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Friday, February 19, 2016

BioArt Winners on Display at NIH

The winning images of the 2015 BioArt contest are now on display at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Visitor's Center in the Hall of Nobel Laureates. The BioArt competition—sponsored by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)—features visually compelling research images and videos produced by members of FASEB constituent societies and other federally funded researchers. Through this annual contest, FASEB seeks to share the beauty and excitement of biological research with the public. The images highlight the diversity of bioscience research and demonstrate the importance of federal support.

This is the fourth year FASEB BioArt winning images have been displayed at NIH. More information about the NIH Visitor Center, including directions and hours of operation, can be found online.
URL: http://www.faseb.org/

Contact Person: Bethany Drehman (bdrehman@faseb.org)

House Passes Controversial NSF Grant Certification Bill

On February 10, the House of Representatives passed Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) by margin of 236-178 along a nearly party-line vote. The bill would place new, stricter requirements on the grant-making processes at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Specifically, the legislation mandates that the Foundation certify each grant to be "worthy of Federal funding" and fulfill other specific criteria in order to be awarded. The House passed legislation with similar requirements for NSF in May in the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806)

In response to the bill's passage, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating the President's intention to veto the bill should it be presented to him. John Holdren, PhD, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, also issued a comment strongly criticizing the legislation for the potential harm it could inflict on the nation's scientific enterprise. Holdren offered an eloquent defense of NSF's existing merit review processes and the fundamental importance of basic research funded by NSF.

The Senate has yet to take up a version of the COMPETES bill or any similar legislation.
URL: http://www.faseb.org/

Contact Person: Benjamin Krinsky (bkrinsky@faseb.org)

BioPolicy Summit Explores Solutions to Reproducibility Concerns

On February 9, the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) hosted its second BioPolicy Summit, Research Reproducibility: Innovative Solutions to Drive Quality. The summit convened experts in the scientific community to explore ways to resolve ongoing concerns about the reproducibility of basic biomedical research.

Keynote speaker Judith Kimble, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, began the event by describing recent reports that raised concerns about the reproducibility and translatability of research. Noting that the inability to reproduce a research finding could result from several factors, including poor experimental design, mislabeled reagents, or insufficient reporting of methods, Dr. Kimble stated that problems with reproducibility bear hidden costs in terms of delayed or lost scientific opportunities and declining public confidence in the research enterprise. Therefore, Dr. Kimble noted it is critical that all stakeholders in the biomedical research enterprise work together to implement solutions to improve the reproducibility, transparency, and translatability of basic biological discoveries.

The keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Richard Harris, science correspondent for NPR news. Panelists included Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins University), Amy Herr, PhD (University of California-Berkeley), Josh LaBaer, MD, PhD (Arizona State University), Brian Nosek, PhD (University of Virginia), and Timothy Simcoe, PhD (Boston University and National Bureau of Economic Research). Much of the discussion focused on ways to alleviate the negative effects of the current hyper-competitive research environment, in which the pressures to procure federal funding and publish research findings in "high impact" journals may result in the premature sharing of research results. Panelists agreed that many of the common issues identified as reducing the reproducibility of research can easily be addressed through more stringent training of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in experimental design, analytical methods, and critical revi ew. Similarly, they said the research community needs to place value on efforts intended to enhance reproducibility and transparency.

To encourage this latter point, GBSI introduced Reproducibility2020, an action plan intended to improve awareness of reagent authentication, enhance protocol and data sharing, and enrich the training of scientists.
URL: http://www.faseb.org/

Contact Person: Yvette Seger (yseger@faseb.org)

ASBMR Capitol Hill Day Assisted by FASEB Office of Public Affairs

Not even "Snowzilla" could stop leaders from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) from advocating on Capitol Hill for sustained and predictable increases to NIH funding on Wednesday, January 27. ASBMR President Douglas P. Kiel, MD, MPH lauded the Hill Day experience, saying, "Today was further evidence that a personal commitment to advocacy is crucial to attach a face to the important, life-saving research we do, so that our policy makers and the general public remember the significance of supporting scientists."

The success of this Hill Day was made possible by a collaborative effort between ASBMR and the FASEB Public Affairs Department to plan the event. Jennifer Zeitzer, Director of Legislative Relations at FASEB, worked with ASBMR staff to identify and schedule meetings with key members of Congress and to develop messages and materials. On the morning of the event, Yvette Seger, PhD, Science Policy Director at FASEB, provided training for the ASBMR leaders.

ASBMR leaders held a total of 25 meetings with elected officials representing nine states and eight congressional districts. They communicated the need to solve the health problems facing the American public through research and for access to testing that will save the lives of people with osteoporosis, thanks to the training provided by Seger and a motivational presentation by Research!America President and CEO, Mary Woolley.

Their message was clear: Sustainable and predictable increases to NIH funding for FY2017 and beyond are needed to ensure its authority as the world's preeminent medical research institution, and for NIH to remain our best hope for finding cures, improving treatments, and gaining a better understanding of the complex causes of diseases that affect millions of Americans.

During the Hill Day wrap-up, ASBMR leaders expressed their enthusiasm about the opportunity to advocate for biomedical research on Capitol Hill and their dedication to maintain communication with their representatives to follow up with additional information on current bone, mineral and musculoskeletal research. ASBMR's Executive Director, Ann L. Elderkin, PA, noted that "FASEB's assistance was invaluable to ASBMR to be able to carry a consistent message to Capitol Hill that FASEB and its member societies are also carrying, making the sum of these efforts to be far greater than what ASBMR could do on its own."

Lynn Mirigian, PhD, is the Clinical Practice and Science Policy Manager at ASBMR.

About ASBMR
The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) is the leading professional, scientific and medical society established to bring together clinical and experimental scientists involved in the study of bone and mineral metabolism. ASBMR encourages and promotes the study of this expanding field through annual scientific meetings, an official journal (Journal of Bone and Mineral Research®), the Primer on Metabolic Bone Diseases and Disorders of Mineral
URL: http://www.faseb.org/

Contact Person: Lynn Mirigian (asbmr@asbmr.org)

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Expand Opportunities for Young Researchers

Legislation to improve career opportunities for young researchers moved forward last week as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved the Next Generation Researchers Act (S 2014) co-authored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

The bill instructs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a "Next Generation Research Initiative" to coordinate NIH policies and programs aimed at promoting and providing opportunities for new researchers. Under the Initiative, all existing efforts within NIH to help early-stage investigators secure grant funding—including the Pathway to Independence Awards and the NIH Director's New Innovator Awards—would continue, and new policies to improve mentorship and workforce data collection would be implemented.

In addition, NIH must consider recommendations from a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences report evaluating factors affecting early-stage/new investigators' ability to enter the biomedical research workforce. A provision to expand NIH's loan repayment programs was added to the bill as recommended by the Physician-Scientist Working Group and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in its "Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences" report. FASEB endorsed the Next Generation Researchers Act and was mentioned by Senator Collins during the committee's consideration of the legislation and in a press release issued by Baldwin and Collins.

Senator Baldwin introduced the bill in 2013 after touring the NIH campus, meeting with NIH Director Francis Collins, and speaking with faculty and students at the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research. "This bipartisan legislation demonstrates a commitment to our future scientists by improving their opportunities at NIH and builds off Wisconsin's proud tradition of being a leader in this field," she said following the HELP Committee's action.

The introduction of the Next Generation Research Act continues Senator Baldwin's long-standing efforts to strengthen the federal commitment to NIH. She also has a personal connection to research—her grandfather previously ran a lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her aunt is a researcher.
URL: http://www.faseb.org/

Contact Person: Jennifer Zeitzer (jzeitzer@faseb.org)

AmazonSmile Foundation supports ISCB

The International Society For Computational Biology recently received a small donation from the AmazonSmile Foundation as a result of AmazonSmile program activity during the last quarter of 2015.

Through AmazonSmile you can increase ISCB\\\'s donation potential by spreading the word about AmazonSmile. Did you know that your AmazonSmile shopping can support ISCB?

Check out http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-2093854 and bookmark this link and share with your friends, family, and co-workers so all your eligible shopping will benefit ISCB.

Thank you for your participation in the AmazonSmile program!
URL: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-2093854

Contact Person: Suzi Smith (admin@iscb.org)

Friday, February 5, 2016

NSF report shows growth in global R&D spending

On February 1, the National Science Board (NSB) announced the release of the 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) report at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The report, which is updated every two years, details the state of the nation's scientific enterprise, including research and development (R&D) spending; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; the scientific workforce; and public perceptions of science.

The data show R&D spending accelerated worldwide, particularly in Asia. Countries in South, Southeast, and East Asia accounted for approximately $680 billion or 40 percent of global R&D activity in 2013. The United States led global R&D investment in 2013. Private and public R&D spending in the United States totaled $456 billion dollars in 2013, accounting for 27 percent of global R&D expenditures.

Despite its lead role in the global market, the report also noted that the federal commitment to R&D has wavered in the United States over the last few years. Although federal R&D spending increased through the first decade of the 21st century, SEI data indicated that there was an 11 percent current-dollar decline from fiscal years 2010 to 2014.

This has particular relevance to academic researchers because the federal government is the largest supporter (encompassing 47 percent) of all US basic research. The causes of this recent funding decline are manifold and include the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , the implementation of the Budget Control Act , and other pressures on the federal discretionary budget.
URL: http://washingtonupdate.faseb.org/nsf-report-shows-growth-in-global-rd-spending/

Contact Person: Benjamin Krinsky (opa@faseb.org)

Updates on MIRA and reproducibility at NIGMS advisory council

During the public session of its January 29 meeting, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council heard updates on several National Institutes of Health (NIH)-wide and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)-specific initiatives. They also discussed the findings of several program assessments.

NIGMS Director, Jon Lorsch, PhD, began the meeting with an update on the first round of applications for the Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA), a pilot funding mechanism introduced last year that provides support for an investigator's overall research program rather than a specific project. For this pilot, applications were limited to established investigators with two or more R01 (or equivalent) grants from NIGMS and support due to expire in Fiscal Years 2016 or 2017. Institute leaders were pleased with the response to this funding opportunity, with 25 percent of the 710 eligible investigators submitting applications. Applications were reviewed by four review panels based on broad scientific area. Reviewers received extensive training on the purpose and goals of the MIRA program as well as implicit bias prior to reviewing proposals. A second MIRA pilot that focuses on early career investigators received 326 applications. NIGMS is working with the NIH Center for Scientific Review to conduct the review of those applications in March. Dr. Lorsch noted that NIGMS plans to reissue the funding opportunity this year and hopefully expand eligibility soon.

Council member Jean Schwarzbauer, PhD, provided a brief overview of the September 2015 Workshop on Reproducibility in Cell Culture Studies. The workshop focused on three key themes—reproducibility, replicability, and transparency—in research using cell cultures. Panelists identified five key areas to address: cell lines, cell culturing methods, materials and reagents, research records, and experimental design. Workshop and subsequent discussions are being used to develop a comprehensive report and recommendations that will review best practices for cell line authentication, training and education needs, and reporting expectations for publications and grant applications.

The meeting concluded with presentations of several program assessments for the Council's consideration. The first was an analysis of the National Centers for Systems Biology (NCSB) program, which was established in 2004 and funded through the P50 grant mechanism. Another presentation compared the outcomes of Program Project grants (P01s) to those of single-investigator and multi-investigator R01 grants using bibliometric and other measures. An additional analysis used Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms to examine the research outputs of investigators funded by the MERIT (R37) program. Dr. Lorsch stated that the findings from these evaluations would be used by NIGMS leadership to inform future planning of NIGMS's research portfolio.

The webcast of the public session can be viewed online.
URL: http://washingtonupdate.faseb.org/updates-on-mira-and-reproducibility-at-nigms-advisory-council/

Contact Person: Yvette Seger (opa@faseb.org)

Inside the Beltway Scoop

Members of Congress will turn their attention to fiscal year (FY) 2017 when President Barack Obama sends his proposed budget to Capitol Hill on February 9. The administration's request is expected to include more details about initiatives for federal agencies next year, including an effort to rapidly accelerate cancer research.

Following the submission of the Obama budget, lawmakers will begin working on their respective budget resolutions, which will outline overall spending priorities for FY 2017. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) confirmed the House will consider a budget resolution in early March that adheres to the $30 billion increase in discretionary spending Congress approved last October. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) announced that his panel will also produce a budget blueprint after previously saying he was not sure whether they would be able to do so.

Appropriators are also moving forward with plans to start consideration of the 12 individual spending bills in late March. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee announced the following deadlines for members of Congress to submit funding requests for specific agencies and programs:
Agency Deadline
National Institutes of Health

funded by Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill
March 24
National Science Foundation

funded by Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill
March 23
Department of Energy Office of Science

funded by Energy & Water Appropriations bill
March 15
Veterans Administration Medical Research Program

funded by Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill
March 1
Agriculture & Food Research Initiative and Agricultural Research Service

funded by Agriculture Appropriations bill
March 15

In other news, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that rather than passing a single piece of legislation similar to the 21st Century Cures Act adopted by the House in 2015, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will consider several smaller health-related bills over the next few months. In February, the committee will vote on measures concerning electronic medical records, rare diseases, medical devices, neurological research, and a proposal from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to improve career prospects for young researchers. On March 9, the panel is expected to debate a bill to "ensure that the NIH (National Institutes of Health) has the tools it needs to research treatments that are individualized for patients." This legislation has not been introduced yet. It is not clear what issues the HELP Committee will tackle at a meeting scheduled for April 6.
URL: http://washingtonupdate.faseb.org/inside-the-beltway-scoop-48/

Contact Person: Jennifer Zeitzer (opa@faseb.org)

FASEB raises concerns about purchase threshold

In a letter to White House Office Management and Budget (OMB) (http://washingtonupdate.faseb.org/faseb-raises-concerns-about-purchase-threshold/) Controller David Mader, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) expressed concerns regarding new purchase limitations.

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (2 CFR part 200) introduced a threshold of $3,000 for "micro-purchases," goods and services that can be purchased with minimal administrative burden. Purchases above this dollar value would require additional documentation of comparative rates from other vendors.

FASEB's letter builds upon concerns raised in a January 20, 2016 letter from the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) and other signatories suggesting the $3,000 threshold is too stringent. Many institutions and states already set micro-purchases at $5,000 or $10,000. Reducing the micro-purchase threshold will delay the acquisition of research materials and slow the progress of research while adding administrative burden and processing costs.

In addition to the core concerns regarding additional costs and pace of research, FASEB refers to analysis by the Federal Demonstration Project that indicates that the new threshold will not result in large savings. In a sample of 55 institutions, micro-purchase transactions accounted for only 26 percent of total procurements funds. The majority of these transactions were less than $10,000. Therefore, FASEB strongly recommended that OMB use existing institutional data to determine micro-purchase thresholds that would ensure appropriate oversight of federal funds while keeping administrative burdens to a minimum.
URL: http://washingtonupdate.faseb.org/faseb-raises-concerns-about-purchase-threshold/

Contact Person: Yvette Seger (opa@faseb.org)