March 2021
The Research and Science Policy Update is a periodic digest of news items related to important developments that impact biomedical researchers, including issues such as research funding, government oversight, and regulatory burden. In addition, reports related to research endeavors around the world and from research advisory groups are presented. The information contained in the Research and Science Policy Update is assembled by the ASIP Research and Science Policy Committee (RSPC), and products of this Committee’s work will be highlighted.

For more information, contact Kelsey Dillehay McKillip, PhD,
Interim Chair, ASIP Research and Science Policy Committee
Special Thanks to Linda McManus, PhD
Special thanks to Dr. Linda McManus who retired from academic life in late January 2021. As part of her retirement plans, Dr. McManus has retired from the Research and Science Policy Committee after many years of dedicated service, and from several other areas of responsibility within the ASIP. However, Dr. McManus will remain a member of the ASIP Education Committee. We thank Dr. McManus for her valuable contributions of time and effort on the part of the ASIP, in service to various committees, and in the ASIP leadership, including her time as ASIP President. Enjoy retirement, but don’t stray too far away!
New Podcast
The Behind Our Science Podcast will release its first episodes over the coming weeks. The new podcast was developed by Dr. Roberto Mota Alvidrez (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Daisy Shu (Harvard Medical School), and Marina Anastasiou (Tufts University School of Medicine). The podcast is sponsored by the ASIP and the Histochemical Society. Dr. Mota Alvidrez is a member of the ASIP Research and Science Policy Committee. The podcast will cover a variety of topics related to biomedical research, including issues related to science policy and advocacy. Episode 1: Meet The Team – Vaccine Talk – Fun Facts is now streaming on YouTube You can also follow Behind Our Science on Facebook or learn more at their website.
FASEB Capitol Hill Day
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) hosted a two-day long FASEB Capitol Hill Day (FASEB Helps Researchers Find Their Passion for Advocacy – The Washington Update) on March 9 and March 11, 2021. This year’s event was held virtually. Like previous years, several ASIP members attended the event representing their own institutions, states, and their professional Societies. Participating members met with members of Congress and/or their staff to advocate for increased science funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). ASIP members participating in this year’s Capitol Hill Day included Dr. Jim Musser (Houston Methodist), Dr. Dan Remick (Boston University), Dr. Melanie Scott (University of Pittsburgh), and Dr. Cecelia Yates (University of Pittsburgh). Also participating was Dr. Chhavi Chauhan who is the ASIP Director of Scientific Outreach.
NIH Works Toward Ending Structural Racism
Dr. Francis S. Collins held a virtual meeting of his Advisory Committee on February 26, 2021 in conjunction with Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak (Principal Deputy Director, NIH) a members of the Working Group on Diversity (Dr. Marie A. Bernard, Acting Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, and Deputy Director, NIA; Dr. M. Roy Wilson, Wayne State University; Dr. Alfred Johnson, Deputy Director for Management, NIH). The focus of the meeting was the NIH UNITE Initiative. The recording of the meeting is available here: NIH VideoCast - Advisory Committee to the Director - February 2021
 
The Working Group on Diversity recently issued a report on “Racism in Science.” Resulting from deliberations held during summer 2020, the report identifies four themes and several suggestions for additional effort for each. The slides from that presentation can be found here. Much of the session focused on introducing the NIH UNITE Initiative to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion at NIH. The initiative consists of five Working Groups:
  • Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning
  • New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity
  • Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence
  • Transparency, communication, and accountability with our internal and external stakeholders
  • Extramural Research Ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity
 
The UNITE initiative was established to identify and address structural racism within the NIH-supported and the greater scientific community. With representation from across the NIH Institutes and Centers, UNITE aims to establish an equitable and civil culture within the biomedical research enterprise and reduce barriers to racial equity in the biomedical research workforce. To reach this goal, UNITE is facilitating research to identify opportunities, make recommendations, and develop and implement strategies to increase inclusivity and diversity in science. These efforts will bolster the NIH’s effort to continue to strive for diversity within the scientific workforce and racial equity on the NIH campus and within the extramural community.
 
Additional details about the UNITE Initiative were released on Monday, March 1, including a statement from Dr. Collins, a new website, and a Request for Information (RFI (NOT-OD-21-066) inviting comments and suggestions to advance and strengthen racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce and advance health disparities and health equity research. RFI responses are due Friday, April 9, and should be submitted through the RFI portal.
 
To ensure that the broad perspective of the biomedical research community informs the development of and aligns with NIH’s future plans and approaches, this RFI invites stakeholders throughout the scientific research, advocacy, clinical practice, and non-scientific communities, including the general public, to comment. In particular, NIH is interested in comments from higher education administrators, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, biomedical faculty (especially early stage), scientific societies and advocacy organizations, community partners, academic institutions (especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other institutions that have shown a historical commitment to educating students from underrepresented groups), and racial equity organizations on strategies to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion within the scientific workforce and advance health disparities research.
 
Specifically, with this RFI, NIH seeks input on practical and effective ways to improve the racial and ethnic diversity and inclusivity of research environments and the biomedical research workforce across the United States, to the extent permitted by law. This RFI will assist NIH in identifying, developing, and implementing strategies that will allow the biomedical enterprise to benefit from a more diverse and inclusive research workforce and a more robust portfolio of research to better understand and address inequities in our existing system. While it will be important to understand further the fundamental and systemic barriers, the primary focus of this RFI is on the actions and solutions – through policy, procedure, or practice – NIH should consider in order to promote positive culture and structural change through effective interventions, leading to greater inclusiveness and diversity. Please also include potential metrics for evaluating success of the suggested actions or solutions, where possible. Input is requested on approaches and strategies that can be implemented in the short-term (e.g., within the next three to six months), as well as those that can be implemented within the next one to three years.
Advocate for Pandemic-related Supplemental Funding for Biomedical Research 
As the new administration continues efforts to respond to COVID, the research community is bolstering its efforts to obtain supplemental funding to rebuild from the effects of the ongoing pandemic. The new Research Investment to Spark the Economy bill (known as the RISE Act) authorized $25 billion in emergency relief funds for federal science agencies, including $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). FASEB and the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research are trying to raise awareness about the bill and are encouraging members of Congress to cosponsor it. Other science advocates are working on language for the U.S Department of Energy Office of Science to expand the scientific workforce and keep pace with the increased demand for a highly trained STEM workforce.
NIH Offers Grant Extensions for Some Research Grantees Affected by COVID-19
NIH recently announced that NIH fellowship (F) and career development (K) research grant recipients directly affected by COVID-19 may apply for no-cost extensions and funded extensions (NOT-OD-21-052 - Read More). NIH and authorized organization officials will consider extension requests on a case-by-case basis, subject to the availability of funds. NIH fellowship (F) and NIH career development (K) grants support early-career scientists at the predoctoral, postdoctoral, and faculty levels. Each request should outline how the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the grant recipient’s training and career development. Extensions may be subject to additional requirements. More information on submitting a request is available here
Administrative Supplements to Support Childcare Costs for NIH-funded Research Fellows
In accordance with NOT-OD-21-069 and ongoing efforts to support family-friendly work environments for the NIH-supported workforce, this Notice of Special Interest requests applications for administrative supplements to support childcare costs on NRSA-supported Fellowship awards. Applicants must have an active NIH-funded NRSA Fellowship award. Fellows may request $2,500 per budget period for costs for childcare provided by a licensed childcare provider. Childcare costs are permitted for dependent children living in the eligible fellow’s home from birth under the age of 13, or children who are disabled and under age 18. Childcare costs do not apply to elder or non-child dependent care costs. See more information on this initiative in the Open Mike blog post.
Legislative Initiatives of Interest to Biomedical Researchers
  • Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act – This was reintroduced last week and the text can be found here.
  • STEM Opportunities Act – This was reintroduced last week and the text can be found here.
  • Combating Sexual Harassment in STEM Act – We anticipate reintroducing this bill in the next few weeks with minimal changes to update authorization dates.
  • MSI STEM Achievement Act – We anticipate reintroducing this bill in the next few weeks with minimal changes to update authorization dates.
Immigration Issues Affecting Biomedical Scientists
White House Fact Sheet on the forthcoming U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 indicating the bill will make it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the U.S.
The NSF Encourages Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Initiatives by Professional Societies
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) encouraging professional societies to unite to advance DEI in the biological scientific community. The DCL, termed LEAPS (LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies) of Biology, intends to fund conference proposals, planning proposals, and Research Coordination Network (RCN) proposals that will facilitate collaboration among biology professional societies with the goal of broadening participation of the STEM workforce at scale. NSF is encouraging submissions from societies focused on broadening participation and specifically pointed out SACNAS, ABRCMS) and/or from the NSF INCLUDES National Network as examples. They recognize that professional societies are uniquely positioned to lead cultural, structural, and social change through their leadership, meetings, publishing, awards, training, and networking opportunities. This is a great opportunity since NSF’s efforts align with the DEAI Committee’s Implementation Plan, so we plan to move forward with a Research Coordination Network (RCN) proposal and invite any member societies who want to join us. 
New Commentary From Cell Press 
Fund Black ScientistsCell Press has been working with a group of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering women faculty who are researching gender and racial equity in academia. They are lobbying colleagues, institutions, and funding agencies to be a part of the solution by establishing more equitable systems. Their first call for action is outlined in their editorial which focuses on the lack of funding black scientists receive as compared to white scientists at NIH and other funding agencies. This editorial not only provides a detailed analysis of these inequities but provides solutions for change. Their goal is to put this in front of NIH leadership and the Biden Science team. They are working multiple media channels, such as launching a big social media campaign, to ask the community to help with this effort. To support this initiative, use the #fundblackscientists on various social media platforms.
 
More from Cell Press
·        Inclusion and Diversity Statement — An Interview with Deborah Sweet.
·        The Rising Black Scientists Awards. This award program was recently launched by Cell Press and Cell Signaling Technology to support black scientists along their journey. Applicants are required to write an essay in 750 words (or less) discussing what inspired them to pursue their careers in science and how they want to contribute to a more inclusive scientific community. Awards will be given to an undergraduate and postdoctoral scholar in the amount of $10,000 (each), not including $1,000 in scientific materials. Winning essays will be published in Cell’s journal. Great opportunity to help our scientists, not only financially, but provides them with exposure of their achievements.
A New Podcast on Animal Research Launching This Month
GetReal! is a new podcast, hosted by Dr. Cindy Buckmaster and the National Animal Interest Alliance, dedicated to open discussion about animal research: the good, the bad, and the ugly. On GetReal!, Dr. Buckmaster and her guests will explore the deep truths about animal research, so we can make compassionate choices for people and animals that allow us to shape our medical future…together. It is past time for the research community to lead this conversation with the public. You can subscribe, join the conversation, and check out the GetReal! Trailer at: https://www.getreal.naiaonline.org/episode-responses.
Endless Frontier Webinar Series
The Journal of Science Policy and Governance has developed a six-part webinar series on science policy. The webinar series is described here: AAAS-JSPG Endless Frontier Webinar Series - The Journal of Science Policy & Governance (sciencepolicyjournal.org). All six episodes can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCREFJdaKqt3tCw4IfxGRcyw. You can also subscribe to the channel for future event postings and newsletters: https://www.sciencepolicyjournal.org/contact.html
Recent Actions – Sign-on Letters and Legislative Endorsements
H.R.8044 - Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act
This bill creates a fellowship program at the National Science Foundation for postdoctoral researchers, who are unable to continue their research at universities due to COVID-19, to forestall the loss of research talent.
 
ASM and AAAS FY21 Appropriations Bill Letter
On Dec. 8, 2020, the American Society for Microbiology spearheaded a letter with 173 signatories urging Congress to act quickly and pass the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills. The letter also calls on Congress to consider emergency supplemental funding for research relief due to the extraordinary disruptions to research labs in the wake of COVID-19.
 
AAMC Ad Hoc Group Letter to President-elect Biden 
The AAMC joined nearly 350 institutions and organizations that are members of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden highlighting the importance and future needs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the nation’s scientific innovation.
 
ISSCR Human Fetal Tissue Coalition Letter to President-elect Biden
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and a coalition of 98 scientific, medical, and patient communities dedicated to advancing medical knowledge and improving human health urged President-elect Biden to swiftly rescind the human fetal tissue research restrictions and policy changes that the Department of Health and Human Services made in 2019.
 
AAMC Ad Hoc Group FY22 NIH Budget Recommendation
361 members of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, which represents patient groups, scientific societies, research and academic institutions, health professionals, educators, and industry, endorsed the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research’s fiscal year 2022 recommendations for the funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
 
H.R.2528 - STEM Opportunities Act
This bill provides for guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at institutions of higher education and at federal science agencies.
 
H.R.36 - Combating Sexual Harassment in STEM Act
This bill addresses sexual harassment and gender harassment in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by supporting research regarding such harassment and efforts to prevent and respond to such harassment.
 
H.R.4372 - MSI STEM Achievement Act
This bill supports efforts to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at minority-serving institutions of higher education (IHEs), including by requiring the National Science Foundation to award grants for building the capacity of such IHEs to increase the number and success of their students in the STEM workforce.