The meeting took place in Bldg. 50, room 1328.
Attending: Difilippantonio (NCI, President), Rovescalli (NHLBI, Vice-President, by telephone), Schaffer (NCBI, Secretary), Baris (NCI), Epstein (NICHD), Kiesewetter (NIBIB), Lee (NEI), Meyerle (NEI), Mitz(NIMH), Olivero (member of Core Day committee), Petralia (NIDCD), Thorsel(NIAAA), Weeraratna (NIA)
Difilippantonio called the meeting to order at approximately 1:05PM.
The agenda consisted of two items:
1. Discussion of a “Core Day” concerning shared NIH facilities
2. Plans for 2009.
Three members of the “Core Day” committee attended: Difilippantonio, Rovescalli, and Olivero. They presented a proposed agenda for such a one-day meeting. No date has been scheduled. At the request of Drs. Gottesman (Director of NIH Intramural Research) and Schwartz (Deputy Director of NIH Intramural Research), the participants and agenda would include three Trans-NIH Initiatives: Center for Human Immunology, Imaging Initiative, Systems Biology Initiative.
In response to a question from Weeraratna, Difilippantonio summarized the possible benefits of a “Core Day:
1. Publicize what core facilities exist.
2. Facilitate discussion and interaction across institutes.
3. Sharing licenses and contracts.
4. Compare administrative rules and conventions across institutes.
5. Learn who is eligible to use core facilities – perhaps, some people who are eligible do not know.
The proposed agenda is too late for inclusion at the NIH Research Festival.
However, there is a poster session on October 7th, from 11AM-1PM at which SSSC could organize some posters to highlight the activities of cores and shared facilities. The idea of presenting two posters was generally viewed favorably. Mitz, Thorsel, Rovescalli, Olivero, and Baris made various suggestions for the contents of the posters, which are summarized as follows. One poster might list the known shared facilities, and would hopefully be accompanied by a Website listing these facilities with more information. The other poster might list issues that shared facilities face, and invite feedback from shared facility directors via a survey and a suggestion box. The committee is charged with following through on these suggestions and filling in more details and getting the posters made.
The committee is also to inquire whether specific core facilities can present posters at the October 7th session and whether there is any limit on the number of posters.
Concerning activities for 2009, the discussion focused on evaluation of Staff Scientists and preparing for career transitions.
Mitz mentioned that he has prepared a proposal for consideration in NIMH about a three-way “contract” between SS/SC ,Principal Investigator( PI), and Scientific Director (SD). He will share his proposal with the committee at a later date. An unusual aspect of this contract is that the SS/SC is to specify a desired career trajectory and the PI and SD are too assure that the SS/SC has adequate resources to pursue this trajectory. Important examples of distinct trajectories that need distinct preparation and resources include:
1. Transition to independent research --- SS/SC will need first author papers
2. Transition to management – SS/SC will need management training
3. Transition to teaching – SS/SC will need teaching experience.
Another proposed activity was to put together a team that can present to the leadership of institutes how quadrennial reviews of SS/SC’s should be done. NCI representatives stated that at NCI Lynn Rockwood (sp?) has systematically organized the reviews and could be called upon to show a PowerPoint presentation on how they are done.
Olivero mentioned that the NIH Training Center has a variety of courses that can provide some of the training that Mitz’s proposal calls for.
Baris mentioned that the main stumbling block is that SS/SC’s have to be encouraged to go to such courses.
Weeraratna commented that in NIA, staff (including but not limited to SS’s) are required to attend a variety of such courses. Nobody else echoed this point; so, maybe NIA expends more effort on training than other institutes.
Epstein echoed by several attendees commented that such training courses should not lead to another compulsory web training course, since these courses are widely perceived to be useless wastes of time.
Difilippantonio mentioned that there exists an “Individual Development Plan” for each employee that could be used for planning a career trajectory, but it rarely is used as such.
Several attendees commented that planning for a career trajectory should include financial planning.
Olivero commented that there is value in involving the P.I. in career planning and value in customizing the quadrennial review to each scientist. Schaffer commented that customization of the quadrennial review risks creating the perception that the reviews are not done fairly.
Rovescalli commented that P.I.’s generally want SS/SC’s to stay at NIH and would be reluctant to participate in planning a career trajectory in which the SS/SC is going to leave. Difillipantonio retorted that such planning is part of mentoring and not fundamentally different from the way in which P.I.’s mentor Post-Doc’s who are expected to leave after some years.
Kiesewetter asked somewhat rhetorically, whether the resources (especially time) for mentoring at the S. D. and P.I. level exits?
Mitz suggested that P.I.’s will be motivated to mentor in the career trajectory planning if that is a condition for receiving SS/SC positions. He suggested that S.D.’s have a strong budgetary motivation for career trajectory planning because the planned departure of staff frees up funds to hire new staff and start new programs.
Lee described a case in NEI, where a SC was forced to shift labs because the original P.I. changed research focus and some technology. In this case, an unfavorable quadrennial review was used to force the change of labs. Several attendees commented that this was an abuse of the quadrennial review process. SS/SC’s can have their positions end at the end of a contract solely because there is no more need in the lab or Institute for their skills. Such a termination of employment is based on needs and should not be coupled to the quadrennial review. Indeed, most SS/SC’s have contract lengths (typically five years) that do not coincide with the four-year review cycle.
There was further discussion about how to align the objectives of S.D., P.I., and SS/SC, but no consensus was reached.
A motion from A. Mitz to adjourn the meeting was accepted at approximately 3:20PM