Efforts to sustain
the research enterprise

Early in April, the National Institutes of Health issued a request for information titled “Optimizing Funding Policies and Other Strategies to Improve the Impact and Sustainability of Biomedical Research.” Longtime readers of this column will recognize sustaining the biomedical research enterprise as a popular theme for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee. We issued a whitepaper on the topic in 2012. This whitepaper defined the roles of the three major stakeholders of the research enterprise – academia, industry and government — and identified problems that each of the stakeholders needed to address to move the enterprise to a more sustainable path.

The ASBMB’s sustainability efforts are focused on achieving consensus among the stakeholders on important issues like science funding, regulation and training. As such, the PAAC’s 2013 Experimental Biology symposium brought together members of each stakeholder group to discuss these very issues. The vigorous discussion exposed many areas of consensus as well as contention.

In addition to our work, more than a dozen reports over the past three years discuss the important issue of ensuring a prosperous future for the American research enterprise. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and our friends at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology all issued reports aimed at highlighting the variety of challenges facing researchers today. These challenges range from unstable budgets and a burgeoning workforce to burdensome regulations and a lack of attention to important issues like diversity in the laboratory. And these reports go to great length to detail the variety of challenges plaguing the community, supported by memorable stories and credible data sets.

It appears the NIH now is conducting a similar exercise, and we’re happy to see it. Specifically, the NIH is looking for the community’s ideas on possible alternative funding models or policies that can maximize the NIH’s investments. Additionally, the NIH hopes to receive feedback detailing “new policies, strategies and other approaches that would increase the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research.” We strongly encourage you to visit and submit your thoughts on this important matter.

The ASBMB’s PAAC will draw on its experience on research enterprise sustainability and submit comments to this request for information. This is an opportunity for the entire community to have input on the reforms needed to improve how the enterprise functions. Moving forward, the ASBMB will begin focusing on how to identify and implement recommendations that the major stakeholders agree on. By finally moving to an implementation stage, the ASBMB and the entire scientific community develop an advocacy platform to take the steps necessary to sustain the future of American biomedical research.

We invite you to watch this space and our blog for updates, and, as always, we appreciate your feedback.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB.

Chris Pickett Chris Pickett is a policy analyst at the ASBMB.