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Kington Promotes eRA at Annual Symposium
NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington urged 300 participants at the eRA Symposium on Apr. 30 to embrace the new NIH electronic Research Administration (eRA) system and to participate actively in refining it. eRA enables NIH to keep pace with the enormous flow of extramural research-related information, adds efficiency to grants processing and improves communication within NIH and with the grantee community.
In opening remarks, Kington stressed that NIH'ers "will be the pioneers, and our ability to use [eRA] successfully will have great resonance throughout the department." HHS currently is evaluating eRA for department-wide use.
This year's symposium, titled "Progress in Program: Tying It All Together," was dedicated to informing the program community about the growing challenges of grants administration as well as the opportunities offered by eRA. Dr. Ronald Germain, deputy chief of NIAID's Laboratory of Immunology, explained how grant portfolios would become more interdisciplinary and complex as a reflection of systems biology, the new trend in biological research. According to Germain, major advances are likely to come from large teams "comprising expert biologists, computer programmers, mathematicians, engineers, chemists and others…needed to collect and assemble the vast amount of data into predictive models of biological behavior."
Program officials (POs) responded favorably to several new tools that were introduced at the symposium. The program module (PGM), currently in pilot mode, will better connect POs to their institute or center's grants management and budget operations and will enable POs to administer their portfolios using the paperless processes mandated by Congress. Furthermore, the PGM will allow POs to communicate with grantees through the NIH eRA Commons. Web Query Tool, a powerful web-based application for extracting information and reports from the eRA database, also made its debut at the symposium.
eRA project manager Dr. John McGowan emphasized the potential for advancing medical research through the mining of eRA data using knowledge management technology. Expected to grow from 6 to 12 terabytes in the near future, the eRA database is accessed in 300 countries worldwide. Approximately 3,500 HHS extramural staff use the eRA system; more than 50,000 grantees are expected to enroll in the NIH eRA Commons when the system reaches full productivity. In addition, the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP), which contains information on research projects and programs supported by HHS, is available to the public.
In his presentation on "Future Directions," Dr. Steven Hausman, deputy director of NIAMS and eRA advocate for advanced technologies, gave a summary of major FY 2002 eRA successes, including the scanning of all incoming applications, distribution of proposals to reviewers via CD, support for electronic submission of peer reviews, automated generation of summary statements, and a facility for submitting progress reports through a web interface. By 2004, it is anticipated that 80 percent of principal investigators will use eSNAP to submit their progress reports online.
Hausman also introduced emerging technologies, including Gyricon-based media for electronic paper, improved collaborative technologies for conducting meetings, wireless broadband, BroadBench, Spot technology, Blue-Ray DVD and Augmented Cognition, which offer many possibilities for improving grants administration business practices.
For more information and copies of symposium presentations, visit era.nih.gov/eraworkshop3/. To view the videocast of the symposium, go to http://videocast.nih.gov/PastEvents.asp and select "NIH Only Events."
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