FASEB Submits Feedback on NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative Report

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), of which the Teratology Society is a member, is the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers, representing 29 scientific societies and over 130,000 researchers from around the world. FASEB is recognized as the policy voice of biological and biomedical researchers.

By Yvette Seger, PhD, FASEB Director of Science Policy

On February 11, FASEB submitted comments to the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in response to the report and recommendations from the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) Working Group. The group is seeking to fulfill a mandate within the 21st Century Cures Act to promote and provide opportunities for new researchers and earlier attainment of independent research careers.

FASEB’s feedback corresponded to each of the five themes identified by the working group as critical to developing the next generation of biological and biomedical researchers. FASEB generally agreed with the challenges the working group identified and the strategies proposed to resolve them. The comments also highlighted areas where additional context and clarity are needed prior to implementation.

Specifically, FASEB encouraged NIH to adopt more positive language. Using “opportunity limited,” for example, when referring to investigators whose programs may be suspended due to dependency on a single funding source, rather than the current “at-risk” language. In addition, FASEB recommended that the agency clarify “at-risk” status for investigators on projects with multiple Principal Investigators (PIs) and Program Project grants. FASEB noted that clear guidelines regarding implementation of the NGRI policy across NIH Institutes and Centers is critical for both applicants and reviewers, as well as for future assessment of the policy.

Recommendation 4.3 suggested revising NIH project scoring criteria and funding decision criteria to emphasize the PI’s previous seven years of service and mentorship contributions. FASEB identified several implementation challenges with this recommendation. While agreeing that service and mentorship are critical facets of a PI’s contributions to research and scientific merit, FASEB cautioned against overreliance on study section review for assessing these qualities as numerous policy changes have already increased reviewers’ workload.

Acknowledging that the Working Group’s task had no easy solutions, FASEB strongly encouraged NIH to continue active engagement with the broader research community as it updates the NGRI policy and formulates strategies to enhance opportunities for early-stage investigators.

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