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IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
September 7, 2001
I. Report of the NIH Restructuring Committee
Dr. Leshner explained that the restructuring is a serious exercise not only for HHS, but for OMB and the Bush Administration. The over-arching principle of the NIH committee was to accomplish the OMB and HHS goals in ways that would enhance NIH core activities and the success of our mission. Dr. Leshner distributed copies of his overheads. He did not include the subcommittee reports, but he will provide them to anyone who would like them.
There are five Administration initiatives:
The NIH committee spent most of its time on the first initiative, especially human resources management. The contextual principles for HR management are to centralize HR policy, oversight, technical review, and accountability while retaining a high level of program support. The proposed HR structure consists of three tiers. The first tier consists of a single servicing personnel office (SPO) for NIH. Tier two consists of staff performing generic HR services not tied to specific program areas; these people would report to the SPO. Tier three consists of staff with program knowledge and close relationships with program staff; these people would continue to report to IC management.
A number of implementation issues need to be resolved, such as physical location and work assignments of staff, customer input into performance evaluation of tiers 1 and 2, the technical series for tier 3, and the timing of a staged implementation. Dr. Leshner said the next step is to form an implementation group, on which Executive Officers from diverse ICs should be heavily represented.
Dr. Leshner then briefly summarized the committee's work on the other aspects of strategic management of human capital and on the remaining Administration initiatives. Both public affairs and legislative affairs are already centralized at NIH. We need to clarify the roles of IC staff in both areas and review existing policies and practices to ensure consistency and quality control. NIH already leads the Department in E-government, but the committee did make a number of recommendations to improve this area even further. The competitive sourcing (A-78) initiative was handled by a separate committee led by Mr. Wheeles. The committee recommends improving NIH financial performance through automation, restructuring, and management oversight. Finally, in the area of budget and performance integration, the group recommended continuing to implement GPRA and pursuing service delivery accountability by having the FARB manage central resources and ORS and the CC use activity-based management for their areas.
Dr. Leshner said the committee has stopped editing the report. He does need to know immediately if there are still technical issues that must be resolved. The report will accompany the NIH FY03 budget. Mr. Graeff added that we are still waiting to hear from HHS on their restructuring ideas.
Dr. Fauci, who was a member of the committee, added that a critical issue of concern under human capital was the relationship between tier 2 and tier 3, including the physical location of tier 3 employees. Dr. Leshner noted that staff who classify positions, develop individual recruitment packages, etc. need to be within the ICs. This is entirely consistent with the Anderson Report. He added that we must be perfectly clear that we are not recommending a shadow personnel system. Dr. Klausner said it will be important to measure how the new system works and to develop data on the time to recruit, cost of each recruitment, etc. Dr. Leshner agreed that these topics all need to be addressed by the implementation group. He noted the amazing differences among the ICs and said the implementation group will need to analyze each IC individually.
Ms. Thomas noted that NIH has many legislative mandates on general communication about health and science as well as some very specific requirements. Dr. Kirschstein clarified that HHS has limited the restructuring effort to interactions with the press; OS does not appear to be concerned about science communication in general.
Dr. Lindberg expressed concerns about including recommendations regarding programs that haven't been evaluated. Dr. Leshner said he would remove those references. Dr. Kirschstein said the group will discuss restructuring at the Leadership Forum.
II. Information Items
Mr. James Capretta, Program Associate Director, Human Resources Programs, OMB, will address the Leadership Forum Tuesday night.
Dr. Kirschstein described the last two weeks as tumultuous. She termed the stem cell issue very complex and described the Secretary's press conference at NIH. Dr. Skirboll discussed the next steps and reviewed the President's eligibility criteria for the cell lines. She clarified that the human embryonic cell lines arose from more than 60 individual blastocysts, but the lines are in various stages of development. Patenting and licensing issues will now be of major importance. Dr. Skirboll and her staff are working to get the cell lines in a registry quickly. Dr. Kirschstein clarified that this will be a rolling, Web-based registry. Dr. Judith Greenberg of NIGMS will work with OSP on setting up the registry.
Dr. Freire addressed stem cell licensing and patenting issues. The key patents on stem cells are held by WARF and licensed to WiCell. Both the derivation of and the actual cells are covered by the patents. NCRR supported the research, which gives NIH some rights. Two years after the primate patents were issued, the Patent and Trademark Office issued an identical patent for humans. Geron funded that work and has the license. The key to both is that even if other groups derive stem cells another way, stem cells with all the same characteristics are covered under the WARF patents. Dr. Freire said that NIH must now work with the patent holder to agree on terms of access to the cells so they can be provided to intramural researchers. NIH will thus negotiate an agreement for the intramural scientists that can serve as a model that can be used by other NIH-funded investigators, if they so choose.
Dr. Kirschstein has promised the Secretary and the White House that we will compare the usefulness of adult stem cell lines from various sources with human embryonic stem cell lines. Dr. Fauci pointed out that IC Directors need to assure the Administration that NIH will continue to support all forms of stem cell research. Dr. Kirschstein said that as soon as the registry has been established and patent issues resolved, intramural scientists can begin to request stem cells for their research. Investigators will have to inform their IC Directors which lines they plan to use. OER will work out procedures for extramural grantees who want to use the registry. Dr. Skirboll will ensure that all information related to the registry is on one Web site.
Dr. Kirschstein continued the meeting with principals only, to discuss the FY03 budget.
Karen Pelham O'Steen
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