Blotter

ASBMB calls for NIGMS to expand programs

Updates at advisory council meeting reveal significant progress, warranting further amplification
Mallory Smith
Feb. 28, 2022

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology submitted comments to the  National Institute of General Medical Sciences last month asking that it continue issuing and renewing MIRA awards and increase funding for the science, technology, engineering and math training pipeline.

These suggestions arose in response to the NIGMS’ latest advisory council meeting, held Feb. 3, which unveiled that the Maximizing Investigators' Research Award  renewals were double the rate of the traditional R01 renewals. The NIGMS also approved new and continuing programs that target diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The society’s suggestions would amplify the NIGMS’ efforts, which have been transformative for many scientific research labs, and help to increase the accessibility of the institute’s programs to a wider breadth of researchers and students, especially those from historically marginalized populations.

Susan Forsburg, a distinguished professor at the University of Southern California and a member of the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee, said, “The MIRA award made a huge difference by allowing me to consolidate my two grants. Before MIRA, it seemed that I was always writing grants since they were not synchronous. Now, my research can be science-driven and not grant-review-driven.”

The society said it was encouraged by the NIGMS’ presentation overall, praising the success of the MIRA program and its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, but it offered the following recommendations:

1. Continue the issuance and renewal of MIRA awards.

Roughly 800 labs, from 2016 to 2021, have been supported by the MIRA program. But it wasn’t until 2021 that the first cohort of awardees became eligible to renew their awards, providing NIGMS with a measure of success for the overall program.

 “The doubling of the rate is encouraging because MIRA was intended to promote stability.  I do think the five-year span of the grant allows better productivity, and I suspect that’s a part of (the significant increase),” Forsburg said.  “Once things get rolling, there’s time to follow up, rather than have to rush back to writing a renewal in less than three years.”

The ASBMB said it would like “to see this program expand to provide new awards to more researchers,” especially those at minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities.

2. Increase funding for the STEM training pipeline.

The ASBMB asked that the National Institutes of Health further build the “research capacity in states that have had historically low levels of NIH funding” by increasing the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program to bring the threshold from one to two awards per eligible Institutional Development Award state.

Susan Baserga, a professor at Yale University and a founding member of the ASBMB Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee, emphasized that “increasing the number of COBRE awards within IDeA states will double our efforts to build research infrastructure in states with low NIH funding. This is key for building a nationally diverse future biomedical workforce.”

The ASBMB also encouraged NIGMS to expand undergraduate research awards to “support first-year students… to increase the number (of diverse students) who stick with science and choose it as a career.” This change would help to reduce the “significant loss of talent in the transition between high school and undergraduate programs.”

Read the ASBMB’s full comments here.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Mallory Smith

Mallory Smith earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Kansas Medical Center and held a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health before joining ASBMB as a science policy manager. She is passionate about improving the STEM workforce pipeline, supporting early-career researchers, and advocating for basic science at the institutional, local and national level. Smith is chair of the National Postdoctoral Association Advocacy Committee.

Sign up for the ASBMB advocacy newsletter

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Policy

Policy highlights or most popular articles

ASBMB lauds parts of defense authorization that bolster HBCUs
Blotter

ASBMB lauds parts of defense authorization that bolster HBCUs

Jan. 27, 2023

Law orders the creation of a pilot program to increase research capacity and improve training and infrastructure.

NIGMS: Highlights from 2022 and what to expect next
Blotter

NIGMS: Highlights from 2022 and what to expect next

Jan. 23, 2023

The institute is likely to expand the MIRA program, increase supports for diversity, examine NRSA stipends and more in 2023.

ASBMB seeks feedback on NIH plan to change grant review criteria, scoring
Blotter

ASBMB seeks feedback on NIH plan to change grant review criteria, scoring

Jan. 20, 2023

NIH proposal aims to shift focus from investigator and institutional reputation to research merit and reduce administrative burden on reviewers.

Scientists who are caregivers need more support
Blotter

Scientists who are caregivers need more support

Jan. 19, 2023

The ASBMB suggests policy solutions to alleviate burdens that affect their research and careers.

Equal benefits for postdocs
Jobs

Equal benefits for postdocs

Jan. 17, 2023

Postdocs on federal fellowships should receive equal benefits as peers, write Mallory R. Smith and Thomas P. Kimbis.

China now publishes more high-quality science than any other nation
Essay

China now publishes more high-quality science than any other nation

Jan. 15, 2023

Thanks to investment and a growing, capable workforce, the country’s scientific output has increased steadily and become more novel and creative.