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Freedom of Information Act Office

IC Directors' Meeting Highlights

August 30, 2010

To: IC Directors
From: Vesna Kutlesic, Ph.D.
Subject: IC Directors Meeting Highlights—June 24, 2010

Discussion Items

Common Fund FY11 Proposals:

Dr. Larry Tabak reported that three Common Fund (CF) proposals are being considered for FY11 funding with input being provided by three subsets of IC Directors who have been evaluating the pros and cons of the proposals. These proposals include the: 1) NIH Director’s Independent Fellows Program (presented by Dr. Stephen Katz), 2) Health Economics for Health Care Reform (presented by Dr. Richard Hodes), and the 3) HMO Research Network Collaboratory (HMORN) (presented by Dr. Tom Insel). Dr. Tabak added that these CF FY11 proposals will be submitted for clearance at the next meeting of the Council of Councils. In addition, Dr. Jeremy Berg provided an update on the status of the Diversity Initiative, which will receive funds from the FY11 ARRA CF to support the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award.

Dr. Katz stated that the goal of the CF Proposal:

NIH Director’s Independent Fellows Program is to provide a mechanism for exceptional early career scientists to bypass traditional post-doctoral training, and transition directly from the completion of Ph.D. or M.D. (or equivalent) training to an independent academic research position. The pros of this program: 1) definitely have scientists who would benefit; 2) may invigorate the workforce (a NIH Director priority); 3) similar successful programs exist; 4) good for public relations; and 5) does not require an enormous amount of money. The cons of this program: 1) unclear how institutions will distinguish these people; 2) wealthy centers will get wealthier; 3) other mechanisms are already available; 4) relatively few scientists will be awarded; 5) only limited gains can be expected; 6) phase out of program not determined; and 7) out-year funding difficulties might occur given this is an institutional grant. Dr. Berg added that this award would require a good match between the individual scientists and participating institutions, and a high level of institutional commitment to be successful.

Dr. Hodes reported that the goal of the CF Proposal:

Health Economics for Health Care Reform is to determine what can be done to slow the growth of health care costs while expanding access to high value care and fostering technological innovation. An important point to consider is that economics research is already being funded by several NIH ICs ($194M in FY 2009). The pros of this program: 1) policy significance and scientific quality of this research area; 2) relevance to health care reform (a NIH Director priority); 3) scientific opportunity in the context of a natural experiment that will follow from recent reform legislation; 4) expert input provided by an exceptional preparatory workshop recently held; and 5) existence of a cadre of outstanding scientists that has been recruited to the field of health economics. The potential cons of this program include whether: 1) it is relevant to all ICs; 2) its increment is significant above the base of current NIH investments; and 3) this is an appropriate use of the CF incubator.

Dr. Insel conveyed that the goal of the CF Proposal:

HMORN is to expand HMO collaborations to a national research platform that will accelerate large epidemiological studies, pragmatic clinical trials, and EHR enabled health care delivery research. There are currently 15 U.S. member research sites, 13 million covered individuals, and 350 multidisciplinary scientists involved. The objectives of the HMORN Collaboratory Coordinating Center are to develop and maintain a unified governance structure, build scientific capacity, develop and deploy a Virtual Date Warehouse (VDW), conduct annual scientific meetings, and support developmental studies and expansion activities. As part of this CF proposal, a trans-NIH FOA is proposed with an annual competition each year from FY12 to FY15 that would fund studies that would test the capability of the HMORN infrastructure and focus on new scientific domains. The pros of this proposal include: 1) would be a large clinical resource, 2) provides support to mega epi, systems, and CER studies; 3) access available to all participants; and 4) a preliminary study has already shown good results. The cons of this proposal include: 1) not clear that this is necessary; 2) EMR may not be harmonized; 3) the quality of the data may be questionable; and 4) a long-term plan needs to be determined. Dr. Gallin added that it would be important to carefully examine how best to integrate this proposal with other related initiatives already being funded by NIH.

Dr. Berg provided an update that the most recent funding opportunity related to the NIH Diversity Initiative is the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award which aims to promote diversity in the scientific workforce. High quality applications were received in May for the Pathfinder Award, with the review of these applications planned in mid-July. Funding decisions related to these applications will be made by the NIH Director mid to late August for OD Funding, followed by funding decisions by IC Directors of these proposals in late August before they are sent to September council meetings for review.

OD Reorganization:

Dr. Raynard Kington first clarified that rather than an actual reorganization of the OD, there will be some upcoming changes in reporting relationships. Furthermore, he announced that Dr. Kathy Hudson will be assuming the role of Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, & Policy, and Ms. Susan Persons will be assuming management of the FACA Office (OFACP) in her role as Assistant Director of OD Coordination. Dr. Kington also emphasized that the Principal Deputy Director and DPCPSI Director will continue to include scientific activities in their portfolios. Dr. Eric Green requested that once any new OD structural changes and/or reporting relationships were in place, that it would be helpful to the ICs to receive a description of names and titles of OD staff, to more easily determine the appropriate OD staff person to contact for given topics and/or questions.

Budget Update:

Dr. Raynard Kington and Mr. Mark Rotariu (NIH OB) discussed OMB’s “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” sent June 8, 2010, and authored by Mr. Peter Orszag Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Mr. Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff. The memorandum focuses on identifying low-priority agency programs government-wide. The Administration proposes a three-year freeze in non-security discretionary funding, and requests agencies identify programs and subprograms that have the lowest impact on their missions, and constitute at least five percent of their discretionary budgets.

OMB requests that this budget information be included with each agency’s FY2012 budget submission due on September 13, 2010, and emphasized that this is a separate exercise from the budget reductions necessary to meet each agency’s target for the FY 2012 discretionary budget request. To reach the five percent target, OMB recommends that each agency identify: (1) entire programs or subprograms; or (2) substantial cuts amounting to at least 50 percent of total spending within a program or subprogram. The intent of this exercise is to identify those programs with the lowest impact on each agency’s mission. Each agency’s five-percent low-priority program target should not be met with across-the-board reductions or incremental savings in administrative costs.

This page last reviewed on May 29, 2012

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