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January 2018
NIH Considers Next Generation Researchers Initiative Recommendations

IDSA continues to collaborate with National Institutes of Health on efforts to strengthen the infectious diseases physician-scientist workforce. Leadership from IDSA, HIVMA, and PIDS last month discussed ID implementation and evaluation considerations for the Next Generation Researchers Initiative with Michael Lauer, MD, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research. Topics included: challenges facing ID physician-scientists during training, early career hurdles, and potential improvements to new and existing NIH programs. Society leadership expressed an interest in maximizing opportunities for ID physician-scientists under the policy and a continued willingness to partner with NIH.

At the December 15 NIH Advisory Committee to the Director meeting, the NGRI Working Group presented an overview of its work to date and outlined challenges and next steps. Several members expressed concern with NIH’s existing plan to allocate 400 additional grants per year for Early Stage and Early Established Investigators, as they believed that the definitions for each were arbitrary and risked excluding investigators who missed the cutoff due to life events (such as childbirth or extraprofessional obligations). In response, Principal Deputy Director, Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, noted that while NIH is still aiming for 400 additional grants to younger and at-risk investigators this year, the agency will work to prioritize those investigators in “at risk” groups regardless of their designated status.

In its work since June, the Working Group has emphasized the need for predictive models that captures investigators at risk and has begun discussing evidence-based metrics for research productivity. Current policy goals include:

  • Protecting junior investigators for the future of the research workforce;
  • Stabilizing career trajectories of successful and productive mid-career investigators;
  • Understanding and mitigating unintended consequences;
  • Proposing rigorously vetted, evidence-based polices;
  • Designing robust mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and re-evaluation of policies.

Members expressed concern that there are no additional funds to implement the NGRI, potentially undermining the Initiative’s ability to succeed. IDSA will continue to advocate for increased NIH funding at the congressional level to help secure the future of the biomedical research workforce.

The Working Group’s goal is to provide recommendations that will enable sustainable implementation of the NGRI across all NIH Institutes and Centers. It will provide interim recommendations to the ACD in June 2018, followed by a final report in December. IDSA will continue to work with NIH to help inform their efforts to secure and optimize the ID physician-scientist workforce.

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