Final discussion: Rescuing US Biomedical Research from its Systemic Flaws


A deep blue sky, dotted by clouds, over UW-Madison's Bascom Hall

Bascom Hall and Abe//Photo by Kelly Tyrrell

Since the beginning of March, leaders from around campus have hosted a series of discussions to solicit ideas for helping rescue U.S. biomedical research from its systemic flaws. We wrote about it after Week 1, and today, the final installment of the four week series will wrap up with a discussion about NIH peer review/evaluation mechanisms from 4 until 6 pm at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

The discussions have included professors from across the spectrum, both in terms of research focus and career stage, as well as postdoctoral researchers and graduate students, who have time dedicated at the end of each session to bring up their concerns and contribute their ideas without judgement from their mentors.

While Week 1 examined the number of PhDs currently in the academic biomedical workforce, and the challenges that face those that are coming up, Week 2 looked at the shape of the workforce (should there be more, smaller labs or fewer, larger labs?) and Week 3 explored NIH grant funding mechanisms.

The Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has provided links to most of the presentations, as well as follow-up surveys for attendees. In fact, Week 4 includes the results of a survey designed for this section, which asks questions such as:

  • Should there be a cap in some types of funding for individual PIs?
  • Do full professors make better NIH peer reviewers than younger faculty?
  • Should NIH provide review feedback in person or online?
  • Should R01 grant duration be changed

These discussions will culminate April 11, with a full day workshop at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, where the ideas and recommendations compiled from the pre-workshop discussions that have taken place this month and those generated at the event itself will be presented to national leaders, including Bruce Alberts – former President of the National Academy of Sciences and former Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine, Jo Handelsman -Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and UW-Madison grad, Mark Kirschner – chair in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, and Shirley Tighlman – former president of Princeton University.