On June 8th and 9th the National Institutes of Health Advisory Council to the Director will meet. On the afternoon of the first day, the Grant Support Index (GSI, which is being used with reference to the proposed cap on NIH funding), will be discussed. Given the intense debate about the new NIH grant cap proposed that occurred at the NIH Council of Councils recently it is very important to make sure that all voices are heard in this discussion.
The voices that the NIH are most likely to hear from on these issues are the ones with the largest megaphones, including the very people who may already are above the cap, and the few institutions that support large numbers of these investigators. We at Future of Research think it is vitally important that NIH hears from all NIH-funded, or potentially NIH-funded, investigators and researchers, including early career researchers. We are asking you to let the NIH know what you think in at least one, but preferably ALL, of the following ways, before June 8:
- Send a letter (we provide a template below which you are free to edit as you see fit) to:
- Francis Collins: francis.collins[at]nih.gov
- Lawrence Tabak: lawrence.tabak[at]nih.gov
- Michael Lauer: michael.lauer[at]nih.gov
- The director of your specific institute(s), if applicable
- Comment on the NIH blog post.
- Send comments to info[at]futureofresearch.org if you think there are points we should consider for the statement we are drafting.
- If you are in DC June 8th, consider attending the open session at the Advisory Council to the Director’s meeting to express your opinion. The GSI will be discussed at 1pm on Thursday June 8th (and it is worth staying for all discussions in the entire afternoon session). The entire session is apparently open and there is no need to register. If you want to go, please contact info[at]futureofresearch.org and we will organize a call with those interested to discuss, on June 7th.
We will issue a statement early next week ourselves, to send to NIH leadership at all institutes. If you can’t attend the meeting at NIH in person, the videocast links will go up on the day at http://acd.od.nih.gov/
To: Francis Collins (francis.collins[at]nih.gov), Lawrence Tabak (lawrence.tabak[at]nih.gov), Michael Lauer (michael.lauer[at]nih.gov), INSTITUTE DIRECTOR
Subject: Support for the Grant Support Index (GSI)
I am a [CAREER STAGE e.g. early career, mid-career, postdoc, graduate student] scientist supported by [INSERT SPECIFIC INSTITUTE IF APPROPRIATE/]NIH, writing to express my support for limiting grant support by implementing the Grant Support Index (GSI): https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/new-nih-approach-grant-funding-aimed-optimizing-stewardship-taxpayer-dollars.
I understand that you have been likely receiving significant negative criticism of this policy proposal from well-supported primary investigators. However, you may not be hearing from another, just as important and more numerous, population of research scientists: [SUGGESTED TEXT, MODIFY AS APPROPRIATE: “early and mid-career investigators with one, maybe two R01s, who constantly feel like we exist at the cusp of disaster with every grant submission/renewal” OR “graduate students and postdocs who are being dissuaded from pursuing academic careers by the funding situation ahead of us”]. We are also in danger of leaving research science in the US (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/nih-scales-back-plan-curb-support-big-labs-after-hearing-concerns), with far fewer options than well-supported PIs. And while participation in scientific research should not necessarily be a guarantee of funding, we also perform exciting research that has the potential to transform how we think about biology. However, we may either not have the extensive track-record or receive the benefit of the doubt in study sections to consistently receive competitive scores. While this may not be so hazardous during times of largesse, these weaknesses become magnified and dangerous during times of scarcity.
I have some concerns about the program as currently outlined. [SUGGESTION: “Assigning points for being a PI on training grants seems punitive and I would ask that you ensure that no points are assigned for these mechanisms. Also, how points are partitioned for multi-PI grants may discourage collaboration”.] However, on the whole, I wanted to write and express my support of a policy that seems to be focused on maintaining a diverse and vibrant ensemble of scientists involved in the biomedical scientific enterprise.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration.
Many thanks to Dr. Needhi Bhalla, Associate Professor at University of California Santa Cruz, for providing her letter to NIH for use in our template.