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Dome - New Council to Kindle Research

Dome April 2014

New Council to Kindle Research

Date: April 1, 2014

Paul B. Rothman, M.D.

Paul B. Rothman, M.D.

Dean of the Medical Faculty

CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine


In a recent meeting, a professor here joked that Johns Hopkins Medicine should form a meeting taskforce that would meet regularly to assess how much time people spend in—you guessed it—meetings. While it’s true that committees and consensus hunting don’t always feel like the best use of our time, important insights can happen when we gather sophisticated thinkers in a room and set them loose, together, on a problem.

Here’s one such challenge we need to address collectively: Our total NIH grant awards fell more than 6 percent, to $405 million last year. The average amount per award also fell by about $40,000. While this was not wholly unexpected—our peer institutions saw similar dips as the NIH budget continues to erode—I fear that some faculty members, young ones in particular, will get discouraged. As President Daniels and I noted in a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, young scientists are fleeing American universities in troubling numbers as funding for their own labs becomes more elusive.

If any issue merits its own taskforce, this is it. One of the pillars that props up Johns Hopkins Medicine is our stalwart tradition of medical breakthroughs and field-advancing discoveries, and we cannot lose focus on this mainstay of our mission. After all, our scientists help make it possible for textbook publishers to charge too much for new editions every three years! As other institutions scale back their research operations in this tough climate, we are recommitting to discovery.

One way we’re doing that is through the formation of a brand new JHM Research Council. This committee, established by the Strategic Plan, is co-chaired by Dan Ford and Antony Rosen, vice deans for clinical investigations and research, respectively. It provides, for the first time, a forum for research leaders from across the institution to come together to develop explicit strategies and aspirations for our research programs.

As you know, high-impact research these days is not conducted in isolation, and the three dozen members of the council are drawn from the basic sciences, biomedical engineering and clinical departments. By exposing our scientists to the breadth of investigations happening across the institution, we hope to encourage more collaboration. I’m constantly hearing from young faculty members who say they came to Johns Hopkins to work with the world’s best people in many different fields, if only they could find them! We need to help fertilize these connections in areas where they are not sprouting up organically.

To start, the JHM Research Council has three mandates. First, it will dole out the new internal Discovery Fund, which will support innovative, multidisciplinary grants and bridge funding for our investigators. The council will devise an application process for the fund and then review the proposals that come in. The second goal is to formulate strategies to boost our NIH submission and success rates. We want to energize the faculty around grant writing and offer plenty of opportunities for review. Third, the group will outline tactics for pursuing more funding from non-NIH sources.

The JHM Research Council has convened a few times already, and I assure you, the attendees weren’t checking their watches. They know a vibrant research enterprise is synonymous with the Johns Hopkins name, and they are eager to serve as stewards of that proud legacy.


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