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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Measure of the Impact of AIRI Institutes

An August 2015  report from Times Higher Education (UK) measured citations of scientific publications on patent applications and accumulated them by institutions world-wide.

The source of the information was the Elsevier Scopus database.

I was impressed to see that of the top 8 institutions world-wide, AIRI institutes were ranked #1, #4, and #8!  Clearly the work performed at AIRI institutes is world-class.

Patent Citation Rankings

The Scripps Research Institute

Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB)

Institute of Cancer Research

The Rockefeller University

Pasteur Institute

University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Universite Montepellier

Vita-Salute San Raffaele University

Weizmann Institute of Science

Robert Koch Institute

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

Danish Cancer Society

CHA University
South Korea

Times Higher Education (UK)  August 2015

Indicators on patent citations are sourced from Elsevier's Scopus database.
Measures the proportion of papers published by an institution that have
   been cited by patents compared with those that have not.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research

I want to bring to the attention of my AIRI colleagues a report of the National Academies Titled “Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research”.  I am indebted to Lari Russo for introducing me to the “prepublication” copy of this report .  The link to the report is found here:


At the request of the US Congress, the National Academy of Sciences convened a “Committee on Federal Research Regulations and Reporting Requirements” and tasked the Committee with creating “A New Framework for the 21st Century”.   The report is a product of the Committee’s work.  You will find that it is referred to as “Part 1”, since, at the request of Senator Lamar Alexander, Chair, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the Committee was asked to complete (at least some of) its work by the Fall of 2015 in time to have an impact on activities in Washington, DC.

While the committee is heavily weighted by members from university and medical school institutions, the report specifically addresses the interests of “research institutes” and even calls out The Scripps Research Institute as an example (pages 1 and 11).  Leaders from two AIRI Institutes were committee members:  Harriet Rabb, Vice Chair, The Rockefeller University, and Thomas Albright, member, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

I read the report cover-to-cover and came away impressed with the vision for a far less regulated research environment.  The recommendations were directed at all parties in the research enterprise:  Congress; OMB; Federal Agencies; and even our own institutions.  The report describes the layers of regulations, policies, Executive Orders, laws, and procedures that collectively waste valuable resources and consume precious time.  Just reading pages 4 through 9 will give you a synopsis of the recommendations.

Often cited is the Federal Demonstration Partnership report (2012) indicating that faculty conducting Federally-funded research report spending 42 percent of their time on “pre and post award administrative activities” and “meeting requirements”.

How would AIRI use this report to the best advantage of our respective institutions?

For starters, the “micropurchase” issue is specifically addressed in the report.  You will find in Section 6 (Page 6) a recommendation that OMB amend the Uniform Guidance to set the threshold at $10,000 and to amend that amount over time (higher) to account for escalating costs (which is exactly the AIRI position).  The same section recommends amending the list of criteria for allowing non-competitive bids to include a purchase that , “… is necessary for research, scientific, or other programmatic reasons …”  I recommend that we cite this report every time we raise the micropurchase  or competitive-bidding issues.  I would further direct your attention to page 87 showing a Stanford study of purchasing transactions that came to the same conclusion as the AIRI survey that the Board conducted in the summer of 2015 – basically that changing the threshold to $10,000 still provides extensive coverage of procurement activities at a greatly reduced workload.

In general, the recommendations make common sense for a more streamlined research environment.  To provide guidance to all the parties in streamlining regulation and eliminating redundant or duplicative regulation, the report recommends a “Research Policy Board” (see, in particular, page 99 for a helpful diagram).  This idea is novel and bold.

I will value your reactions to, and ideas about this report.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Omnibus Appropriations Bill Signed!

December 18, 2015

NIH Director, Francis Collins, released the following statement this afternoon regarding the omnibus appropriations for FY16.

Statement on the FY2016 Omnibus Bill 

Today, President Barack Obama signed into law the FY2016 Omnibus Bill, giving the National Institutes of Health a much needed boost of $2 billion in our fiscal year 2016 budget. This is the most encouraging budget outcome in 12 years.  As Director of NIH, I welcome this development with a deep sense of gratitude.  I applaud the bipartisan support for NIH and biomedical research that made this possible, and want particularly to thank the leadership of the House and Senate.  This increase comes at just the right time to take advantage of remarkable opportunities to improve human health, powered by dramatic advances in scientific knowledge and technological innovation.

It has taken a lot of effort on the part of many voices — patients, advocates, scientists, our many colleagues in the public and private sectors — to make the case for biomedical research.  We are unified by the knowledge that there is no better investment to help accelerate the course of medical progress. 

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health

Cary's Note: Of special interest to AIRI Institutes, the "salary cap" remains at Executive Level II; we had hoped for a restoration to Executive Level I, but there was talk of a further erosion to Executive Level III, so "no change" in this case, is a victory!