Request for Information (RFI): Inviting Comments and Suggestions on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Biomedical Research Workforce

Notice Number: NOT-OD-13-045

Key Dates
Release Date: February 21, 2013  
Response Date:  April 22, 2013

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Purpose

This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) inviting comments and suggestions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) Working Group on the Biomedical Research Workforce.

Background

In December 2010, the NIH Director charged a working group of the ACD with examining the future of the biomedical research workforce in the United States. The Working Group was asked to recommend actions to the ACD to ensure a sustainable biomedical and behavioral research workforce.  Together with a modeling sub-committee composed mainly of social scientists who study the labor force, the group defined the major issues facing the biomedical research workforce, gathered data on the current workforce, heard from multiple stakeholders, and solicited input on the major issues from the public through a Request for Information (RFI) (NOT-OD-11-106).

The findings and conclusions of the Working Group were presented to the ACD in June 2012 at a federal advisory committee meeting open to the public. The presentation included a snapshot of the current biomedical research workforce, as well as recommendations to the ACD about the training of graduate students and postdoctorates.  In addition, the report identified ways to improve and maintain a robust data collection on the biomedical research workforce to provide accurate information to those in the field and those thinking about joining it. An accompanying website presented the data collected by the Working Group.

NIH Leadership considered the recommendations and developed preliminary plans for their implementation which were presented to the ACD in a meeting open to the public in December 2012. NIH is moving forward with implementation and through this Notice is requesting input to inform the implementation plans in the following areas:

  • Developing Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for those in graduate and postdoctoral training supported by NIH funds from any source.  NIH is seeking input about how institutions could include IDPs in their policies and procedures to help tailor the training experiences for each student and postdoc. Also of interest are methods by which institutions would indicate adherence to these practices to NIH.


  • Encouraging timely completion of doctoral study by establishing expected limits on the length of time NIH will provide support for graduate students.  The Working Group felt that graduate training leading to the doctorate in general should last less than 6 years.  To inform this recommendation, it is important to consider how institutions currently monitor graduate student support and time to degree, as well as to better understand challenges to potential reductions in the duration of training, and strategies that may mitigate the effects of such changes.
  • Providing more uniform benefit packages for postdoctorates, which might include health insurance, contributions to a retirement plan, sick leave, etc.   Information about the benefits currently provided to postdoctorates supported through NIH research grants, as well as those supported by NIH training grants and fellowships, would be useful in formulating implementation strategies for this recommendation.
  • Developing a system for gathering information about individuals receiving NIH support for their training.  One option the implementation team is considering is to incorporate graduate students into the eRA Commons.  In addition, the ongoing Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) project that will permit the development of a Federal-wide researcher profile also may be useful in implementing this recommendation, particularly through gathering information on individuals who are no longer in the NIH system.  If NIH were to develop an electronic system for capturing information on graduate students, what challenges could impede providing high-quality data?
  • Reporting by institutions of aggregate career outcomes of graduate students and postdoctorates on a public web site.  Institutions have a number of ways of communicating the success of their programs. NIH is interested in assessing the willingness of institutions to participate in this effort and hearing strategies that would facilitate some standardization of this approach. The goals of these strategies would be to ensure that career outcomes are noted for all trainees, so that individuals contemplating biomedical research training and selecting a training institution would have access to current information about the career outcomes of students and postdoctorates from those institutions.
  • Considering  the following in training grant applications:
    • A range of career outcomes as indicators of success.
    • Outcomes of training for all graduate students and postdoctorates in relevant programs, whether or not they are supported by the training grant.

In developing policies and procedures for implementing these recommendations in the context of the current review process, it will be important to receive input about what types of careers should be considered a successful outcome.  Also, input would be welcomed as to which students and postdoctoral fellows at an institution should be considered as participating in programs relevant to a particular training grant should be included in training grant reports.

  • Launching a dialogue with the extramural biomedical research community to assess the construct of NIH support of the biomedical community, including faculty salaries.  The implementation team currently is considering what types of data should be gathered to inform this dialogue, and would appreciate input from the community.  In addition, the community’s experience with the recent decrease in the rate at which NIH can pay individual’s salaries, from Executive Level I of the Federal Executive Pay Scale ($199,700) in FY2011 to Executive Level II ($179,700) in FY2012, may provide useful information about the effects of changes in salary support.

Information Requested

To ensure a thorough and comprehensive consideration of the issues that may arise in implementing the Working Group’s recommendations, responses are being sought from all stakeholders in the extramural community, including students, postdoctorates, scientists, scientific societies, and NIH grantee institutions, as well as from the general public.   Information is sought for each of the areas identified above and any other items that may affect implementation of these recommendations. 
Your comments may include but are not limited to:

1.  Any of the areas identified above and any other specific areas you believe are worthy of consideration by the implementation team, including identifying the critical issues(s) and impact(s) on institutions, scientists, students and/or postdoctorates.

2.  Information about your personal or institutional experiences in these areas that you believe would be useful to the implementation team in developing policies and procedures for implementation.

Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any or all of the above items. Please note that the Government will not pay for response preparation or for the use of any information contained in the response. NIH will provide a summary of all input received which is responsive to this RFI.

Please do not include any personally identifiable or confidential information that you do not wish to make public. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.

How to Submit a Response

All comments must be submitted electronically on the submission website.

Responses to this RFI will be accepted through April 22, 2013. You will see an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response, but will not receive individualized feedback on any suggestions. 

Inquiries

Specific questions about this RFI should be directed to the following email address:
bmwinfo@mail.nih.gov

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