Guest post by Valerie Florance, PhD, Acting Scientific Director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Intramural Research Program.
In November 2018, NLM Director Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, published a blog post titled Wanted: Big Hairy Audacious Goals about the new Blue Ribbon Panel Review of the NLM Intramural Research Program (IRP). The report offered 11 recommendations to help NLM boost the visibility and scientific reach of its IRP. In the introduction, the Panel stated:
Given rapid changes in informatics and data science and their application to biomedical research, it is essential for the NLM’s intramural research program to evolve so that it can maintain the prominent role in the field it has held for the last several decades.…NLM must be able to allocate more resources to fundamental research activities and to pursue an expansive research agenda that includes high-risk, high-reward research endeavors.
Progress as of April 2023
NLM has completed or made progress on all recommendations except 3 and 7, which await the hiring of a permanent Scientific Director for the IRP. In the interim, as the Acting Scientific Director, I coordinate activities and resources across the two branches—Computational Biology and Computational Health Research—to call attention to the excellent research being done by NLM’s 17 investigators and to foster dialogue across the branches.
Here are some examples of how NLM is implementing these recommendations:
- Our updated IRP website provides summaries of each of our investigators’ research interests and links to brief videos of them talking about their work. These include summaries and videos from the three newest members of our team—Xiaofang Jiang, PhD; Lauren Porter, PhD; and Jeremy Weiss, PhD, MD—as well as from Michael Chiang, MD, Director of the National Eye Institute at NIH, whose research lab is located in the NLM IRP. You can also view our NLM Intramural Research Program Overview for more information about how our division works.
- Our full-time IRP Training Coordinator provides guidance to the 35 post-baccalaureate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral trainees who work with our investigators. Our Intramural Training Opportunities website also describes our newest trainee opportunity, the Data Science and Informatics Scholars Program, which encourages college students from diverse backgrounds with an interest in computational biology and computational health research to join NIH for paid summer internships.
- We have a weekly virtual seminar series that include presentations from trainees in both branches and an annual Ada Lovelace Computational Health Lecture Series that highlights the accomplishments of women in STEM fields.
We look forward to sharing more updates as we continue to expand the NLM IRP and define and redefine our audacious goals to serve scientists and society.
Dr. Florance has graduate training in information sciences, library science, and medical anthropology. She came to NLM in 2001 as a grant program officer and was NLM Director of Extramural Programs from 2012 to 2021. Before coming to NLM she served as Project Director for firstname.lastname@example.org, a project of the Association of American Medical Colleges.