Revving Up NLM Research

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Last week NLM took another big step in revving up its intramural research operation. On Tuesday, January 15, we launched a national search for a scientific director to oversee all intramural research, a move that elevates the position and reflects its broad-based, trans-NLM scope of responsibilities.

The new position arises in response to the Blue Ribbon Panel that recently reviewed NLM’s intramural research programs and recommended, among other forward-looking ideas, unifying the programs under a single scientific director. That shift also aligns the Library with NIH’s other Institutes and Centers, most of which are guided by one scientific director.

The NLM intramural research program includes activities housed in both the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHC) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The researchers in these two centers develop and apply computational approaches to a broad range of problems in biomedicine, molecular biology, and health, but they do so via different channels—LHC focusing on medical and clinical data, NCBI on biological and genomic data.

But as the Blue Ribbon Panel noted, the boundaries are dissolving between clinical and biological data, and the analytical and computational strategies for each are increasingly shared. As a result, the current research environment calls for a more holistic view of biomedical data, one best served by shared approaches and ongoing collaborations while preserving the two centers’ unique identities.

A single scientific director will help make that happen.

Such unified leadership is expected to yield a number of benefits for NLM’s intramural research, including a sharper focus on research priorities; collective alignment with NLM and NIH strategies; fewer barriers to collaboration; the cross-fertilization of ideas; and the optimization of scarce resources. Essentially, we expect to spark synergies and garner efficiencies, with accelerated research the result.

As one of the first orders of business, the new scientific director will be asked to craft a long-range plan that identifies research areas where we can best leverage our unique position and resources. We’ll also look for ways to allocate more resources to fundamental research while streamlining operational support. Down the road, we’ll expand our research agenda to include high-risk, high-reward endeavors, the kinds of things that raise profound questions and have the potential to yield tremendous impact.

It’s a bold and significant undertaking.

Fortunately, the new scientific director will be supported by the experienced intramural investigators already onboard and by a seasoned NLM leadership team. In addition, three new investigators currently being recruited will complement our strengths in machine learning and natural language processing.

It promises to be a fabulous and exciting journey.

Do you know someone who’d make a great scientific director? Or maybe you’re ready to step up to this opportunity yourself. If so, please let us know by contacting the search committee at NLMSD@nih.gov.

Or, if you’d like to talk about the direction we’re heading, add a note below. I look forward to hearing from you.

More information
NLM Scientific Director Job Announcement

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

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