Advisory Council Minutes, May 15-16, 1997

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one-hundred and fifth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, 1997, in Conference Rooms E1/E2, Natcher Conference Center, Building 45. Dr. W. Sue Shafer, acting director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as acting chairman. Dr. Marvin Cassman, director of NIGMS, was also present. The meeting was open to the public on May 15 from 11:02 a.m. to 5:10 p.m., followed by the closed session for consideration of grant applications.

Members Present:

David A. Clayton, Ph.D.
Sarah C.R. Elgin, Ph.D.
Slayton A. Evans, Ph.D.
Carlos G. Gutierrez, Ph.D.
Wayne A. Hendrickson, Ph.D.
Susan A. Henry, Ph.D.
Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Ph.D.
Steven M. Paul, M.D.
Thomas D. Pollard, M.D.
Franklyn Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D.
Mary Wiley, J.D.

Members Absent:

Alvin Manalaysay, M.D., Ph.D.
Neil S. Mandel, Ph.D.
Christopher T. Walsh, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Paul S. Anderson, Ph.D.
Senior VP for Chemical and Physical Sciences
Dupont Merck Pharmaceutical Co.
Wilmington, DE 19880-0500

Anne Etgen, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, NY 10461

William A. Lester, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-1460

Robert L. Lichter, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation
New York, NY 10222-3301

J. Richard McIntosh, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular, Cellular
and Developmental Biology
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0347

Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, NY 10461

James V. Staros, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Molecular Biology
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37212-4102

For the record, it is noted that to avoid a conflict of interest, Council members absent themselves from the meeting when the Council discusses applications from their respective institutions or in which a conflict of interest may occur. Members are asked to sign a statement to this effect. This does not apply to "en bloc" actions.

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Stan Ammons, Association of American Medical Colleges
Dr. Carolyn Caudle, Tennessee State University
Dr. Princilla Smart Evans, Fisk University
Ms. Karen Gray, National Research Council
Ms. Bette Hileman, Chemical and Engineering News
Dr. John Holmfield, DANA Foundation
Dr. Glenda J. Island, Grambling State University
Dr. Lynda Marie Jordan, North Carolina A&T State University
Dr. Maria Persinos, Washington Insight
Ms. Jennifer Sutton, National Research Council
Ms. Lisa White, The Blue Sheet

Federal Employees Present:

National Institute of General Medical Sciences Employees:

Please see the attached sign-in sheet (available from NIGMS).

Other Federal Employees:

Dr. Michael Clarke, National Science Foundation
Dr. Philip Harriman, National Science Foundation
Dr. Gerald Selzer, National Science Foundation
Dr. Kamal Shukla, National Science Foundation
Dr. Marcia Steinberg, National Science Foundation


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Shafer called the meeting to order and introduced and welcomed the guests present and the five special consultants: Dr. Paul Anderson, Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Dupont Merck Pharmaceutical Company, Wilmington, DE; Dr. Anne Etgen, Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY; Dr. William Lester, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Robert Lichter, Executive Director, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, New York, NY; Dr. James Staros, Department of Molecular Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; and Dr. William Lester, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Shafer also introduced and welcomed the two ad hoc members of Council: Dr. J. Richard McIntosh, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder; and Dr. Vern Lee Schramm, Department of Biochemistry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY.

New staff members who have come on board since the last Council meeting were introduced: Dr. Arthur Atkinson, Special Expert, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry; and Ms. Debbie Lovelace, Supervisory Grants Assistant, Grants Records Management and Council Preparation Unit.

Dr. Shafer announced that Ms. Ruth Monaghan will be retiring. Ms. Monaghan has been a member of the NIGMS staff for the past 35 years. She also announced that Mrs. Pat Disque will retire in late September.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 30-31, 1997, meeting of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council were approved as submitted. A motion to approve the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council Guidelines and Operating Procedures for 1997 was omitted in the January minutes. The motion to approve the Guidelines and Operating Procedures for 1997 is hereby corrected and approved in these minutes.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 11-12, 1997
January 29-30, 1998
May 14-15, 1998
September 10-11, 1998
January 28-29, 1999

Dr. Shafer reminded the members of their responsibility and commitment, and asked that they not schedule any other meetings, etc., for the dates they had just confirmed, and that they inform their secretaries of these dates so that other commitments would not be made for them.

IV. Report from the Acting Director, NIGMS: Status of Appropriations

Dr. Shafer called the attention of the Council members to the table under Tab 3 in the agenda book showing the status of the FY 1998 appropriation. She reminded them that Dr. Cassman's testimony before the House Appropriations Committee had been sent to them in the acting director's report. Testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to occur in June.

Dr. Shafer called the attention of Council members to the announcement of changes within the NIH AREA Program. These changes were brought about in part by previous recommendations of the NAGMS Council.

Dr. Shafer proposed an amendment to the Council operating procedures with regard to the supplemental grant program to provide funds to NIGMS grantees to complete a high-resolution structure. After some discussion of the proposed motion, including adding the possibility of a second supplemental year of support, the following motion was proposed and passed: "Administrative supplements for the determination of high-resolution structures, received and reviewed in response to the Council-approved initiative, may be awarded for up to $50,000 direct costs for one year, with the possibility of an additional year, even if the annual amount exceeds 25 percent of the previously recommended level."

V. Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

John Uzzell, director of the Office of Strategic Evaluation within the NIH Office of Science Policy, presented an overview of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Under the Act, NIH is responsible for the development of a performance plan to be submitted with the FY 1999 budget. The plan must identify the goals of NIH's programs and outline the methods that will be used to assess the outcome of those programs. Mr. Uzzell explained that the performance plan is still evolving in response to directions being received from Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, DHHS, and components of NIH.

In the NIH performance plan, the activities of all NIH institutes, centers, and divisions will be aggregated into three broad programs: the research program, the research training and career development program, and a facilities program. Mr. Uzzell presented examples of the goals that are being established for these programs and the types of measures that are being proposed to assess outcomes. The measures include a combination of qualitative (descriptions of scientific advances) and quantitative indicators. Alternative methods being considered for conducting the assessment were also presented.

Council members commented that there may be some quantitative information available on the outcome of NIH's research program (e.g., numbers of scientific publications). However, there were some questions as to how meaningful this or some of the other quantitative indicators (e.g., number of grant mechanisms) will be, particularly when it might be difficult to specify target levels. It was noted that science agencies, in general, will have difficulty responding to the Act in the same way as some other agencies for which quantitative measures of outcome might be more readily available. Potential problems in providing meaningless measures for the sake of providing data were also noted. Mr. Uzzell expressed the difficulties of capturing scientific discoveries with only quantitative measures, and he said that NIH will seek to provide the most meaningful information it can in response to the Act.

VI. Modular Grant Applications and Awards

Dr. Anderson presented the Council with a summary of the features of a proposal titled "Modular Grants and Awards" that was developed by a trans-NIH committee in response to a reinvention initiative. In brief, research project grant application budget requests of less than $150,000 would be presented in modules of $25,000 and would not require line-item detail. Such requests could also be modified in units of $25,000 by review panels. Application budget requests over $150,000 but less than $500,000 would not be modular, but would only provide budgetary detail at the categorical level and would be reviewed as currently practiced. In all cases, a narrative justification of staff and special needs, e.g., equipment, would be provided and information not essential for review, including detailed other support information, would be provided "on-time" as needed by institute staff for applications within the funding range. Application and review procedures for applications requesting over $500,000 would be unchanged. Dr. Anderson stated that the proposed changes are expected to reduce administrative burden and refocus effort on the critical tasks of the granting process. Also, the proposed changes would be consistent with other, successful administrative changes, e.g., expanded authorities and simplified continuing application procedures, whose net effect is to emphasize the research project grant as a grant-in-aid. To demonstrate the possible impact of the proposal on NIGMS, Dr. Anderson provided data showing that 60 percent of NIGMS grants awarded in FY 1997 were $150,000 or less.

In discussion, Council members agreed with the intent of the proposal to simplify application procedures, but expressed differing opinions on the value of specific recommendations. Some members favored simple estimates of most budget categories, but stated that reviewers need to know the source of support for personnel and percent effort on a grant in order to judge the suitability of the overall costs requested. It was generally agreed, with some dissent, that the application include a personnel funding breakout table, without including actual salaries. While some members doubted that university administrative effort would be saved by requiring a simplified budget, this sentiment was vigorously opposed by another member with administrative experience. In general discussion about the concept of modularity, some members expressed strong doubts about the justification for modules, while others suggested that, at least, the $25,000 increment should be reduced to $10,000. Those concerned felt that the modular concept introduces rigidity into a system being promoted for its flexibility. Other concerns were: an anticipation of "rounding-up" behavior by investigators requesting modular amounts, with the consequence of fewer awards; the out-year consequences of flat-funding the modular grants, particularly those with high first-year equipment expenses; and the loss of information to the reviewers about the investigator's ability to craft a reasonable budget. Members also addressed the issue of how much information about other support should be provided in the application. The Council expressed strong concern that the application provide sufficient information about the aims funded with other support to enable reviewers to identify overlap and judge the novelty of the proposed research. The discussion concluded with the sense that, given the many concerns that were raised, NIH should give more time and attention to addressing the problems with the current proposal before using it to institute policy.

VII. Minority Recruitment on Research Training Programs

At its January meeting, the Council asked the staff to organize a discussion for the May meeting on the issue of the recruitment of minority students, with speakers drawn from various employment fields. The following scientists and educators were asked to describe their experience in the recruitment of underrepresented minority students: Dr. Paul Anderson, Dupont Merck Pharmaceutical Co; Dr. Anne Etgen, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dr. William Lester, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Robert Lichter, Dreyfus Foundation; and Dr. James Staros, Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Norvell began this discussion with a brief description of the various NIH and NIGMS efforts to increase the number of minority graduate students. Several NIGMS programs in the MORE Division (such as MARC and MBRS) are designed to increase the number of minority undergraduates prepared to enter biomedical graduate programs. In addition, about 500 minority graduate students are supported by NIGMS through MBRS, research grant supplements, and individual fellowships. Other minority graduate students are supported by NIGMS predoctoral training grants. The NIH requirement for the recruitment of underrepresented minority students into training grants was first announced in 1986, with clarifying announcements in 1989 and 1993. Dr. Norvell described NIGMS efforts to implement this requirement--by forming a staff committee, by sending numerous letters and notices, and through the establishment of a NAGMSC working group in 1993. A recent estimate of the success of these endeavors indicates that about 9 percent of new NIGMS trainee appointments are from underrepresented minority groups.

Dr. Wehrle further described the NIGMS Committee on Minority Recruitment (CMR) and its procedures and actions. All NIGMS training grant applications are rated on this requirement as either acceptable or unacceptable, with the former further designated as commendable, satisfactory, or marginal. The CMR is broadly based, with participants from various programs at NIGMS, and provides an overview of the review committee's decisions, recommending appropriate funding actions to the NIGMS director. As applications are examined from those programs whose plans were reviewed at previous renewals, special scrutiny is given to successful outcomes. Where recruitment efforts and results have been repeatedly marginal or have been unacceptable, funding by NIGMS has been withheld, delayed, or reduced. The CMR will continue to examine applications for success in attracting, retaining, and graduating underrepresented minority students in the future.

Dr. Anderson described efforts at several chemical and pharmaceutical companies to recruit underrepresented minority employees. One common effort is a summer employment program for minority students. Student employees are assigned mentors from the company to assist in career and education decisions. In addition, many companies sponsor fellowship programs for minority students at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. One large program of fellowships is run in conjunction with the United Negro College Fund, making 37 awards each year. Several companies have similar programs, some teaming up with various minority institutions. There are currently major efforts to involve other companies and substantially increase these programs.

Dr. Etgen described university-wide efforts at Einstein to recruit minority students into graduate programs. She emphasized that the recruitment works best when it is done broadly and not discipline-targeted. Dr. Etgen listed several important factors: aggressive recruiting involving faculty and students; long-term effort and consistency; less reliance on GRE scores and more on interviews in selecting students; and retention and mentoring efforts. She pointed to increasing success at Einstein.

Dr. Lester drew on his experiences at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of California to summarize crucial elements in the recruitment of underrepresented minority students into graduate programs. He emphasized the importance of the close interactions between students and faculty, especially those sympathetic to this need and willing to be involved. The Biology Scholars Program at Berkeley has been successful in this endeavor. From his experience at NSF, he described programs to increase minority students in science at elementary and secondary school levels. Dr. Lester concluded by pointing to the need for drawing upon all the intellectual capacity in the country and for increased communication in order to solve this crucial problem.

Dr. Lichter described his experience with minority recruitment at Hunter College, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the Dreyfus Foundation. In the reviews of applications to his foundation, a special effort is made to educate reviewers on this issue. Involvement of the faculty is crucial for success in minority recruitment at any university. Conferences and faculty discussions are useful in creating pathways for university faculty to play creative roles in and to show that they care about this effort. Dr. Lichter stressed the need to raise funds at every level to support programs needed for recruiting and nurturing minority students. It is important to make minority recruitment part of the everyday fabric of an organization or university.

Dr. James Staros described efforts at Vanderbilt University from his perspective in his many different roles as mentor, department chair, T32 program director, minority program director, and university administrator. He pointed out the limitations on the pool of eligible minority students, especially in more physical and chemical fields within the biological sciences. Vanderbilt is much more successful in minority recruitment in MSTP than biophysics, for example. Dr. Staros pointed out that there are many creative approaches to the recruitment and funding of minority students, and he urged NIH to encourage a wide spectrum of efforts and programs.

Council members commented on many aspects of these presentations. Dr. Hrabrowski pointed out the interest shown by many minority students in medical practice and the need to encourage more students to consider research careers. He noted that recruitment strategies in science need to be different for different minority groups. Large dropout rates for minority science students occur at all levels of education. Intervention at early levels is important, as well as early and continual mentoring. Dr. Clayton agreed and stressed the need for retention efforts at all academic levels. Other Council members pointed out the need to discuss the issue of economic security with students, balancing this with the excitement of biomedical research careers. The employment potentials and uncertainties of biomedical graduate education and Ph.D. degrees were discussed. Council members were also concerned about the impact of recent legal challenges to affirmative action initiatives. Dr. Henry described several examples of success stories in the Carnegie Mellon graduate programs. Council members stressed the need for continued efforts and leadership in this crucial endeavor.


IX. Procedure for Conduct of Meeting

Dr. Shafer brought to the attention of the Council members the procedures for the conduct of the meeting. Council members were reminded that all of the review materials furnished are privileged information. Although most conflicts of interest involving institutional affiliation already had been identified, members were asked to absent themselves during discussion of any application in which there was a personal conflict that was not readily apparent.

X. Review of Applications

Council reviewed the following applications with primary NIGMS assignment: 718 applications, which included new research grants, competing continuation grants, and supplemental grants; and 8 institutional training grant applications. In addition, Council considered 142 applications on which NIGMS had received secondary assignment. A summary of applications reviewed by Council is available from NIGMS.

Appendix I: Research grant applications
Appendix II: SBIR applications
Appendix III: Institutional fellowship applications
Appendix IV: Minorities in biomedical research applications

These appendices are available upon request from Ms. Haney, 301-594-2172.


The meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m. on Friday, May 16, 1997.


I hereby certify that the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete to my knowledge.

Marvin Cassman, Ph.D.
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council
W. Sue Shafer, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council