Skip Over Navigation Links

National Institute of General Medical Sciences Strategic Plan

Home

Investing in Discovery

Why Basic Research?

Institute Profile

Strategic Goals

Inside NIGMS

Strategic Planning Process

References

Download PDF Version

Strategic Goals

Investigator-initiated research project grants—mostly R01s—will continue to remain the main focus of the overall NIGMS research portfolio.

As history has proven time and again, basic research is an engine of progress. The knowledge that grows from fundamental exploration is essential. The future of America’s health depends on it, as does the nation’s global economic competitiveness. NIGMS strongly commits to continuing to invest in discovery by using a variety of vehicles to support basic research.

GOAL I: Enhance the basic biomedical research enterprise through grant support for competitive, investigator-initiated research.

NIGMS recognizes the need to provide scientists sufficient latitude to explore biomedicine in order to improve health. Although many important advances have occurred in a manner that could not have been anticipated, most scientific advances are more deliberate and require years of persistent work. While good research depends on a balance of ingredients, among the most important are adequate financial support and access to state-of-the-art resources and equipment.

NIGMS will pursue this strategic goal through the following objectives:

Molecular biologist Marion Sewer and student Houman Khalili investigate the regulation of steroid hormone biosynthesis. Photo at the Georgia Institute of Technology by Gary Meek.
Molecular biologist Marion Sewer and student Houman Khalili investigate the regulation of steroid hormone biosynthesis. Photo at the Georgia Institute of Technology by Gary Meek.

Maintain a balanced research portfolio that reflects scientific excellence and variety. By funding a wide spectrum of scientific topics, the Institute will encourage flexibility to allow emerging areas to be pursued promptly. Investigator-initiated research project grants—mostly R01s—will continue to remain the main focus of the overall NIGMS research portfolio. However, coordinated research programs will also provide an important and responsive avenue for addressing biomedical problems and creating resources for use by the scientific community at large.

The Institute recognizes that multiple approaches are needed to solve complex research problems.

Facilitate career stability in the biomedical workforce. NIGMS recognizes that scientific investigation, as a human endeavor, requires career stability enabled through steady research funding. The Institute will protect the talent pipeline, especially by addressing the vulnerability of career transition times, as a way to encourage continuity in the research enterprise. While the Institute recognizes that obtaining NIH funding will always be a highly competitive process, NIGMS considers it very important that all investigators have a reasonable chance of success. In particular, NIGMS will make a deliberate effort to fund new investigators. These actions are especially relevant in limited funding climates that can disadvantage applicants who are new to the NIH system. NIGMS will also continue to provide bridge funding for highly meritorious investigators who are especially at risk during constrained budget periods.

Surgeon J. Perren Cobb heads a multidisciplinary group of scientists who seek to identify gene activity patterns that signal sepsis, a dangerous response to severe injury. Courtesy of J. Perren Cobb, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.
Surgeon J. Perren Cobb heads a multidisciplinary group of scientists who seek to identify gene activity patterns that signal sepsis, a dangerous response to severe injury. Courtesy of J. Perren Cobb, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.

Provide support for innovative, high-risk biomedical research initiatives with the potential for achieving significant health impact. NIGMS will continue to encourage scientists to pursue innovation and risk in biomedical research. For science to move forward in leaps rather than in incremental steps, scientists need opportunities to test unconventional ideas and to try novel methods for solving difficult technical and conceptual problems that stall a field’s progress. One current effort initiated by NIGMS is the EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) award program, in which review criteria focus on potential impact and exceptional innovation in research and/or technology. Through EUREKA and other programs, NIGMS will identify research proposals with the potential to have a significant impact on scientific knowledge and on human health.

At the Institute level, initiate enhancements to the peer review process. In addition to supporting NIH-wide enhancements to the peer review system,7 NIGMS will continue to develop alternative in-house review practices and criteria that address review challenges, especially those that affect interdisciplinary research, quantitative biology, new scientific fields, and the entrance of new players into the biomedical research community. As part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, NIGMS administers the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award programs. Each of these programs employs a novel, individualized peer review approach. NIGMS will pilot approaches that streamline administrative requirements for research project grants, always striving to ensure quality and consistency in the review of applications.

Support research that analyzes fundamental mechanisms that traverse multiple organ systems. NIGMS will continue to fund research on clinically related problems, addressing several selected areas, including burns, wound healing, the effects of drugs and anesthesia on the body, and the total body response to injury. These areas of inquiry will remain an important element of the Institute’s research portfolio since they focus on biological phenomena on a systems-wide, organismal level and they are not funded in a comprehensive way by other NIH institutes and centers. Some of these NIGMS-funded research efforts will involve clinical studies, but the Institute will not fund purely outcomes-based research, nor will it systematically examine issues related to health access and delivery.

GOAL II: Address selected scientific needs and opportunities through coordinated research programs.

As part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, biostatisticians M. Elizabeth Halloran (top) and Ira Longini (bottom) develop computational models to study disease transmission and intervention strategies. Courtesy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.As part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, biostatisticians M. Elizabeth Halloran (top) and Ira Longini (bottom) develop computational models to study disease transmission and intervention strategies. Courtesy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
As part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, biostatisticians M. Elizabeth Halloran (top) and Ira Longini (bottom) develop computational models to study disease transmission and intervention strategies. Courtesy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The Institute recognizes that multiple approaches are needed to solve complex research problems. Modern biomedical research is a collaborative enterprise that may involve one or a few laboratories or a large group of researchers.

The Large Grants Working Group, a subgroup of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council and the NIGMS Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation lead evaluation teams to monitor the progress of NIGMS large grant programs.8

Bar graph showing Budget for NIGMS R01s Fiscal Year 2007 as $1,121 Million and the Budget for All NIGMS Large-Grant Programs Fiscal Year 2007 as $189 Million.

NIGMS will pursue this strategic goal through the following objectives:

Facilitate team science along a continuum of scales to advance multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry. NIGMS endorses the scientific community’s recognition of the value of team science for some challenges in modern biomedical research. Novel combinations of researchers often self-assemble to broaden the canvas of biomedical inquiry and encourage diversity in thinking. NIGMS will continue to fund cross-cutting research in the basic biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences through collaborative programs among researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including the clinical, social, and quantitative sciences. One example is the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), which is using computational tools to simulate how infectious diseases emerge and spread through communities, countries, and even continents. NIGMS will encourage use of the recently established NIH multiple-principal investigator mechanism as a method to extend the scope of the Institute’s funded research. A key NIGMS strategy will be to accommodate the evolution of new fields that emerge at the interfaces of existing disciplines. The Institute will nurture the talent pipeline in emerging fields through its support of cutting-edge, rigorous training environments that accompany basic research pursuits.

Andrzej Joachimiak leads a structural genomics center supported by the Protein Structure Initiative, which aims to make the detailed structures of most proteins obtainable from their DNA sequence. Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.Mary Relling is a member of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network and seeks to understand how a person's genetic make-up influences his or her response to anticancer medications. Courtesy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Andrzej Joachimiak (left) leads a structural genomics center supported by the Protein Structure Initiative, which aims to make the detailed structures of most proteins obtainable from their DNA sequence. Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.

Mary Relling (right) is a member of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network and seeks to understand how a person's genetic make-up influences his or her response to anticancer medications. Courtesy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Identify and develop large-scale research programs that offer value, insight, and the broadest applicability to the scientific community. The NIGMS portfolio currently includes the Large-Scale Collaborative Award program, the National Centers for Systems Biology, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network, the Protein Structure Initiative, and MIDAS. These endeavors conjoin the efforts of multiple institutions working in a common area of major biomedical significance. Advantages of large-scale science initiatives include their economies of scale and synergy, as well as the capacity to build new communities. NIGMS will continue to fund these efforts while assuring the proper evaluation of their outcomes. For Institute-directed large-scale efforts, NIGMS will determine whether project goals have been met in a timely fashion and assess the projects’ impact on the broader scientific community. The Institute will strive to ensure that instrumentation, data, and resources developed at NIGMS-funded large-scale science facilities are made broadly available to all scientists.

 
NIGMS supports research in selected clinical areas, including trauma, burn, and perioperative injury; sepsis; wound healing; and anesthesiology.
NIGMS supports research in selected clinical areas, including trauma, burn, and perioperative injury; sepsis; wound healing; and anesthesiology.

Create programmatic linkages in support of NIH-wide translational initiatives. The NIH Roadmap has begun to address translational gaps through the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award (CTSA) program. NIGMS will consider possible linkages to CTSA institutions through NIGMS efforts such as the Medical Scientist Training Program. In concert with other NIH institutes and centers, NIGMS will also seek opportunities for enhancing workforce diversity through the nationwide CTSA network of clinical and translational investigators.

Seek collaborative and shared research opportunities with other agencies and NIH institutes and centers in areas that show particular promise. NIGMS will continue to communicate regularly, and to partner when appropriate, with other Federal components that fund basic research, such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science. NIGMS will also join with the NIH community in several ways to achieve its mission of funding outstanding basic biomedical research. A key partnership includes the NIH Roadmap. NIGMS grantees already benefit significantly from this shared, trans-NIH investment. Current NIH Roadmap initiatives that fund a substantial number of NIGMS grantees include chemistry, computational biology/bioinformatics, imaging, nanomedicine, proteomics, and structural biology. In addition, several new NIH Roadmap initiatives will benefit the Institute’s grantee pool, providing funding and collaborative opportunities in epigenetics, microbial ecology, and other areas of science relevant to the NIGMS mission.

Cell movement, revealed here using fluorescent dyes (corner), is the focus of one of the glue grants. Courtesy of K. Donais and Donna Webb, University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Cell movement, revealed here using fluorescent dyes (corner), is the focus of one of the glue grants. Courtesy of K. Donais and Donna Webb, University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Expand support for resources and database development to facilitate biomedical research advances.
This network diagram shows all of a yeast cell's protein-protein interactions, which mirror many of those in humans. <em>Courtesy of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, University of Notre Dame, and Hawoong Jeong, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
This network diagram shows all of a yeast cell's protein-protein interactions, which mirror many of those in humans. Courtesy of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, University of Notre Dame, and Hawoong Jeong, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
Advances in genomics and computer science have created incredible opportunities to systematically explore biomedical problems related to human health. NIGMS will continue to play a key role in supporting the creation of research resources including sample repositories, databases, and interoperable software and hardware tools that enhance data exchange among diverse groups of researchers. As part of this involvement, NIGMS will develop policies to ensure the broad availability and interoperability of publicly developed resources. The Institute will continue to play a leadership role through oversight of the Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative Consortium, which consists of senior-level representatives from each of the NIH institutes and centers plus representatives of other Federal agencies concerned with biocomputing.
 

GOAL III: Identify innovative approaches among individuals and institutions to foster training and the development of an inclusive and effective scientific workforce.

Carlos Gutierrez studies how bacteria acquire and transport iron and leads the Minority Access to Research Careers and Minority Biomedical Research Support programs at his institution. Courtesy of Public Affairs, California State University, Los Angeles.
Carlos Gutierrez studies how bacteria acquire and transport iron and leads the Minority Access to Research Careers and Minority Biomedical Research Support programs at his institution. Courtesy of Public Affairs, California State University, Los Angeles.

A key aspect of the NIGMS mission is nurturing the biomedical research workforce, and achieving a workforce that accurately reflects the U.S. population remains an Institute priority. The NIGMS training investment will continue to set a high standard for students’ acquisition of both research skills and important career-related knowledge beyond specific research training. The positive effects of NIGMS-funded training grants and fellowships are extended through collaborative interactions with students and faculty within and across academic departments.

NIGMS will pursue this strategic goal through the following objectives:

Support a broad range of high-quality institutional training programs across the biomedical sciences. The Institute views a rigorous, yet nurturing, training environment as a key element of a healthy research enterprise. NIGMS recognizes the broader effects of its institutional training grants in that these programs impact many students and faculty beyond those supported by the grants. NIGMS will leverage its training investment by encouraging institutional training grant recipients to continually improve their existing practices while also welcoming new approaches. NIGMS is keenly aware of the need for more personnel in quantitative disciplines as well as the integrative sciences like physiology, pharmacology, and the clinical sciences. The Institute will consider approaches that provide institutional incentives that encourage students to interact with investigators in more than one discipline.

Fostering diversity cannot be separated from the broader challenges of future workforce development.

Provide funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through investigator-initiated research project grants. The NIGMS research training investment is multifaceted and tightly linked to the Institute’s workforce development efforts. Independent of its institutional training grant activities, the Institute will continue to support the training of students and fellows working in individual-investigator (mostly R01 grant-funded) laboratories. NIGMS considers this an important avenue for research training. The Institute also acknowledges the reality that one size does not fit all, and it will remain open to both distinct training mechanisms and alternative career outcomes that depend on “marketplace” influences.

Susan Wente and student Kristen Noble investigate how molecules travel between the nucleus and cytoplasm of the cell. Photo by Dana Thomas for Vanderbilt Medical Art Group.
Susan Wente and student Kristen Noble investigate how molecules travel between the nucleus and cytoplasm of the cell. Photo by Dana Thomas for Vanderbilt Medical Art Group.

Expand and extend the NIGMS commitment to facilitating the development of a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce. Fostering diversity cannot be separated from the broader challenges of future workforce development. Dimensions of diversity include ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, and national origin. The Institute is also aware of the low representation of women in leadership positions in the basic sciences and aims to close these gaps. NIGMS acknowledges the special circumstances faced by various segments of society in accessing career opportunities. The Institute will examine the purpose, intent, and desired outcomes of NIGMS-sponsored training programs as they relate to workforce diversity.

Address diversity and workforce development in all programs administered by NIGMS as a matter of both policy and practice. NIGMS is committed to the regular and rigorous review of all of its training efforts, including special diversity and career development programs, as well as to achieving closer coordination among the Institute’s various programs. NIGMS will continue to evaluate its efforts to promote biomedical research workforce diversity, seeking the most productive ways to distribute funding, and will continue to integrate diversity efforts across its programs. The Institute will consider implementing a “broader aims” component of research project grant applications that explicitly evaluates an investigator’s training, mentoring, and diversity activities.

Adopt a comprehensive, systems-based approach to address future workforce development issues. The challenge of scientific workforce diversity is fundamentally a systems problem, and NIGMS will approach it in this fashion. The Institute will investigate the issue of workforce diversity in a data-driven, scientifically rigorous manner. Developing effective approaches will require that NIGMS continually acquire evidentiary data, even if those data do not lead to concrete solutions in the near term. NIGMS will expand its investment in research to understand the efficacy of interventions designed to increase diversity. The Institute will assess the feasibility of developing computer models that reflect key trends in workforce development and related career path issues, incorporating pivotal demographic, societal, and behavioral variables. NIGMS will also continue to identify and use early predictors of longer-term outcomes for enhancing workforce diversity at research institutions.

GOAL IV: Advance awareness and understanding of the basic biomedical research enterprise, including its value, requirements, and potential impact.

NIGMS values transparency and positive relations with the scientific community and the public as critical to carrying out its mission.

NIGMS values transparency and positive relations with the scientific community and the public as critical to carrying out its mission. The Institute also believes that it is important to contribute to improvements in science education at the K-12 and other levels as a distinct diversity and workforce development strategy.

Nobel Prize-Winning Research


In its 45-year history, NIGMS has funded the Nobel Prize-winning work of 64 scientists (see list at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Pages/GMNobelists.aspx). Recent Nobelists supported by NIGMS include:

  • Mario R. Capecchi & Oliver Smithies
    Physiology or Medicine 2007
  • Roger D. Kornberg
    Chemistry 2006
  • Andrew Z. Fire & Craig C. Mello
    Physiology or Medicine 2006
  • Robert H. Grubbs & Richard R. Schrock
    Chemistry 2005
  • Avram Hershko & Irwin Rose
    Chemistry 2004
  • Paul C. Lauterbur
    Physiology or Medicine 2003
  • Roderick MacKinnon
    Chemistry 2003

NIGMS will pursue this strategic goal through the following objectives:

Continue to foster an open dialogue with the scientific community about evolving scientific trends, gaps, and opportunities. NIGMS will communicate with its grantees and other members of the scientific community directly and through partnerships with universities, research institutes, scientific and professional societies, and organizations. The Institute will continue to issue regular programmatic updates to these constituents and seek input and feedback from them. NIGMS will also enhance efforts to empower its approximately 4,000 grantees and its advisory council members to serve as a highly visible group of ambassadors who can effectively and broadly communicate Institute programs and policies to multiple audiences. Additionally, the Institute will explore ways to increase communication among scientists working in diverse fields, potentially leading to new interactions and discoveries.

Raise public awareness and understanding about the value and impact of basic biomedical research. NIGMS will continue its efforts to communicate with the public about its goals and research results, as well as about NIH and its contributions to the nation's health. In our increasingly technology-driven society, knowledge of science—as well as how science is done—is important for making personal health and community decisions as well as for succeeding in a wide variety of careers. Toward this end, NIGMS will team with NIH institutes and centers and/or other organizations to increase scientific literacy. The Institute will also work to diminish misperceptions about biomedical science and scientists that stem from outdated stereotypes and lack of information. NIGMS will continue to provide students, teachers, and the general public with educational materials that illustrate the value of basic research and encourage the pursuit of scientific careers. In support of its efforts to foster workforce diversity, the Institute will partner with organizations and institutions to target the distribution of NIGMS educational and career-focused resources to students who belong to groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical research workforce.

Previous: Institute Profile | Next: Inside NIGMS

This page last reviewed on May 20, 2011