DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health
National Eye Institute
NATIONAL ADVISORY EYE COUNCIL
Minutes of Meeting
One Hundred Eighteenth Meeting
September 27, 2007
The National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) convened for its one hundred seventeenth meeting at 8:30 am on Thursday, September 27, 2007, at the Terrace Level Conference Center 5635 Fishers Lane Bethesda, MD. Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., the Director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), presided as Chair of the Council. The meeting was closed to the public from 8:30 am until 12:00 pm for the review of grant and cooperative agreement applications. On Thursday, June 7, 2007, from 1:30 pm until adjournment at 4:50 pm, the meeting was open to the public. Attachment A provides a roster of the Council members.
COUNCIL MEMBERS PRESENT:
Dr. Mae O. Gordon
Dr. Barrett G. Haik
Dr. David E. Holck
Dr. Lenworth N. Johnson
Dr. Juan I. Korenbrot
Dr. Todd P. Margolis
Dr. Mary C. McGahan
Dr. Val C. Sheffield
Dr. Earl L. Smith, III
Dr. Mriganka Sur
Dr. Marco A. Zarbin
COUNCIL MEMBER ABSENT:
Dr. Gunilla Haegerstrom-Portnoy
NEI STAFF PRESENT:
Dr. Houmam Araj
Dr. Deborah Carper
Dr. Hemin R. Chin
Dr. Mary Frances Cotch
Ms. Janet Craigie
Mr. Michael P. Davis
Mr. Donald F. Everett
Mr. Kenneth Frushour
Dr. Shefa Gordon
Dr. Chyren Hunter
Ms. Rosemary Janiszewski
Dr. Natalie Kurinij
Ms. Marilyn Laurie
Dr. Ellen S. Liberman
Dr. Jack A. McLaughlin
Dr. Loré Anne McNicol
Dr. Michael D. Oberdorfer
Dr. Samuel C. Rawlings
Dr. Maryann Redford
Dr. Grace L. Shen
Dr. Annie E. Schaffner
Dr. Paul A. Sieving
Dr. Michael A. Steinmetz
Mr. Arthur Stone
Dr. Santa Tumminia
Mr. David L. Whitmer
Ms. Ketura Williams
Ms. Romona Williams-Parker
Dr. Jerome R. Wujek
OTHER NIH STAFF PRESENT:
Dr. Jeremy Berg, Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Dr. Michael H. Chaitin, Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
Dr. Mary Frances Deutsch, Office of Extramural Research, OD, NIH
Dr. George McKie, CSR
Dr. Christine Melchior CSR
Ms. Joyce Rogers, Office of Budget, OD, NIH
Dr. Jerry Taylor, CSR
MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC PRESENT AT THE OPEN SESSION:
Ms. Joanne Angle, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
Dr. Jonas Born, Genentech
Ms. Adrienne Drolette, American Optometric Association (AOA)
Ms. Lori Methia, ARVO
Ms. Elaine Richman, Richman Associates
Dr. John Whitener, AOA
THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2007
CLOSED PORTION OF THE MEETING
The meeting was closed to the public at 8:30 a.m. in accordance with the determination that it was concerned with matters exempt from mandatory disclosure under Sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5, U.S. Code and Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. Appendix2).
CONFIDENTIALITY / AVOIDANCE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Dr. Loré Anne McNicol, Director, Division of Extramural Research (DER), NEI, and Executive Secretary of the Council, reviewed policies and procedures regarding confidentiality and the avoidance of conflict of interest situations. To avoid conflict of interest, members of federal advisory committees must not participate in the discussion of any application or proposal in which they, their spouse, minor child, close professional associate, or organization has a financial interest or affiliation. The Council members signed a statement certifying that they were absent during such discussions.
Council members absented themselves from the meeting during discussion of and voting on applications from their own institutions, or other applications in which there was a potential conflict of interest, real or apparent. Members signed a statement to this effect.
REVIEW OF RESEARCH AND RESEARCH TRAINING APPLICATIONS
OPEN PORTION OF THE MEETING
CALL TO ORDER AND OPENING REMARKS
Dr. Sieving welcomed staff and guests to the public session of the 117th meeting of the Council. He announced that the NEI Intramural Research Program has recruited Dr. Anand Swaroop as Chief of the newly established Neurobiology Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory (N-NRL). Dr. Swaroop has more than 18 years of experience in eye-related research, including his most recent tenure as professor at research coordinator at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The N-NRL will be growing to include several sections over the next few months. There will be opportunities for research spanning the range from basic to preclinical translational to clinical studies.
Dr. Sieving described recent activity under the NIH Neurosciences Blueprint. Sixteen Institutes and Centers (ICs) cooperate in pooling resources and expertise to support the development of new tools, training opportunities, and other resources to assist neuroscientists in both basic and clinical research. The Blueprint IC Directors met in August with a panel of experts to develop initiatives in the areas of neurotoxicity and neuroplasticity. Dr. Sieving noted that six of the 32 scientists present at this meeting were NEI grantees.
PEER REVIEW PROJECT UPDATE
Dr. Sieving introduced. Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., Director, NIGMS. Dr. Berg has recently been instrumental in developing the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Program, which provides the opportunity for outstanding scientists to take their best ideas on the fringes of conceived reality and to have these ideas looked at and funded. Over 1300 applications were submitted for the most recent round of funding, and 13 individuals were selected for an award. Dr. Sieving said he was pleased to announce that Dr. Kwabena A. Boahen, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford, was one of the awardees. Dr. Boahen is a specialist in computational neural systems who has designed analog chips that model the integration of neural circuits. He has developed neuromorphic chips that function as a silicon retina to restore sight.
Dr. Berg described the current trans-NIH project to enhance peer review. This project came out of a NIH leaders’ forum which addressed concerns regarding the peer review system, given its importance to the overall NIH system. The project is working in partnership with the scientific community, considering changes to make the system more effective. A key point is not only a constrained budget but the science. The nature of science is becoming much more complex looking at the whole process from an idea to an application of getting funded. In addition to recognizing the right portion of sciences, one part of the system we are looking at it from the overall bureaucratic load so that we don’t end up with a system that not only identifies the best science but has high costs. Having the right set of reviewers and knowing how to continue to attract the most talented set of reviewers to the process.
Dr. Berg indicated that the study has begun a diagnostic phase with a goal of getting the broadest input and ideas. Dr. Zerhouni has stressed that everything is on the table for analysis and pilot tests. There are two separate working groups: an external panel headed by Keith Yamamoto and an internal group co-chaired by Drs. Berg and Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
In parallel, the CSR is also working on and implementing a number of pilot and broader projects starting with the shortened review cycle for new investigators. Another pilot is on the way to using internet-assisted review.
Dr. Berg reviewed the various phases of the Peer Review Enhancement Study. In the diagnostic phase the NIH issued a Request for Information through an interactive web site which solicited opinions and suggestions from the scientific community from July through September 7, 2007.. Dr. Zerhouni and a Working Group from the Advisory Council to the Director held two teleconferences with the deans of research institutions. They also will be holding a series of regional town meetings scheduled between September 12 and October 26. Dr. Berg mentioned that he and Dr. Tabak are attending various scientific conferences and meetings in order to engage the community. And the NIH Steering Committee (SC)has also solicited input from staff at the NIH ICs. The NIH Steering committee has analyzed and summarized the literature regarding peer review, as well as the nature of approaches from other US agencies and foreign countries. The SC has also contracted for a psychometric analysis of study section models by experts in this field.
The second phase of the study will be piloting, and every pilot will have an associated evaluation. All of the stake-holder groups will be briefed regarding the outcomes of these pilots. Finally, the study will move to the implementation phase, where successful efforts will be expanded through the development of new NIH peer review policy.
Dr. Berg described some of the ideas that have emerged from the study:
- Reviewing the project versus funding the individual
- Retrospective versus prospective review
- Separate application modes and review criteria for projects that lack preliminary data versus incremental studies
- Editorial board review model
- Applicant/review dialogue to clarify issues
- Different types of review for different areas of science (clinical trials, bioengineering, interdisciplinary, small business)
- Different review criteria for “primary” and non-primary” applications from a single investigator Pre-applications
- Provide clearer feedback to investigators
- Maximize the quality of reviewers
- Consider psychometrics in devising scoring systems (binning)
- Limit percent effort of Principal Investigators
Council members had many questions and comments for Dr. Berg. One suggestion was to fund institutions rather than individuals; pick universities that are well funded and pour more and more money into them. Another member asked Dr. Berg to crystallize his understanding of what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. Is the system broken?
Dr. Berg responded that he doesn’t think that NIH peer review is broken, but rather, there is too little money and too many ideas, and partly because of changes in science. One example with respect to innovation that didn’t happen in the last peer review process was that the structure of the application has changed, here are the review criteria and the application is structured the same way. Reviewers can say that’s not innovative but has been around for 10 years, but instead of having to read the whole proposal, it does help. The number of reviewers, size of study sections, complaints we’ve heard repeatedly, an honor and fun in the old days, looking forward to study section meetings. Now it’s a chore, coming to meetings are a pain, meetings are too many people—two or three grabbing all the attention. These are the things we are grappling with looking at various things to see if we can help, very strong views as to whether scientists can see if there is a follow up to what was intended and the feedback has been positive and a number of applications are being looked at in a systematic way.
Dr. Haik asked how long will it take a new individual to be funded, is the average age 44 for first R01? Dr. Berg responded that he believes it is 42. Dr. Haik said that the system has lost scientists if you cannot convert from a K to an R.
Dr. Berg sad that Dr. Zerhouni and the IC Directors are very concerned about this issue. Dr. Zerhouni is taking a look at the overall and there are striking analyses. NIH supports more investigators between the ages of 70-75 than of 30-35. We are considering how to shift these demographics. To some extent the data will come in are there people being funded too early or are people getting funded and doing well? The NIH director’s new innovative awards, ended up with 30 new innovators for $1.5 Million awards over five years.
Council members expressed their interest in learning whether the study will change the make up of the CSR study sections. Dr. Berg replied that wholesale re-arrangement of the sturdy sections is not on the table. The co-chairs of the peer review advisory committee is a very effective review that we are careful about identifying consequences like these.
Members also noted that the present system creates a tremendous amount of administration. This burden falls on investigators as well as the university infrastructure, there ought to be a goal for changes to be made. Dr. Berg reminded the council that this is not under NIH’s control but is one of the things we are looking at to make the system more efficient so that applicants can write a proposal sufficiently adequate and reviewed to be able to make sensible judgments. An innovative program should send a message that we are pushing to fund people. With 2100 applications and 30 awards under the Pioneer program, we are struggling with that view.
Dr. Sieving thanked Dr. Berg for joining us at the Eye Council.
Dr. Sieving next reviewed the most recent NIH Leadership Retreat. He indicated that this is one of two events for institute directors to get together that are of particular importance. In the spring they look at the budget process in considerable detail, with an eye as to how to address Congress with the need for biomedical funding. And the September gathering is called the NIH Leadership Retreat.
He indicated that this month’s meeting focused on the topics of genetics, international issues and workforce planning: Genetics continues to take and overtake NIH. The pace of medical genetics picked up strongly about 2 ½ years ago and newest topics are epidemiology, genetics, and micro RNA. The field of genetics continues to accelerate in a really remarkable fashion, and I thank to Dr. Hemin Chin for being instrumental in ably representing the NEI across the NIH. The second topic was led by Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious disease, and Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Center. The infectious disease community has a number of projects and human trials going on internationally for HIV and AIDs, particularly in Africa. The threads of the international discussion here on campus is the quality of science education world-wide. I know many of you in the vision research community rely on international post docs. After training, these post docs go back to their native countries and create a science that the world will have to reckon with. We will have to develop a way to utilize that resource since science will clearly be the richer for it. There are some difficulties, but the vision community has taken advantage of the 2005 agreement between the US and Indian governments to lower the barriers and opportunities for US and India collaborative science. A working group of Indo-science will meet in 2 ½ weeks. Joann Angle on the behalf of ARVO has been a strong advocate for this activity. The Eye Institute will have to find a replacement for Leon Ellwein who has been the NEI ambassador for the vision community—science and professional community. Dr. Mary Frances Cotch, Chief, Epidemiology Branch, Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, is taking up parts of this and will continue to have interest in different parts of that portfolio. We are looking at what it should be and how to address it.
Third topic of the retreat was workforce planning: Dr. Sieving presented a slide documenting the academic community from 1980 thru 2006. Clearly the current ages of medical school faculty and the demographics of the work force are changing. As I went to the ARVO trustee meetings in the fall and spring, I was told to make sure young investigators get funded. But, it’s not that easy to funnel new applications through at age 35. After the leadership retreats there are no resolutions except this is a complicated problem that will ripple through the community. As Dr. Berg mentioned, if you look at the population of age 75 and older, that is actually larger than the pool of funded investigators 35 and younger. NIH is trying to understand what the implications are as we said two years ago the is to fund 1500 new investigators a year.
Dr. Zarbin expressed his understanding is that not that there are fewer young investigators but fewer young investigators are funded investigators. Is that correct? Dr. Sieving agreed.
Dr. McNicol remarked on current study section behavior. The reviewers triage younger investigators at a higher rate than established investigators and they give worse scores to younger investigators than they do established scientists. Council members and staff remarked on many demographic changes that affect this issue: changes in retirement rules, increased length of training, decrease in NIH award rates, and an increased cost of doing science.
RECOGNITION OF RETIRING COUNCIL MEMBERS
Dr. Sieving noted that three council members are at the end of their terms. He thanked Drs. Eileen Birch, Barrett Haik, and Mriganka Sur for their valuable service.
Dr. Sieving next acknowledged the retirement of Dr. John Whitener, Executive Director of the American Optometric Association and presented him with a letter and plaque thanking him for long and valuable services to vision research. Dr. Sieving was sad to note that Dr. Douglas Johnson, Mayo clinic, died in July, after a courageous battle with liver cancer. Dr. Sieving introduced Dr. Richard Stone, University of Pennsylvania, who has graciously agreed to serve as an ad hoc member in Dr. Johnson’s place.
Dr. Lenworth Johnson, University of Missouri, was recognized as not only a member of the NAEC, but also represents the NEI on the Council of Councils. This is a body composed of one member from each of the NIH IC advisory councils. It was established through the NIH Reauthorization Act of January, 2007, to lead and direct cooperative funding through the NIH Director’s Common Fund and to provide oversight for the new Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives. Up to 5% of the NIH budget is going into this central fund operated out of Building 1. Dr. Sieving expressed his confidence that Len will be a strong representative for the vision community.
UPDATE ON NEI LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM
Dr. McNicol introduced Dr. Chyren Hunter, NEI Training Officer, who gave the annual update on the NEI Loan Repayment Program. Dr. Hunter indicated that this is an NIH-wide initiative, and every council is charged with reviewing the operation of the loan repayment program. She noted that the table book provides the upcoming advertisement that council members can take back to their institutions for any interested individuals. This is the third year of the program, and NEI is mandated to invest $1.6M dollars. More applications have been submitted, so the success rate is going down a little.
NEI EXTRAMURAL BUDGET UPDATE
Dr. McNicol informed Council that at this particular meeting she wanted to do a little more in depth discussion of the budget. The NEI staff is getting close to some of the management decisions we have to make and want a little more input from Council members. She presented the top issues regarding NEI funding that staff and Council need to consider:
- Once again, the overall budget is flat
- Inflation turns this flat budget into a declining one
- The total number of grants funded is declining
- The total number of individual scientists funded is declining
- The total number of R01 grants funded is declining
- The NEI contribution to the Neurosciences blueprint is increasing by 33%
- 80% of the budget is committed to continuing projects
Dr. Sur asked whether Roadmap funds are increasing. Dr. McNicol said, yes. In FY2008 Congress will have to decide what to do with the roadmap budget, whether to put it in separately or continue to take it out of institute budgets.
Dr. McNicol reviewed the allocation for the NEI budget. 81% of the money is for extramural research; this is down from past years. She presented historical trends for NEI budget Authority and the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index; the total number of grants; the success rate; the total number of applications submitted; and trends for funding of the non-R01 grant mechanisms. She indicated concern regarding the number of R0ls and number of individual scientists we’ve funded over this historic period. The only way to continue to fund the same number of individuals is to reduce grant budgets. It’s something to think about. Should we let this continue, should we step in, what’s right, there are no easy answers.
Dr. Korenbrot said that it seems like the NEI’s struggles are not different from what Dr. Berg was talking about– what is available, what’s wanted and what’s appropriate. For what its worth this goes back to what was discussed, big institutes and well-funded and poorly funded. The one thing I thought was worth thinking about is the fact that in general successful programs tend to have more funding if you use normal features of more investigators for more successful programs. Have one individual that has more than one grant. No one wants to start making distinctions but think it’s a fair competition. Competence is not sufficient because it’s an exercise in support and environment. We don’t look at everyone in that sense of equal opportunity. Those who have more than others get the most attention. If we really began to recognize that not everyone has the same opportunities. We need to start, even if just in this Institute, to increase fair distribution so that some institutes don’t have more than others because of who they are. I would like to see how this is thought out. We are not getting younger or retiring earlier. It’s a little bit of human engineering not everyone having an identical task. I’m embarrassed but I’m going to ask this question anyway. Have there been relevant changes in institutional indirect cost rates over time or they relatively constant?
Dr. McNicol indicated that these have risen slightly in recent years. The highest indirect cost rate I’m aware of is 120% while the lowest is 30%.
Dr. Zarbin mentioned that serving on an Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a necessary undertaking that takes a huge amount of time and money. It is an activity that does not generate any money but no one is actually compensating the organization for it. And the way medical schools do accounting they look at the positions, look at the IRB users and if there are disparities they eliminate the position or come up with more money. Then their committees won’t fund anyone. Unless colleges make changes I don’t think this is a problem the NEI can fix and how much time we should spend on it?
Dr. McLaughlin said that to address Dr. Korenbrot’s point, the larger the number of R01 type grants the more chance for new investigators and more well-endowed institutes. But as that number decreases, you’ll experience what you are indicating. The fact that that line was flat is no accident, but for other institutes the line is not flat. We’re going to have to keep an eye on it.
Dr. Sheffield said, I listened to Juan and I agree and don’t agree. I want to fund the best science longitudinally and you have to fund the best investigators. That’s where the advantage should be given to the young investigator.
Dr. Holck pointed out that you may have the sophisticated investigator who can hold two or four grants at one time, but this penalizes the young investigator. That may not be the case as the older investigator may be publishing great results, but it’s something to think about. Is that what we do?
Dr. McNicol remarked that this fiscal year the ICs have been given quotas for funding new investigators. Our quota is 43. When your award rate is 50%, such a quota is not a problem. The community often remarks about the problem of investigators with multiple awards, 4 to 5 grants. But there aren’t that many people in that category.
Dr. Sheffield reiterated his position that NEI should fund the best science. If paying the best ideas and proposals means some individuals have three grants, then we should continue. Dr. Korenbrot agreed that the best science should be funded but pointed out that the bottom line is there is much more grant science than grant money. So long as the science is not compromised, there has to be a 2nd tier decision that looks into youth, opportunity, geography, and such features. Dr. Holck closed the discussion with his opinion that this is the best imperfect system that he’s ever seen.
OCULAR EPIDEMIOLOGY SYMPOSIUM UPDATE
Dr. McNicol introduced Dr. Natalie Kurinij who reviewed the most recent activities in this area. She noted that the symposium proceedings have been published and that complimentary copies are available for Council members. Dr. Kurinij acknowledged that excellent job that the symposium leader, Dr. Barbara Hawkins, Johns Hopkins University, and other contributors did in putting this together.
Dr. McNicol seconded this opinion, noting that anyone who has ever edited a 3-day symposium knows what a job it is.
OCULAR EPIDEMIOLOGY PROGRAM PLANNING UPDATE
Mr. Michael Davis, Director, Office of Program Planning and Analysis presented recent activities within the ocular epidemiology program planning exercise. He noted that NAEC members received the draft document at the June council meeting and were asked for comments. Members responded with many excellent suggestions which were forwarded to staff. A revised report was posted on the web on August 20, 2007 with a request for comments by September 21, 2007. Mr. Davis presented a series of slides summarizing the recommendations in the report. He noted that the NEI did go out to the community at beginning of process and asked what was important and what needed to be done. The panel chose research objectives based on the strengths and size of input, but of course, were unable to include everyone’s input. When looking at goals and objectives at the 30,000 ft. level you want a guide for directions and opportunities that are available. The comments we received were excellent and very comprehensive. The panel report also included an appendix on specific ocular diseases. These were the areas that were addressed but only relevant comments were included.
Council members indicated that they had read the report and found it to be an excellent summary. Dr. Sieving thanked Mr. Davis for shepherding this process in a very expeditious manner. He noted that the document is very broad provides council, the NEI and the community with opportunities to push the envelope.
Dr. Margolis asked Dr. Sieving where the field now stands, given that there had been a bit of a moratorium on population-based research. Where do things stand at this point now that the report’s in and you have seen the report? Dr. Sieving responded that there has been a yellow caution flag, not a moratorium. Budgets are flat and Dr. Sieving felt the community needed to be really selective in where they want to push things. The NEI is always interested in investing in science, but there are some epidemiology trials that would be very expensive. The epidemiology community has helped this by shepherding these decisions on where they feel money would be best spent. The report will be posted on the NEI for anyone to read. The best science will get funded. The community that comes in with the best proposal will have to be matched with what money becomes available. The lifecycle shows that many projects will be funded by category. If all the money is spent, we might be able to convert money into an epidemiology type study or category. As judged by study section, collegial discussion, council and NEI staff and the best of those have the opportunity of being funded. But right now it is up to the cycles of the budget as money becomes available. I am not putting anyone on the spot but we have a sizable epidemiology research funding going on right now but that is in the current grant cycle. What is the scientific value of an activity relative to existing current populations for instance and is that the best place to be putting a limited resource? The question cannot be answered in the absence of an application that has not been adjudicated by a peer review.
Dr. Margolis said it sounds as though good proposals are going to get funded considering that their budgets are reasonable along with every body’s else. If someone comes in with a huge budget it might not fit but if someone comes in with a little budget and you might have to balance it against what you have to spend the money on.
Dr. McLaughlin responded that with this planning document out there, the other plan of alerting people to its existence they really should be contacting the extramural program staff and there might be three people talking about the same general area. They might want to get together to develop a better plan or they can look at our portfolio and get a better plan or opportunity.
Council voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the report.
RETINAL DISEASES PROGRAM PORTFOLIO ANALYSIS
Dr. McNicol introduced Dr. Andrew P. Mariani, Director, Retinal and Choroidal Diseases Program (RCDP). He said that the last discussion indicated that the Eye council is grappling with issues of funding and scientific opportunity. In order to be effective, it is important to know what the current grant portfolios look like. So this presentation is the next in a series that have been presented to council.
Dr. Mariani reviewed the sub-program structure, and stressed that it was a matrix. He described the cross-cutting in programs, such as ocular genetics and ocular immunology and listed the program directors responsible for the various portions of the RCDP. He provided a snapshot of funding in FY2006, showing that RCDP comprised more than 45% of the total NEI extramural budget. He also gave the relative sizes of the eight subprograms, showing that the basic science areas (fundamental processes and retinal neurosciences) were nearly60% of the total. He then discussed time trends, showing that the RCDP was growing both relatively and absolutely, in terms of both dollars and numbers of grants. Dr. Mariani reviewed recent programmatic highlights, such as Vitamin A research, translocation in photoreceptors, and retinal neuroscience.
Dr. Gordon asked why the ARED-II study was not discussed in the retinal portfolio analysis. Dr. Mariani replied that it is an intramural project. This is a common misconception in the vision research community.
GENERAL COUNCIL DISUCSSION
Dr. Margolis discussed some aspects of the NEI extramural research budget. He said that we’ve all now looked at the budget numbers in some detail and can see that’s flat. In terms of buying power, this means it’s been decreasing and this affects morale all over. He wondered if there are any thoughts to work on the morale of our investigators. The effect on morale is spectacular and has an impact on programs in general and quality of life in general, not just because the dollars aren’t there, it goes way beyond that. Is there anything that we or NEI can do? There’s a lot of smart people and a part of leadership is trying to keep morale up. I wonder if anyone at NEI is even thinking about that or if it’s even the purview. I thought I’d raise that a bit.
Dr. McNicol replied that she could mention a number of things that the NEI can and does do. We’ve always believed that if we put our resources in bread and butter investigator-initiated research, this would be best for the enterprise. But as you can see for the past years that the budget has been flat we have really decreased the range of “programmed research” research and gone back to our core values. We’ve very quietly tried to improve our stewardship. Investigators who had missed having their grant renewed are given an opportunity to carry forward any remaining funds to continue doing experiments. We always look for ways to improve on what we should be doing. There are more of you than us out here and we’d like to hear about it.
Dr. Sur questioned whether it was it worth funding the large grant mechanisms such as the R24s and Bioengineering Research Partnerships? How might you withdraw from those if you would like to? Dr. McNicol stated that she wasn’t sure NEI should withdraw totally. The research community says these large grant mechanisms are valuable and they allow really important science to proceed. We don’t have a lot of these grants but we need to be careful on how we want to approach such programs. Another trade-off has been away from funding R03 Small Grants. NEI no longer offers this mechanism, although we do still support the funding of Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21.)
Dr. Sheffield indicated that it seems that the challenge is to fund the best science and bring the best investigators into vision research. But, what if new investigators that fill the professor level could write a new grant application and tie it into an old R01 with some older person it would foster a collaboration between a career and younger investigator. Dr. Margolis asked whether this would be something like the Mentored Career Development Award (K08). Dr. Sheffield: replied that these are people who might have been established in another field but have an idea related to vision and could team up with an established researcher who could get them in the field of vision and could get some new ideas. It would be a variation on the small grant to come in the field with someone who is more of an advantage.
Dr. Gordon said that she liked the idea of the cross affiliation, but asked what are the implications if any for institute programs and monolithic awards like the CTSAs have you thought out those? We are all involved and have no idea how it will affect our bottom line but if it works out now everyone has a claim on my title. Dr. McLaughlin answered that components of the University or the medical school will be able to come in and get in a part on these grants. We have a lot of those places. I think the challenge is how they will access the resources that are available and what does that mean to the institute that we have to collaborate in on the research? We may have to think of a new way to interface into that system because there’s a half billion dollars out there and we need to come up with a way to cut in on that action.
Dr. Sieving adjourned the meeting at 4:50 pm.
I hereby certify that, to the best of my knowledge, the foregoing minutes and attachment(s) are accurate and complete.
Dr. Loré Anne McNicol, Ph.D.
National Advisory Eye Council
Director, Division of Extramural Research
National Eye Institute
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
National Advisory Eye Council
National Eye Institute
These minutes were submitted for the approval of the Council; all corrections or notations were incorporated. A complete, printed copy of the Council minutes, including attachments, may be obtained from:
Ms. Janet L. Craigie
National Eye Institute
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9300
Bethesda, MD 20892-9300
Telephone: (301) 451-2020
FAX: (301) 402-0528
NATIONAL ADVISORY EYE COUNCIL
NATIONAL EYE INSTITUTE
(Terms end 11/30 of the designated year)
Eileen E. Birch, Ph.D. (07)
Mae O. Gordon, Ph.D. (10)
Gunilla Haegerstrom-Portnoy,OD, Ph.D.
Barrett G. Haik, M.D. (07)
Lenworth N. Johnson, M.D. (08)
Juan I. Korenbrot, Ph.D. (09)
Todd P. Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.(08)
Mary C. McGahan, Ph.D. (10)
Earl L. Smith, III, O.D., Ph.D.(08)
Val C. Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D. (10)
Mriganka Sur, Ph.D. (07)
Department of Defense Representative
Lt. Col. David E. Holck M.D.
Chief, Reconstructive, Orbit, and Ocular Oncology Services
Wilford Hall Medical Center
Lackland Air Force Base, TX 78236
Dept .of Veterans Affairs Representative
Marco A. Zarbin, M.D., Ph.D.
New Jersey Veterans Admin. Hospital
Newark, NJ 07103
Ad Hoc Members
Richard A. Stone, M.D.
Department of Ophthalmology
University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine
D-603 Richards Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Ex Officio Members
Michael O. Leavitt
Department of Health & Human Services
Washington, DC 20201
Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
National Eye Institute
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda MD 20892
Loré Anne McNicol, Ph.D.
Division of Extramural Research
National Eye Institute
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892