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NIH moves to boost biomedical research workforce, improve data use

By Maureen McKinney
Posted: December 7, 2012 - 6:30 pm ET

Without increased funding, a more diverse workforce, better management of data and the ability to attract the best talent, the U.S. may lose its position as the world's leader in biomedical research, warned the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH on Dec. 7 announced a set of initiatives aimed at bolstering the biomedical research workforce and improving data infrastructure.

Developed by NIH's Advisory Committee to the Director, a 17-member expert panel, the proposed initiatives include a mentoring program for undergraduate students, a more fair review process for grant applications and more intensive training programs for graduate students. The committee also recommended the creation of a biomedical data program—known as Big Data to Knowledge, or BD2K—that will improve data sharing, create training programs focused on leveraging data and launch centers of excellence.

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“I'm grateful to these experts, both inside NIH and from the broader biomedical research community, who have given these matters extensive thought and made it possible for NIH to put forward actions designed to benefit our entire research community for years to come,” Dr. Francis Collins, NIH's director, said in a news release.

The NIH's plan comes as looming deficit deadlines threaten billions in federal funds for medical research. A September report from the White House Office of Management and Budget (PDF) found that budget cuts scheduled to take effect in January would spell a loss of more than $2.5 billion for the NIH, which is part of HHS. Such cuts would require the NIH “to halt or curtail scientific research, including needed research into cancer and childhood diseases,” the OMB concluded.

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