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ASBMB raises concerns about proposed NIH subaward policy

The society says the new policy, if adopted, will discourage collaboration and heighten administrative burden on scientists
Marissa Locke Rottinghaus
July 7, 2023

On July 5, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology raised concerns regarding proposed changes to the National Institutes of Health “Grants Policy Statement.”

The NIH seeks to require foreign researchers working on NIH-funded projects to provide to the primary grantee copies of all lab notebooks, data and documentation that support the research progress report every six months. Instead, the society proposed that this material be made available upon request by the principal investigator.

NIH subawards, also known as consortium agreements, promote collaboration between a primary grantee and subrecipient(s) across institutions.

According to the National Science Foundation, laboratory principal investigators spend 42% of their time on administrative tasks, leaving less-than-adequate time for their research programs.

The ASBMB argued that the NIH proposal would require PIs to review an unnecessarily large amount of material and “place undue stress and time constraints on PIs who are already struggling.”

The other potentially harmful outcome is reduced collaboration, the ASBMB said. Between 2008 and 2018, 23% of science and engineering articles included international collaborators.

“Collaboration is absolutely crucial for science to push boundaries and advance society,” Sarina Neote, ASBMB public affairs director, said. “By increasing the administrative burden of PIs, this policy discourages collaboration across borders, which will harm the international research enterprise.”

 The ASBMB acknowledged that some foreign collaborators have presented challenges to U.S.-based researchers. However, the society said the proposed policy is “inherently unequal” and urged the NIH to reconsider the rule’s purpose and potential unintended consequences.

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Marissa Locke Rottinghaus

Marissa Locke Rottinghaus is the science writer for the ASBMB.

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