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NIH Record  
Vol. LX, No. 1
January 11, 2008
SciLife 2007: Gateway to a
Successful Career
NBS Awards Ceremony Spreads Credit
FIC Organizes Event to Launch Global-Theme Issue
Aging Summit Seeks Ways to Keep Neurons Firing in Golden Years
OBSSR Holds First Dissemination Conference
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Peer Review, Graying Grantees Top 95th ACD Agenda
  NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni addresses ACD meeting on Dec. 7, 2007. At left is NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington.
  NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni addresses ACD meeting on Dec. 7, 2007. At left is NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington.

The 95th gathering of the advisory committee to the NIH director— and the 12th presided over by Dr. Elias Zerhouni—focused on two major issues faced by the agency in 2007: an exhaustive and thorough examination of the peer review system through which NIH disburses more than three-quarters of its budget and a primer on the gradual graying of NIH’s grant-getters; it is taking longer and longer for medical faculty to earn their first federal funding, which discourages youthful innovators.

Zerhouni said NIH’s peer review system “has proven itself over the last 60 years as probably the best system worldwide for managing science” and is being adopted internationally as the best guarantor of scientific independence. “However, no system will remain perfect forever. Peer review is not always as effective as we want it to be.”

Mission Possible: Breaking Down Boundaries with Global Health

The health workers at the Ugandan International Center for Excellence in Research (ICER), funded by NIAID, accept an unorthodox mission. They climb into an off-road vehicle and use a global positioning system to locate 50 rural communities in the Rakai district of southwestern Uganda. In the past, village healers administered traditional remedies to those needing treatment. Today, villagers can participate in ICER’s clinical trials, which study the efficacy of HIV and STD treatments and aim to decrease the transmission of infectious diseases.

The Rakai Health Sciences Program—like its sister ICER laboratories at the University of Bamako, Mali, and the Tuberculosis Research Centre in Chennai, India—conducts research on tropical and infectious diseases in areas burdened with high rates of such problems. NIAID renovated existing labs at these centers and outfitted them with modern tools used in the study of infectious diseases. The centers help scientists working with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, malaria in Mali and tuberculosis and filariasis in Chennai to answer essential questions on how medicines and vaccines affect people’s health.