In May, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that Janice Clements is joining the NIH’s Council of Councils. Clements is a professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology, neurology and pathology and vice dean for faculty. She is also director of the Johns Hopkins Retrovirus Laboratory. We asked Clements about her plans for her work on the council.
As a successful researcher, why did you decide to begin spending more time on administrative and, now, advisory activities?
CLEMENTS: When I was asked to become vice dean for faculty, I saw it as an opportunity to serve the institution that provided me with opportunities and an environment that allowed me to build a research team and pursue the research that I was excited about. The position of vice dean for faculty was new, and it was a great opportunity to create an office that supported faculty. In my laboratory, I had mentored Ph.D. students, fellows and faculty, and the position of vice dean was an extension of my passion for mentoring and supporting people to realize their potential.
Serving on NIH study sections and advisory councils is a responsibility for everyone who receives NIH funding and who believes in the importance of the peer-review process. It is a great honor and privilege to be asked to serve as an adviser to the NIH and other important organizations that advance science. As in my role as vice dean for faculty, I believe it is part of giving back to the organizations that have made my research and career possible.
What is the NIH Council of Councils?
CLEMENTS: The National Institutes of Health has many institutes, each with its own advisory council that advises the director of the particular institute. The Council of Councils serves as the advisory group for the director of the NIH, Francis Collins. It is made up of approximately 30 members who are selected by various NIH entities, or as representatives of the public. The council advises the NIH director on matters related to the policies and activities of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives.
How were you selected to serve on the council?
CLEMENTS: I was nominated by the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) (formerly the National Center for Research Resources, NCRR). The nomination was based on my multidisciplinary research that involves colleagues and collaborators with many different types of backgrounds, as well as the use of both humans and non-human primates in research. This team approach and the focus on using animal models of human disease were areas of expertise that ORIP felt would be valuable on the Council of Councils.
How will your experience as a researcher and administrator affect the advice you will give?
CLEMENTS: I can advise with two voices. One is that of a vice dean who is seeing the impact of the NIH budget on a faculty who are committed to research and who are finding it difficult to receive support, the impact on a generation of young scientists who may leave research, and the impact on a great research institution. It is my responsibility to provide that perspective. But I will also speak from personal experience as a scientist who fears that the opportunities I have had to pursue my dream of a research career may not be available for my students and young faculty. The NIH leaders need and want to hear these perspectives so that they can more effectively speak to Congress and the U.S. public about the need for supporting the NIH and research.
What is most exciting to you about the opportunity to serve on the council?
CLEMENTS: It is a great opportunity to learn about the breadth of science that is going on at the NIH, as the council sees presentations from the NIH on its programs. In addition, the Council of Council advises and helps develop the NIH director's Common Fund Initiatives that focus on innovative programs that are not being done elsewhere in the NIH. There is also the opportunity to meet and work with great scientists from very different areas of research and medicine as well as the lay advocates. I have only just begun my service on the council, and I am sure that I will have many exciting experiences and information to bring back to Johns Hopkins during my tenure.
--Interviewed by Shawna Williams
Janice Clements on the discovery of minocycline for treating HIV-related cognitive disorders: