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August 9 , 2007
IC Directors
Kerry Brink, Assistant to the Deputy Director, NIH
IC Directors’ Meeting Highlights—May 10, 2007

Discussion Items

I. NBS/nVision June Deployment—“Mind the Gap”

Ms. Barros explained that the NIH Business System (NBS) is an integrated system that will service most of NIH’s administrative and support functions and will replace the Administrative Data Base (ADB). At the same time, the Center of Information Technology (CIT) is implementing nVision as the successor to the Data Warehouse, which offers significant new business intelligence and reporting technologies. Ms. Barros stressed that simultaneous deployment of these two systems will affect most of the NIH administrative and reporting community. Several challenges for users include:

  • Reports can be affected by software bugs and user data entry error;
  • Some data may not be immediately available;
  • Learning curve of new transaction and reporting systems;
  • Business processes will need to change to accommodate the software.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires all new federal information technology systems to use commercial software unless alternative cost-benefit analysis can be provided. The NBS Business Case determined that the best alternative was to install an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system utilizing commercial software, rather than designing a custom system for NIH. An FY 2005 OMB survey showed that 20 of 24 major Departments have implemented or planned to implement an ERP system. Long-term advantages include integration, efficiency, standardization and compliance with government-wide financial directives.

With the June 2007 deployment of new NBS/nVision functions, ICs should expect a short-term productivity gap. Literature and interviews with federal program managers emphasize that leadership is paramount to success. While NBS/nVision have taken steps to mitigate the gap it cannot be eliminated. Concerted effort and support for this collaborative project by the ICs are essential, particularly in the following areas:

  • Assure that employees are trained for the roles they will perform in the new system;
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of additional tools that are available for training and testing, particularly playing in the sandbox;
  • Where practical, take procurement actions in advance of deployment to ease the post-deployment workload;
  • Have contingency plans—the reality is that employees must work harder or temporary employees must be hired to manage the gap in the short-run.

II. Policy Options for NIH Diversity Programs

For over thirty years, NIH has funded programs to increase the diversity of the scientific workforce. Eligibility for funding has been determined in two broad categories:

  • Institutional—funding programs target specific institutions (e.g. Minority-Serving, Hispanic-Serving), and are based on enrollment statistics as they relate to the racial/ethnic composition of the student body. An example of this type of program is the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program.
  • Individual—funding programs target meritorious individuals that are determined to come from a disadvantaged background, including underrepresented racial or ethnic groups among others. An example of this type of program is Diversity Supplement Program.
    • In June 2004, the NIH Steering Committee reviewed and approved a revision of the Minority Supplement Program (subsequently renamed the Diversity Supplement Program) to broaden eligibility criteria to include multiple forms of disadvantage (e.g. race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability). This was in response to concerns that the Minority Supplement Program, as it existed, might be in conflict with the Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena Supreme Court decision, which concluded that the highest standards of review (“strict scrutiny”) must be used in assessing the need for government programs that use race/ethnicity to determine eligibility. At the same time, the Steering Committee decided that the NIH would broaden eligibility criteria for all individual-focused diversity programs as they came up for renewal using the newly renamed Diversity Supplement Program (e.g. Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research, PA-05-015) as a model.

      The Steering Committee unanimously agreed that implementation of the 2004 NIH policy on broadening eligibility criteria should continue to be supported and improved, as well as, reviewed for compliance with federal law. In addition, a small group led by Dr. Ruffin will assemble to prepare a policy to address institutional programs in a manner analogous to the Diversity Supplement Program with the focus on broadening eligibility criteria. IC Directors supported the proposed NIH diversity policy and the process for its continual improvement.

      Kerry Brink
      cc: OD Senior Staff

This page was last reviewed on August 10, 2007 .
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