using #foreignresearch – we will also post a summary of the discussion (details of the schedule are at the end of this post).   Future of Research will then submit a statement for the record for the committee – if you have anything you would like us to highlight or discuss, or bring to our attention, please email info@futureofresearch.org   The Federation of American Scientists is facilitating submission of statements to the committee for the record: “To help the debate during the hearing be balanced, the Congressional Science Policy Initiative at FAS is submitting testimonials from the science community to the Committee regarding the critical contributions of foreign-born researchers to US competitiveness. We will also submit the testimonials we’ve received for the record. If you wish to also submit a statement for the record, email it to us, and we will get it to the Committee.” Note the guidance on submitting a statement: “Any individual or organization wanting to present their...
Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

The Board of Directors at Future of Research has been preparing a response to the Request for Information (RFI): Institutional Accountability to Promote Inclusive Excellence (Notice Number: NOT-RM-19-001) issued recently by the National Institutes of Health, and due by June 14th 2019. However we are looking for additional input from those wishing to help us with their thoughts and critiques.   We are looking for help not only in the form of others submitting comments, but also in helping to craft our response. In promoting the call for responses, we experienced a great deal of frustration from the community – which we share – about the constant discussion about such issues without any concrete actions. We’d like to try to give voice to those frustrations, and channel it into some concrete push for action, if possible.   Therefore we have placed out draft response to questions below; we plan to do more work on preparing a final response for next week. We would be extremely grateful for any criticism you have – you can comments on this post, on social media, or email info@futureofresearch.org, and we are happy to give voice to frustrations you have, particularly if you would not feel comfortable making such comments yourself. Ultimately we hope to provide information that compels NIH to ultimately take action, and particularly to recognize the power that it has to compel institutions to do so.   In summary, NIH is looking for the following information: “Information Requested NIH seeks input from key extramural community stakeholders, including academic institutional leadership, biomedical faculty, and interested members of the public on strategies to...
Future of Research issues response to NIH RFI on need for an Administrative Data Enclave

Future of Research issues response to NIH RFI on need for an Administrative Data Enclave

The NIH recently issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on the need for an administrative data enclave. The RFI is here and a blogpost related to the RFI is here. Given the lack of information about the NIH-funded workforce, and particularly the non-investigator workforce it supports, we have submitted a response, detailed below the text for the RFI copied below. RFI Purpose The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of the Director, Office of Extramural Research (OER) issues this Request for Information (RFI) to gauge interest in NIH expending funds to develop, host, and maintain a secure environment (data enclave) that would allow approved research organizations-controlled access to structured, de-identifiable NIH administrative and scientific information not made available to the public. (NOT-OD-19-085) Background The NIH is committed to transparency about its research investments and currently makes grant award information available to stakeholders (e.g. grantee institutions, researchers, professional organizations, the public) through web-based self-service tools. Currently RePORTER provides the public a searchable public repository of NIH-funded projects, and ExPORTER provides bulk files on funded projects for download. These tools contain non-sensitive information on NIH funded projects, including the institutions and principal investigators funded by NIH, with project abstracts and basic administrative data on those grant awards. In recent years NIH has noted an increasing demand for access to sensitive information collected via the grants process. Such data includes information on peer review outcomes, progress reports, as well as, demographic information such as age range, sex/gender, race and ethnicity of individuals listed in NIH grant applications, etc. A recent report released by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director...
NIH to discuss Next Generation of Researchers, and Sexual Harassment, today (Dec 13th)

NIH to discuss Next Generation of Researchers, and Sexual Harassment, today (Dec 13th)

Today in the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NIH will report out the results from the Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group (mandated by Congress, responding to the National Academies recommendations in the “Breaking Through” Report). This will happen at 2 pm Eastern. The NIH will also discuss their plans regarding sexual harassment, responding to another National Academies report from 3.45 pm to 4.45 pm Eastern. The agenda is here, and you can watch live here. They will also be archived. FoR ED Gary McDowell will live-tweet the session on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative on Twitter from @FORsymp (follow #NGRI), and the sessions addressing sexual harassment from @MeTooSTEM (follow #MeTooSTEM). Both will also use the hashtag #NIHACD....
New publication: Assessing the landscape of postdoc salaries in 2016

New publication: Assessing the landscape of postdoc salaries in 2016

A plot of the National Institutes of Health’s National Research Service Awards Year 0 stipend by Financial Year. Also includes a comparison of salaries with their approximate value in 2017, using the Personal Consumer Expenditure Index.   In 2016, the very earliest days of Future of Research’s existence as a nonprofit were dominated by the announcement of updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and in particular how that would effectively raise postdoc salaries to $47,476 on December 1st 2016.   The birth – and death – of this update to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and how it was being implemented at institutions, occupied much of our attention, and is summarized in our publication Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act. But even though the update was ultimately not implemented, the academic research system largely went ahead with changes to institutional policies to raise recommended postdoc salaries.   We were however aware of the issue that institutions vary significantly in their ability to count, and presumably, identify postdocs. This led us to ask a number of questions:   If institutions are unable to count their postdocs, and presumably are not overseeing them, do all postdocs receive the salaries set out in an institution’s policy? How strong is the relationship between the National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award stipends (which affect only 15% of graduate students and postdocs funded by NIH, which is not the only funder of postdocs) and what postdocs are getting paid? Are there any factors affecting salary, such as location, gender, or job title?   We therefore began...