NIH Announces Genomic Data Sharing Policy

Starting next year, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be required to share any genomic data they collect in a central database. The new policy applies to both human and non-human genomic ‘large-scale’ data. Researchers will have no later than the date of initial publication to share their data, although deadlines are earlier in some instances.

“We’ve gone from a circumstance of saying, ‘Everybody should share data,’ to now saying, in the case of genomic data, ‘You must share data,’” said Eric D. Green, director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute.

Concerns had been raised in the scientific community about the draft policy—released in 2013— that the new requirement would place a large burden on researchers. According to the final policy released by NIH in late August, “While the resources needed to support data sharing are not trivial, NIH maintains that the investments are warranted by the significant discoveries made possible through the secondary use of the data.”

The policy will take effect with grant applications submitted to NIH on or after 25 January 2015, as well as for NIH intramural research projects.

Read the policy at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-14-124.html.

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Update on Legislation That Would Increase Conference Restrictions

Legislation that would place further restrictions on federal participation in conferences has gained the opposition of key leaders in the Senate. As a result, it is increasingly unlikely that the measure will move through the Senate this year.

Federal policy changes in recent years have significantly limited the participation of federal employees in scientific conferences and meetings. Legislation passed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, S. 1347, would further restrict the participation of federal scientists in conferences.

In July, a number of scientific organizations, including AIBS, sent a letter to the Senate expressing concerns with the legislation.

Many scientific organizations in Washington, DC, continue to warn that arbitrary limits on the participation of federal scientists in scientific conferences and meetings is bad for science. Scientific conferences are one of the essential ways in which scientists share information, test ideas, and ultimately press forward the frontiers of science.

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NSF Names New Assistant Director for BIO

George Mason University professor Dr. James L. Olds will be the new assistant director for the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). He will begin his new position in October 2014.

Olds is a director and chief academic unit officer at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. His research career has focused on neuroscience. He previously served as CEO of the American Association of Anatomists.

Dr. Olds has also been active in science policy, serving for eight years as the chair of Sandia National Laboratory’s External Cognitive Science Board, as well advising initiatives at the White House and in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Dr. Olds has a strong record of academic leadership with an institution that has grown its global presence during his tenure,” said NSF Director France A. Córdova. “In addition to his leadership, his commitment to interdisciplinary research at Krasnow and his experience with developing scientific policy will be of great benefit to NSF and to the research community we serve.”

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AIBS Analysis of Scientific Peer Review Offers Insights into Research Productivity

In a paper published in the journal PLOS One, investigators with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) report findings from an analysis of the research output from a series of biomedical research grants funded after undergoing a scientific peer review process. The results, reported in The Validation of Peer Review Through Research Impact Measures and the Implications for Funding Strategies, offer insights for future research on peer review and potential models for increasing research productivity.

“Some form of peer review is used at the majority of research granting organizations to determine the best research to fund,” said Dr. Joseph Travis, President of AIBS and a biologist at Florida State University. “Peer review makes a significant contribution to how billions of dollars in research funding from government and private sources are awarded,” said Travis, a coauthor of the study.

In recent years, this process has been questioned, particularly with regard to how well peer review predicts the ultimate impact of the funded research.

“We conducted a retrospective analysis of peer review and project output data for 2,063 projects from an eight year period. Of these, 227 were funded and we examined whether correlations exist among the assessment of scientific merit using a peer review system and the scientific output from this program,” said Dr. Steve Gallo, Technical Operations Manager for AIBS and the lead investigator on the study.

Citation impact, or the number of times a research paper is referenced by others, is a common way to assess research impact. Analysis revealed that peer review scores associated with individual applications were correlated with the total time-adjusted citation output of these funded projects.

Gallo states, “citation impact did not correlate with the amount of funds awarded per application or with the total annual programmatic budget.” The number of funded applications per year did correlate well with total annual citation impact, suggesting that improving funding success rates by reducing the size of awards may be one strategy to optimize the scientific impact of research program portfolios.

“This strategy must be weighed against the need for a balanced research portfolio and the inherently high costs of some kinds of research,” said Travis.

The relationship observed between peer review scores and publication output lays the groundwork for establishing a model system for future prospective testing of the validity of peer review formats and procedures.

“This is something AIBS is looking at now,” said Gallo.

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Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Biological research is transforming our society and the world. Help the public and policymakers better understand the breadth of biology by entering the Faces of Biology Photo Contest. The competition is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.” Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience. The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience. The contest ends on 30 September 2014 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.

For more information and to enter the contest, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-programs/photocontest.html.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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