NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

A Dozen ‘Green Champions’ at NIH

NIH took 12 citations at the recent 2015 HHS Green Champion Awards. NIH nominated a total of 13 projects and a dozen were recognized by HHS, including 7 group awards, 1 individual award and 4 honorable mentions. Winners were celebrated June 30 at a ceremony in Wilson Hall, Bldg. 1.

In the environmental stewardship category:

  • The NIH Central Utility Team was honored for realizing annual savings of more than $23.7 million in energy, water, oil and chilled water usage, electrical consumption and Nox emissions.
  • The Burden’s Creek Site Cleanup team at NIEHS was recognized for recycling 65 tons of metal, 120 tons of concrete, 200 tons of construction and demolition debris, 720 fluorescent light bulbs, 12 mercury thermostats, 12 smoke detectors and recapturing 63 pounds of Freon.
  • Capt. Edward Pfister, the department’s chief environmental officer, won an individual award for developing the HHS Go Green Guide and fostering the establishment of green teams throughout the agency. In addition, he coordinated greening efforts in the Hubert H. Humphrey Bldg. 
  • The Office of the Director Green Team working group was cited for publishing a guide for green event planning. It focuses on environmentally friendly practices to implement while planning meetings, conferences and other events. 

In the sustainable acquisitions category, the NIH Supply Center’s “NIH Go Green Supplies” efforts were recognized. They include provision of organic, non-toxic products and replacing more than 120 offerings with greener alternatives.

In the corporate responsibility category, the NIH Division of Environmental Protection’s solid waste team and ecology services were honored for the “Go Green, Go Clean” initiative, which reduces contamination and raises awareness about waste disposal procedures.  

In the water use efficiency category, the NIH blue water commission was cited for investigating sources of chilled water loss on campus. Many leaks and wasteful practices were discovered, repaired and discontinued. This resulted in an average savings of 1,472,000 gallons of water per month.

In the energy and fleet category, the Office of Research Facilities’ Facilities Management Branch completed two projects on the NIEHS campus that resulted in a net energy savings of some 300,000 kwh and $18,000 annually as well as the recycling of approximately 300 tons of construction debris.  

Winning honorable mention awards were: NIH Battery Recycling Program; RML Incinerator Upgrade Project; annual lab chemical waste management inspection team; and the personal property section and its electronic document repository. 

Zika Virus Threat Grows

Spong and Fauci at podium
On day 2 of ACD, NICHD acting director Dr. Catherine Spong teams with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci to provide an update on the Zika outbreak.

The Zika outbreak continues to spread—and its effects worsen—since the virus re-emerged last year in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who teamed with NICHD acting director Dr. Catherine Spong to update day 2 of ACD on NIH’s efforts to address the outbreak.

As of June, 48 countries/territories—39 in the Americas/Caribbean—have active Zika virus transmission. The virus itself is considered relatively mild and most infected individuals recover from it within days, Fauci explained. However, devastating Zika-associated birth defects, a potential link to Guillain-Barré syndrome, Zika’s capability of being transmitted sexually and other as yet unknown health effects due to the infectious disease have escalated it as a top global research priority and health threat.  

“The impact on pregnancy goes far beyond what we’re seeing with microcephaly,” Spong said. “Many gaps exist about what to expect in pregnancy. We need more data.”

Several vaccine development trials are in various stages of being launched by NIAID with collaborating institutions. In addition, NIAID, NICHD and NIEHS have partnered on a Zika in Infants and Pregnancy (ZIP) trial of up to 10,000 participants to identify and document the virus’s effects on pregnant women and their fetuses and infants.  

Zika update slides are online at http://acd.od.nih.gov/presentations/062016_Fauci.pdf and http://acd.od.nih.gov/presentations/062016_Spong.pdf.

Drilling Down on Grant Disparity

Pettigrew speaks into table microphone.
At the conference table, NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew (l) discusses NIH grant review.

Photo:  Credit Ernie Branson

Diversity in the scientific workforce became a concern several years ago and rose on the ACD’s agenda after release in 2011 of the NIH-commissioned Ginther study, which found that African-American/black (AA/B) applicants were less likely than whites to be awarded R01 grants from NIH during fiscal years 2000 to 2006. 

An ACD-assigned working group on AA/B funding disparities followed up on Ginther, analyzing data from fiscal years 2010 to 2015. 

AA/B submit fewer applications, fewer applications per AA/B applicant are submitted and fewer of their applications get discussed, AA/B applications are scored lower and fewer resubmissions come from that community. Cumulatively, the odds of an AA/B scientist being funded are 35 percent less than for a white scientist.

Summarizing key findings by a core team from that group, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity Dr. Hannah Valantine said, “There is a disparity in every stage of the application from submissions to funding…This work needs to continue to be done and NIH needs to continue a vigilant eye on the issue.” 

Nakamura speaks into table microphone.
CSR director Dr. Richard Nakamura offers insights on the NIH grant review report.

Photo:  Ernie Branson

Valantine’s working group recommended several interventions to narrow the gap, including targeted mentoring/coaching on submissions. Also, the group initiated with the Center for Scientific Review an anonymized application study—a randomized controlled trial—to determine potential bias in peer review.

Collins said NIH has funded many programs over many decades to recruit more underrepresented minorities into science, and that success of past efforts has been difficult to gauge because “they were often not conducted in a rigorous way where you can tell what happened.

“We’re not going to do it that way any more,” he stressed. “We’re determined…We will expand the things that are working and we will kill the ones that are not.”

Valantine’s ACD slides are online at https://acd.od.nih.gov/documents/presentations/06092016Valantine.pdf.

Recommendations by ‘Red Team’ Set in Motion

Dr. Richard Marchase
Dr. Richard Marchase, vice president for research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, worked on the Red Team.

Photo:  Ernie Branson

The Red Team, a working group assembled by the ACD to evaluate the hospital following a problem last year in the CC pharmaceutical development section, reported findings at a special ACD meeting in April. 

“Our current structure—the way that we currently attempt to manage the Clinical Center—makes it very difficult to achieve our end result,” said NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak, giving context for the first major realignment of CC governance since the largest research hospital in the world opened. 

Outlining three guiding themes—all with the overarching principle to “fortify a culture and practice of safety”—Tabak gave an update on progress NIH has made on the report’s recommendations:

  • A central Office of Research Support and Compliance was formed to set policy and standards and assure quality; Dr. Kathryn Zoon was appointed as its interim director.

  • A CEO position was established with authority over all NIH staff using the hospital; a search committee to fill the post will be co-chaired by NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci and NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz.

  • A clinical practice committee composed of senior clinical and lab experts is forming, to provide real-time input to leadership on patient care and safety.

  • A new external hospital board will hold its first meeting in July.

“Science and safety must go hand in hand,” Tabak emphasized. “There can’t ever be tradeoffs between innovation and safety and compliance. Our collective goal will be to exceed—not just meet—all safety and compliance standards and become a leader in the discipline of safety science.”

See the Red Team implementation slides at https://acd.od.nih.gov/documents/reports/06092016report-RedTeam.pdf

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Assistant Editor: Eric Bock
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Staff Writer: Amber Snyder
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