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FROM THE MORE DIRECTOR
MARC and MBRS: A Reflection

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Anniversaries are special occasions. They give us the opportunity to reflect on the past and our accomplishments over the years, as well as the chance to think about the future and things we’d like to change.

I came to NIGMS as MORE director in 1994. At that time, the MARC and MBRS programs were well established. However, change was anticipated with my arrival and, in many cases, was met with much anxiety. The long-time director of the MARC program, Elward Bynum, had retired. The MBRS program was still adjusting to the move from DRR to NIGMS. An advisory group that met in 1992 gave a strong message that student apprentice positions should only be placed in actively publishing labs that had extramural funding. Competition for NIH funding was fierce, as the number of applications was many times more than could be funded. Applicants for MBRS funding worried that they would not get a review that considered the context of the applicant institution. Others worried that any new initiatives would only come at the expense of existing programs — a worry that pitted grantees of long standing with potential new applicants.

The big issue before us was how to level the playing field so that small schools weren’t competing head to head with larger, better-funded schools without resorting to set-asides. That led to the MORE Division’s guiding principle that all programs would be developmental rather than merely sustaining — and that all institutions could improve.

We reasoned that the improvement of an institution could be measured against its own baseline, thus avoiding a competition between the large and the small. The applicants could set goals and objectives that were pertinent to their specific institutional ambitions. They could evaluate their progress toward their own stated objectives. Merely allowing the applicants to specify their own objectives and to evaluate themselves did not reduce anxiety. In fact, the burden of evaluation may have been an added problem.

Over the past 8 years, the MORE Division has enjoyed unflagging support from the NIGMS director and other components of the Institute. The budget has grown threefold, a reflection, in part, of new initiatives and of strong progress by grantees.We are pleased to see a promising upturn in the percentages of underrepresented minorities getting Ph.D.s.

In the MORE Division, we are always seeking ways to improve our programs. We listen carefully to concerns raised by grantees and would-be grantees at various meetings, both public and private. Input from the community is essential to our doing our job well, and we invite your comments and suggestions for continued improvement.


Dr. Clifton Poodry, poodryc@nigms.nih.gov, Director, MORE Division, NIGMS, Room 2AS.37, 45 Center Drive MSC 6200, Bethesda, MD 20892-6200, 301-594-3900

 

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