NICHD AC Holds Spring Meeting

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) held its advisory council meeting on June 3 and 4.  Presentations of particular interest to FABBS members included a review of plans to update the strategic plan, increases to doctoral stipends, and an update from the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). 

NICHD Director, Diana Bianchi, MD, opened with the NICHD Director’s Report. The president proposed a NIH budget for fiscal year 2025, of 50.1 billion, including $1.77 billion for NICHD. 

The current NICHD strategic plan, drafted in 2020, includes five themes: understanding developmental bases, promoting reproductive health, supporting healthy pregnancies, improving child and adolescent health, and advancing therapeutics for pregnant women, children, and people with disabilities. Dr. Bianchi focused on the progress made over the past five years and shared that NICHD is working to update the strategic plan for 2025-2030 to reflect advancements in science and societal changes, such as issues related to the pandemic and racial injustice. NICHD will seek input from stakeholders through a Request for Information (RFI) anticipated in the summer, with the updated plan expected to be released spring 2025. 

NICHD is actively promoting collaborative, interdisciplinary research in alignment with the President’s White House Women’s Health Research Initiative to address critical needs in women’s health. Dr. Bianchi highlighted the NICHD’s response to this initiative, including the proposal of the “Act Endo” challenge to accelerate the development of non-invasive diagnostic tests for endometriosis, a common yet challenging condition affecting many women. Dr. Bianchi recognized NIH director, Monica R. Bertagnolli’s, PhD, commitment to developing a primary care clinical trial network. This initiative aims to engage rural and underserved communities in clinical research and underscores NICHD’s commitment to addressing health disparities and improving access to care for all.  

Dr. Bianchi highlighted the increase in FY 2024 pre- and post-doctoral stipends and its impact on available positions. Predoctoral trainees will see a raise of approximately 4 percent, while postdoctoral scholars will receive an 8 percent increase. The goal is to reach the Advisory Committee’s recommended statement level of around $70,000 for postdoctoral scholars in the coming years. Additionally, the childcare subsidy will be raised by an additional $500 to $3,000 per fiscal year.  

On June 27, 2024, at 11am ET, Dr. Bianchi will meet with FABBS (Link to register).   

  [Review the NICHD AC Agenda]    [Watch the Recorded Videocast]  

 The NICHD Training and Career Development Implementation Working Group Update, given by Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) deputy director and Office of Extramural Policy (OEP) director, Joseph Gindhart, PhD and Lesly Samedy Bates, PhD, program officer with Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics (OPPTB), discussed recommendations across three key areas: career development, doctoral programs, and alignment with strategic priorities. They offered six recommendations -  

  • Rethink how we talk about outcomes  
  • Reinvigorate institutional training and career development programs  
  • Create Community Amongst Trainees  
  • Use Training and Career Development Programs to Diversify NICHD’s Reach  
  • Reinvigorate the Loan Repayment Programs  
  • Use Training Programs to Support Strategic Research Priorities  

AC members also heard from leadership of the Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)  Jane Simoni, PhD, who gave an update on FY24 Scientific Priority Areas. Dr. Simoni, emphasized the need for an interdisciplinary approach to health research, including considering social determinants of health across an individual’s life cycle; advocating for multi-level research; and calling to enhance our impact through synergist integration of behavioral and social science with biomedical research. Dr. Simoni concluded by reviewing training programs that help develop interdisciplinary skills and collaboration.   

Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) Rebecca Rosen, PhD, highlighted the importance of data sharing and repository alignment for NIH research and the need for a consistent and standardized approach. Dr. Rosen called for standards, policies, and best practices to enhance data sharing and use across the research lifecycle with focus on education and extramural engagement.