IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
March 6, 2007
I. Improving HR Services — Colleen Barros (Office of Management) and Chris Major (Office of Human Resources)
Colleen Barros and Chris Major updated IC Directors on current efforts to improve Human Resources services. DHHS reorganizations of HR services in 2002 and 2003 resulted in a major decrease of HR staff and centralization of resources away from the NIH campus. After negotiations with the department, NIH reestablished its HR center and is now rebuilding HR resources and extending outreach efforts to find out what customers want.
Primary focus in discussions with ICs has been on the Client Services Division (CSD), which is an area most relied upon for day-to-day HR services. Decisions for improving services for the CSD will include increased IC involvement, where both ICs and OHR will share responsibilities in OHR staff selection, performance review, and awards determination. A survey is underway to identify IC preferences for increased HR access, which will need to be balanced with management accountability and economy of scale. Changes for CSD are planned to take place within its current budget and efforts are targeted for implementation or completion by June.
IC directors inquired as to whether hiring additional staff was an option, as the concern was expressed that there are not enough staff on the CSD teams to deliver the level of service desired by the ICs. Colleen Barros acknowledged a need for additional resources but under the current initiative to improve services, OHR was trying to manage within its current budget and FTE levels. Chris Major added that OHR has already taken steps to improve staff turnover and that before adding more staff, it would be important to assess how the reorganization will work. Ms. Major also reminded the IC Directors that OHR and OSMP will be undergoing an A-76 review in 2008, and that it may not be a good idea to increase staffing levels in the face of this review. Ms. Barros indicated that if future analysis shows the need for increasing FTE and budget levels within OHR, this would be done through the governance model and with the NIH Director’s approval.
II. Appropriations Update – John Bartrum (Office of Budget)
John Bartrum gave a summary of events leading to the January 31st Joint Resolution (JR) that will extend the current CR through the end of the year. The JR was passed by the House, and the Senate is expected to pass it by February 15th. The House and Senate Statements are aligned in support for NIH’s 2007 Fiscal Policy notice (dated Dec 2006) which stated NIH’s intent to reallocate funds to maintain the investigator pool and buttress vulnerable areas of biomedical research. To assist in meeting these goals, the JR provides NIH with an additional $620M. It includes specific funding for the Common Fund thus insuring all ICs maintain their Roadmap/Common Fund set-aside in FY 2007 as an increase to the ICs. Common Fund dollars also include additional monies for a “Junior Pioneer Award” as a new tool for investigators competing for their first R01. Dr. Plus, it provides additional funds to support implementation of reauthorization activity, the National Children’s Study, and a few other program related activities. The JR also will allow ICs to use appropriations funds for minor facility repairs and improvements and increases the cap on the Director’s Flexible Research Authority to $14M. The Office of Budget is working with HHS and OMB on the actual formula and once complete will provide the ICs with their allocation level as a planning tool – until the actual bill is passed by the Senate or amended.
Jeremy Berg explained that the “Junior Pioneer Award” tool will be used as an award for innovative new investigators who are currently competing for their first R01 award. It will require that applicants have a faculty position and are already applying for their first R01, to avoid putting all their efforts into one application. Efforts are underway to get the RFA out as soon as possible.
III. Scientific Presentation: Cancer Screening: the Clash of Science and Intuition - Dr. Barry Kramer (Office of Disease Prevention)
Dr. Kramer provided a presentation on the application of evidence-based methods to the evaluation of cancer screening studies. Central to the discussion was that while recent advances in cancer screening have resulted in earlier and higher rates of cancer detection, these technologies have not necessarily resulted in lowering cancer-related morbidity or mortality. New screening methods are associated with lead time biases, length biased sampling and over-diagnosis of cancer; none of which necessarily affects mortality, but can give the false impression of benefit (including increased survival from the time of diagnosis and even an apparent increase in cure rate).
There is a need for large scale randomized evidence gathering to better understand the efficacy of current screening and detection. Observational studies are subject to potential confounders and biases, whereas randomized, controlled trials allow for better control and clearer direct assessment of benefits and harms. Related to this is recognition that the most reliable outcome of this analysis would be effect of screening on morbidity and/or mortality as opposed to examination of survival rates or some other intermediate outcome.
This page was last reviewed on March 12, 2007 .
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