May 2013 Newsletter

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CPI Newsletter May 2013

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Included in this issue:

 

Summary of April 8, 2013 CPI EC meetings Chancellor Sharp
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The CPI EC met with Chancellor Sharp on April 8th and discussed the following items: Industry collaborations; effects of sequester on research; available university funds for sequester cuts; Concur/e-Travel issues; research infrastructure; CPI stakeholder input throughout RFP process; raises to tuition and fees; and outsourcing construction costs. Also discussed was the high-speed toll road that would connect north Houston to College Station, nicknamed the “Aggie Highway” (http://goo.gl/iPIAU).

Summary of May 1, 2013 CPI Executive Committee (EC) meeting with research administrators from Texas A&M, AgriLife Research, HSC, TEES and TTI
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The CPI Executive Committee (EC) held its monthly coordination meeting on May 1st. Research administration representatives from Texas A&M, AgriLife Research, HSC, TEES and TTI are invited to these coordination meetings. Also invited to this meeting were Dr. Robert Nobles, Mr. Ralph Davila and Dr. Julian Leibowitz. Agenda items included a review of the MD/PhD program by Dr. Leibowitz and feedback related to outsourcing of contracts with Mr. Davila.  Mr. Davila noted that issues regarding projects (costs, time, other) can be reported to his attention at 979-845-1225 or r-davila@tamu.edu. Mr. Davila also noted that PIs can request multiple alternative quotes through Compass from other vendors for various projects. Attendees also discussed the NSF High Quality Research Act.

Dr. Robert Nobles discussed updates relating to IRB and iRIS, and the May 8th full meeting agenda was reviewed. Due to renovations to the Williams Building, the next Executive Committee meeting will move to an alternate location.


2013-14 CPI Member and Vice Chair Election Results
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The Vice Chair election and CPI general elections for those units with open seats for 2013 have been completed. Dr. Mary Bryk has been elected as the 2013 CPI Vice Chair (term begins September 1, 2013). The full 2013 CPI membership roster can be found at http://cpi.tamu.edu/membership/13unit.


NSF High Quality Research Act
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Overview/Background: The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee (House Science Committee), chaired by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), is in the process of drafting a complete NSF Reauthorization bill.  This bill will eventually be included in a larger COMPETES Reauthorization bill. Originally, the Committee drafted language that was focused on the Social, Behavioral, and Economic division at NSF (SBE).

As background, for several years some Members of Congress (from both parties) have expressed concerns with some of the projects being funded at NSF in general.  The SBE division has traditionally received the most scrutiny, as disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, and political science are seen as more difficult to quantify.  Some Members have also suggested that in tight budget times money should be prioritized to other areas of research such as cybersecurity, engineering, and cancer research.  As a result, they desired more accountability for SBE programs, and in some cases, to redirect or cut funding to certain SBE programs altogether.

Senator Coburn proposed an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations and Continuing Resolution bill for FY 2013 which would have eliminated the NSF’s political-science program altogether, cut the NSF’s budget by $10M, and given most of that money to NIH for cancer research.  However, when the bill was adopted (by voice vote in the Senate) it instead included language that prohibits the NSF from funding political science projects, unless the NSF director certifies projects as vital to national security or the economic interests of the U.S.

This language was considered a compromise between Senator Coburn and Chairwoman Mikulski from Senator Coburn's original proposal. Several Members of the House Science Committee have voiced similar concerns about the SBE program. During recent hearings, Members posed SBE questions to NSF and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP, the office which has a broad mandate to advise the President and the Executive Office on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs) officials and discussed similar ways to address SBE program oversight.  As the hearing record details, Committee Members were not impressed with the answers they received from NSF and OSTP.

Following this hearing, a Member of the Committee expressed that the grant oversight should not just stop at SBE and that all grants from NSF should have the same “good government” scrutiny. Based on this feedback, the Committee drafted broader language.  This DRAFT text is known as the High Quality Research Act (HQRA, http://goo.gl/Bc3ZA).  In addition to draft legislation, the hearings also prompted the Chairman to send a letter to NSF asking for more insight into the grant process at the agency, and he specifically called out five grants in the SBE division for further scrutiny.  His letter generated a rebuttal from the Ranking Member of the Committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (http://goo.gl/eBKi9).

Current Situation: Texas A&M and the University of Texas have had direct conversation with the Chairman and his science committee staff. The AAU and APLU have expressed concerns regarding the Chairman’s letter to NSF, positing that both the HQRA and the letter represent a troubling departure from the Committee’s norms and a move that will damage the peer review process at the NSF.   This bill is still in DRAFT form and has not been officially introduced to the House. Before it becomes law, it will have to make it through both the House and the Senate. Some members of the House, as well as the Administration have publically stated that they will oppose this bill if it comes before them in its current form. Thus, it is likely that there will be compromise on the language before it is adopted.

We continue to work fervently with the other Texas institutions, and the APLU and AAU to address our mutual concerns regarding the importance of preserving the peer review process. Our communications with the Committee indicate that as they prepare to reauthorize NSF, they are looking for ways to strengthen it and communicate its benefits to the nation. Indeed, the Chairman has stated that he wants to look for ways to increase funding to NSF, and has been a proponent of the NSF and of funding for science in general. However, in order to do so he needs to demonstrate to Members, and the general public, that the NSF is judicious with its spending. The Committee is under great pressure to restrain spending and to demonstrate greater accountability from the NSF and OSTP. The Committee has demonstrated that they are open to our suggestions and are willing to work with Texas A&M to address concerns and strengthen NSF.

Please continue to send your comments and concerns to us (Diane Hurtado, d-hurtado@tamu.edu ) and be assured that we are communicating these concerns to the Committee.  In addition, we are regularly communicating with the Texas delegation to ensure that they are also aware of these issues and how they affect Texas A&M.


Laine Appointed Interim Vice President for Research
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Dr. Glen Laine, professor and head of veterinary physiology and pharmacology in Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has been named interim Vice President for Research.  Dr. Laine succeeds Dr. Theresa Fossum, who has stepped down as interim vice president of research in order to assume duties as Vice Chancellor of Global & Corporate Alliances.

Dr. Laine is the Wiseman-Lewie-Worth Endowed Chair in Cardiology and Director of the Michael E. DeBakey Institute for Comparative Cardiovascular Science and Biomedical Devices.  He joined the Texas A&M University faculty in 1991, where he has since taught undergraduate, graduate and professional courses; including serving as chair of over 20 doctoral committees and 25 postdoctoral fellows.

Dr. Laine leads an extensive research portfolio totaling over $25 Million since 1991 and includes the recently announced Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology grant, of which he is principal investigator.  As department head and center director, Dr. Laine has also worked closely with industry and philanthropists to support students, faculty and programs of the department, resulting in private funding of almost $5 Million.

Dr. Laine leads an extensive research portfolio totaling over $25 Million since 1991 and includes the recently announced Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology grant, of which he is principal investigator.  As department head and center director, Dr. Laine has also worked closely with industry and philanthropists to support students, faculty and programs of the department, resulting in private funding of almost $5 Million.  His service to  his discipline, the academy, the Bryan College Station Community and Texas A&M University includes associate editor, reviewer and editorial board member for numerous journals; the Deferred Maintenance Task Force; Vision 2020 –Research Taskforce; Research Roadmap of the Academic Master Plan; Guest Member, Council of Principal Investigators; and Convener, Steering Committee of The Department Heads Council.


SRS memo regarding required lead times for proposal submission
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The Texas A&M System Sponsored Research Services (OSRS) distributed a memo (http://goo.gl/gVk3g) regarding required lead times for proposal submission. Occasionally, circumstances beyond the control of the PI may not allow OSRS lead times to be met. A Late Submission/PI Risk Acknowledgement form (http://goo.gl/Vo3or) has been created for such instances.

EPIK-Maestro Working Group
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Maestro Working Group met today, May 2, 2013.  Agenda for discussion included the status report, deployment items, Federal Conflict of Interest (FCOI) Module Implementation, Executive Portal Enhancements, and Project Module Updates.  Accomplishment achieved in current reporting period included enhancement to Federal Conflict of Interest (FCOI) module, FCOI training, proposal module improvements, and pre-award implementation in regional universities.  Researchers TAMU System wide will be prompted this month by Maestro to renew their FCOI disclosures on-line.

Contact:
Dr. Rafael Lara-Alecio, a-lara@tamu.edu
Dr. Beverly Kuhn, b-kuhn@tamu.edu
Dr. Jamie Foster, jlfoster@ag.tamu.edu

Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS)
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Active negotiations are underway to recruit the second class of TIAS Faculty Fellows for the Academic Year beginning September 1, 2013.  It is anticipated that 8 to 10 Faculty Fellows will be in residence during the second year (up from 6 during the first year), with stellar individuals interacting with faculty and students across the University.  We expect one or more Faculty Fellows will be affiliated with the majority of the 10 Colleges.  These distinguished individuals will represent National Academy or Nobel Laureate levels of accomplishment in their disciplines and will make substantial contributions to our research, scholarship and teaching activities.  The TIAS Faculty Fellows are chosen for their professional accomplishments and the degree to which their appointment will accelerate the development or our current faculty and students.  To overview TIAS activities, visit http://tias.tamu.edu/.


Council on the Built Environment (CBE)
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At the last Council for the Built Environment (CBE) meeting two issues were discussed. The first issue is that a listing of Capital Plan approved and proposed projects was released. Many projects are listed, but the most research relevant are the Vet Med Building is approved, NCTM retrofits and new construction are approved, the Cyclotron building expansion is approved, and a Multi-Species Research Building and Chemistry renovations are on the proposed list. The second was that Provost Watson stated that there is not a clear process for adding projects to this list, and that a process needed to be developed to determine what our needs are and their priority.

Contact:
Dr. Bhimu Patil (voting member), b-patil@tamu.edu
Dr. Paul Hardin (non-voting member), phardin@mail.bio.tamu.edu


Texas A&M College of Medicine MD/PhD Program
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The Director of the Texas A&M College of Medicine MD/PhD Program, Dr. Julian Leibowitz, made a short presentation to the CPI EC on the MD/PhD Program and the opportunities that the re-integration of the HSC into TAMU presents for students in the program and how it has the potential to foster collaborations between the faculties of both institutions.  The MD/PhD training program is a combined degree program leading to M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. The purpose of the program is to provide research training for highly motivated academically outstanding medical students planning careers in academic medicine.   Students are supported by stipends and tuition scholarships throughout their training, which on average takes eight years from the time they enter the program.  The students who matriculate into this program have outstanding academic qualifications and extensive research experience. Over the past four years student MCAT scores have averaged between 34 and 35, the percentile equivalent of 1400+ old scale GRE scores, and their GPAs have averaged 3.7-3.8.

Currently there are 26 students in the program, and the entering class size is 3-5 students per year, with a target class size of four students annually.  Currently students receive their PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the HSC and follow one of eight curricular tracks.  Two of these tracks, Biomedical Engineering and Space Life Sciences, were developed in conjunction with TAMU faculty in these programs and the course work is largely taught by faculty who are members of the BMEN Department and the Space Life Sciences Program.   Students have been allowed to pursue their PhD research in TAMU faculty labs, but have needed to follow one of the eight tracks in the HSC College of Medicine graduate program, with the TAMU faculty obtaining a graduate appointment in the HSC.  The merger of the two institutions should simplify this process since we will be one graduate faculty, and it could allow the students to pursue their PhD training in degree programs other than Biomedical Sciences.

Currently there are four students, out of sixteen in the PhD phase of their training, pursuing their PhD research under the direction of faculty with TAMU primary appointments.  MD/PhD students are by their very nature interdisciplinary in outlook, and are likely to forge collaborations from different labs in carrying out their PhD research.  The financial support (stipend plus tuition and fees) for these students is expensive, and averages approximately $40,000 per student annually while they are pursuing their four years of medical training.  The cost per student during the PhD phase of their training is comparable to other graduate students.  Support from the TAMU side will be required if the program is to prosper and grow after the merger.

Additional information about the MD/PhD Program can be found at http://medicine.tamhsc.edu/education/md-phd/index.html.