June 2013 Newsletter


CPI Newsletter June 2013


Included in this issue:


Preview of June 12th CPI meeting
he CPI meeting on June 12th will include an open forum discussion with Dr. Glen Laine, Interim Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University; an update from the Office of Government Relations by Mr. Michael O’Quinn, Vice President for Government Relations & Dr. Diane Hurtado, Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations at Texas A&M University; an update from the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies by Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies; and an update on Financial Conflict of Interest by Ms. Kristen Worman, Assistant General Counsel, The Texas A&M University System.  The agenda and materials, including questions submitted to the meeting presenters from the PI community, are available on the CPI website (goo.gl/Yj0qh). Meetings are webcast live at ttvn.tamu.edu/webcasts on Channel 20. Previous CPI meeting videos are available at cpi.tamu.edu/archives/videos.

Summary of June 5th CPI Executive Committee (EC) meeting
The CPI Executive Committee (EC) held its monthly coordination meeting on June 5th. 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 Mr. Michael O’Quinn & Dr. Diane Hurtado from the Office of Government Relations and Ms. Kristen Worman from The Texas A&M University System Office of General Counsel. Agenda items included an update and discussion on proposed changes to System Regulation 15.01.03, Financial Conflicts of Interest in Sponsored Research; an update from the Office of Government Relations; a review of the June 12th Executive Committee meeting agenda with the Texas A&M University President and Provost (goo.gl/aYf8Y); and a review of June 12th full CPI meeting agenda.

Attendees also discussed the CPI Executive Committee meeting regularly with CEOs from Texas A&M, TEES, HSC, AgriLife Research and TTI during the 2013-14 CPI session and quarterly with Congressman Bill Flores.

Update on NSF High Quality Research Act
The following update was provided by Federal Relations representatives (including TAMU) from the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), and The Science Coalition (TSC) who met with the staff from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently in DC, regarding the DRAFT legislation NSF High Quality Research Act (HQRA see here) and a letter sent to the NSF by Chairman Smith (goo.gl/gXDeR).

Key information: The Committee is not trying to impact the peer review process.

As you know, the NSF process for granting awards is: 1) an Request for Proposal (RFP) is released, 2) researchers submit proposals, 3) these proposals are reviewed for merit by a group of technical peers, 4) the reviewers make a recommendation to the National Science Foundation (NSF) program manager, and 5) the program manager takes those recommendations and makes a decision based on the reviewers recommendations and the NSF’s agreed upon priorities.

  • The Committee is only concerned with accountability in step number 5.
  • The Committee is not trying to eliminate duplicative efforts that enhance the scientific outcomes.  Their goal was to not have the exact same research being done at different funding agencies.
  • The Committee is not saying that the grants called out in their letter are not scientifically valid, but is wondering how it was decided that they were consistent with NSF’s priorities and if NSF is right place for such projects to be funded.
  • The China project for instance--- Some Member questioned if the Department of Homeland Security or the United States Agriculture Department might not have been a more appropriate place to fund that type of project.
  • The Committee wants to be supportive of NSF and the science community in general.

Members of the National Science Board met with Chairman Smith last week and the chief executives of AAU and APLU, along with industry representatives are scheduled to meet with the Chairman this week to facilitate an open dialogue between the Committee and the community regarding the HQRA and the NSF.

We are working diligently with them on the language of this bill, and on our relationship with this Committee to ensure that we can continue to work with them as they move through the process of enacting bills that affect our community.

This article might be of interest that includes a Q&A with an anonymous House Science Committee staffer: news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2013/05/what-representative-lamar-smith-.html

If you have any questions or concerns please continue to contact Diane Hurtado (d-hurtado@tamu.edu, 979-845-2217).

EPIK-Maestro Working Group
The Maestro Working Group met on June 6, 2013. Agenda for discussion included the following items: project costs accomplishments, such as current budget, expenditures, and cost tracking mechanisms.  An enhancement to the Federal Conflict of Interest (FCOI) module was added.  Proposal and project upload for FCOI disclosure was presented with some executive portal improvements including on-going projects module development, ongoing grants.gov implementation, and capital refresh.

Future TTI/TxDOT research will transition to Maestro system. The deployment of the Maestro environment in the new physical infrastructure will take place soon. Corrected home page news with an expanded grants.gov framework to accommodate proposal sections was also presented. FCOI rules and definitions were presented as well as improvement for and awards-nightly feed.

A new FCOI viewer role was presented, including FCOI disclosures. Other items included are researcher and disclosure query screens, improved sponsor search, and improved legacy proposal activation.  A new item under currently employed Principal Investigator (PI) eligibility was presented. This statement included the PI eligibility or graduate assistant researcher eligibility.  The employee status code is “A” (for active) and “W” (for not active/retired) was also noted. Future discussion items will include project research compliance research, project location, name, city, state, country, region, etc. Project modules are under preparation and will be presented at the coming July meeting.

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)
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/.

Limited Submission Proposal Opportunities
Up-to-date limited submission proposal opportunities, including deadlines for required letters of intent, are available on the website of the Division of Research at vpr.tamu.edu/researchdevelopment/funding/lsp/lsp/#limited-submission-proposal-opportunities.

Texas A&M College of Medicine MD/PhD Program
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.