Against ASN Recommendation, NIDDK Suspends KUH Participation in Parent T32 Program and Announces New Institutional Training Program

By Ryan Murray

July 9, 2020

On April 16, 2020, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease (NIDDK) published two notices (NOT-DK-20-023, NOT-DK-20-024) that made a significant and startling announcement. NIDDK announced the Division of Kidney, Urologic, & Hematologic Diseases (KUH’s) will no longer participate in the traditional National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) T32 Program, and will instead participate in a new Institutional Training Program.

The announcement, made as many programs were in the process of completing competitive renewals, caught the kidney community by surprise. While NIDDK was known to be refocusing its approach to supporting institutional training coming out of the “T32 Best Practices Workshop” in the Spring of 2019, kidney professionals did not anticipate NIDDK’s decision to abruptly suspend KUH’s participation in the Parent T32 program.

Given the gravity of these unexpected changes to programs currently funded under the T32 mechanism, a large contingent of the ASN membership contacted the society to convey their concerns.

The ASN Council and ASN Policy and Advocacy Committee reached out to NIDDK shortly after the notices were published to discuss the Institute’s new direction and the forthcoming Institutional Training Program, and to offer the following recommendations:

  • Provide bridge funding to programs that were/are in the process of competitive renewals to the Parent T32. ASN believes this funding is necessary to enable the transition for many programs, especially those that have already identified fellows.
  • Provide the rationale for limiting the number of eligible programs to fewer, larger Institutional Network Awards, in light of the T32 programs’ historical success, and reduction to research training opportunities under the Institutional Network Award program.
  • Give ASN an opportunity to provide further input to NIDDK as the Institute drafts the Funding Opportunity Announcement to invite applications for Institutional Network Awards for Research Training. (ASN’s offer to serve as a resource to NIDDK on this issue was not accepted.)
     

NIDDK published the Funding Opportunity Announcement for the “Institutional Network Award for Promoting Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Research Training” (PA-20-220) on May 28, 2020. The kidney research community waited more than a month to learn what new program they would need to apply for to replace the traditional Parent 32, and unfortunately ASN has identified several concerns with the program.

NIDDK has placed an emphasis on fostering a community of trainees with this new program that will award fewer, larger Institutional Network Awards (U2C/TL1). The new NIDDK program limits applicants to one application that supports at least 5 trainees across kidney, urology, and hematology research areas and encourages multiple institutions within the same metropolitan area to submit a single, joint application. training at the institution. ASN believes that, as designed, this new program will favor larger institutions with existing training programs that incorporate two focus areas (kidney, urologic, or hematologic research), placing smaller but no less worthy programs at a disadvantage.

ASN is concerned that limiting the number of awards will result in severe consequences for the nephrology specialty. Having fewer, larger awards can lead to many excellent but smaller institutions being excluded from the research process. ASN hopes that NIDDK will establish safeguards to prevent institutional giants from monopolizing this new award. It is also widely known that it is impossible to predict which research trainee will not only ultimately pursue a research career, but succeed. Limiting the number of awards can exacerbate the already declining ranks of successful scientists in nephrology and impact recruitment of more junior scientists.

Another concern with the new program’s design is the different timing of current T32s ending within the same metropolitan areas, providing some institutions with an advantage in the application process for the new Institutional Network Award. Institutions with T32 funding that end in 2020 or 2021 will be at a disadvantage in the application process before it begins. There is no incentive for larger institutions with T32 programs that end in 2022, 2023, or 2024 to consider jointly applying for this new award with smaller programs and strengthening the application. For example, if Institution A’s (a smaller program) T32 funding ends in 2020 and must apply for this new award, Institution A would want to partner with a larger program within their metropolitan area to strengthen their application. However, if Institution B, which is located in the same metropolitan area, has T32 funding secured through 2023 then Institution B has no incentive to join Institution A in a joint application to participate in a new and unfamiliar program.

Lastly, significant changes were made to what has been viewed for several decades as NIH-supported success in the training of physician-scientists/scientists in nephrology, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the rest of the nation, the kidney community has been operating beyond capacity to address the ongoing public health emergency. The suspension of KUH’s participation in the Parent T32 program, while many ASN members were actively completing competitive renewals, placed an unnecessary burden on the kidney community already overstretched.

ASN still strongly recommends that NIDDK consider the kidney community’s current bandwidth and delay the Institutional Network Award’s application deadline.

ASN acted upon the wide-ranging concerns raised by its members. Despite the concerns noted above, ASN is willing and ready to work directly with NIDDK and across the kidney community to optimize the program and make it a success.

More information about the new program can be found on the NIDDK website. NIDDK hosted a pre-application webinar to address questions from the kidney community in June 2020 and while the webinar is not accessible, NIDDK collected and will post Frequently Asked Questions online.

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Author:
Ryan Murray
Body:

On April 16, 2020, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease (NIDDK) published two notices (NOT-DK-20-023, NOT-DK-20-024) that made a significant and startling announcement. NIDDK announced the Division of Kidney, Urologic, & Hematologic Diseases (KUH’s) will no longer participate in the traditional National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) T32 Program, and will instead participate in a new Institutional Training Program.

The announcement, made as many programs were in the process of completing competitive renewals, caught the kidney community by surprise. While NIDDK was known to be refocusing its approach to supporting institutional training coming out of the “T32 Best Practices Workshop” in the Spring of 2019, kidney professionals did not anticipate NIDDK’s decision to abruptly suspend KUH’s participation in the Parent T32 program.

Given the gravity of these unexpected changes to programs currently funded under the T32 mechanism, a large contingent of the ASN membership contacted the society to convey their concerns.

The ASN Council and ASN Policy and Advocacy Committee reached out to NIDDK shortly after the notices were published to discuss the Institute’s new direction and the forthcoming Institutional Training Program, and to offer the following recommendations:

  • Provide bridge funding to programs that were/are in the process of competitive renewals to the Parent T32. ASN believes this funding is necessary to enable the transition for many programs, especially those that have already identified fellows.
  • Provide the rationale for limiting the number of eligible programs to fewer, larger Institutional Network Awards, in light of the T32 programs’ historical success, and reduction to research training opportunities under the Institutional Network Award program.
  • Give ASN an opportunity to provide further input to NIDDK as the Institute drafts the Funding Opportunity Announcement to invite applications for Institutional Network Awards for Research Training. (ASN’s offer to serve as a resource to NIDDK on this issue was not accepted.)
     

NIDDK published the Funding Opportunity Announcement for the “Institutional Network Award for Promoting Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Research Training” (PA-20-220) on May 28, 2020. The kidney research community waited more than a month to learn what new program they would need to apply for to replace the traditional Parent 32, and unfortunately ASN has identified several concerns with the program.

NIDDK has placed an emphasis on fostering a community of trainees with this new program that will award fewer, larger Institutional Network Awards (U2C/TL1). The new NIDDK program limits applicants to one application that supports at least 5 trainees across kidney, urology, and hematology research areas and encourages multiple institutions within the same metropolitan area to submit a single, joint application. training at the institution. ASN believes that, as designed, this new program will favor larger institutions with existing training programs that incorporate two focus areas (kidney, urologic, or hematologic research), placing smaller but no less worthy programs at a disadvantage.

ASN is concerned that limiting the number of awards will result in severe consequences for the nephrology specialty. Having fewer, larger awards can lead to many excellent but smaller institutions being excluded from the research process. ASN hopes that NIDDK will establish safeguards to prevent institutional giants from monopolizing this new award. It is also widely known that it is impossible to predict which research trainee will not only ultimately pursue a research career, but succeed. Limiting the number of awards can exacerbate the already declining ranks of successful scientists in nephrology and impact recruitment of more junior scientists.

Another concern with the new program’s design is the different timing of current T32s ending within the same metropolitan areas, providing some institutions with an advantage in the application process for the new Institutional Network Award. Institutions with T32 funding that end in 2020 or 2021 will be at a disadvantage in the application process before it begins. There is no incentive for larger institutions with T32 programs that end in 2022, 2023, or 2024 to consider jointly applying for this new award with smaller programs and strengthening the application. For example, if Institution A’s (a smaller program) T32 funding ends in 2020 and must apply for this new award, Institution A would want to partner with a larger program within their metropolitan area to strengthen their application. However, if Institution B, which is located in the same metropolitan area, has T32 funding secured through 2023 then Institution B has no incentive to join Institution A in a joint application to participate in a new and unfamiliar program.

Lastly, significant changes were made to what has been viewed for several decades as NIH-supported success in the training of physician-scientists/scientists in nephrology, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the rest of the nation, the kidney community has been operating beyond capacity to address the ongoing public health emergency. The suspension of KUH’s participation in the Parent T32 program, while many ASN members were actively completing competitive renewals, placed an unnecessary burden on the kidney community already overstretched.

ASN still strongly recommends that NIDDK consider the kidney community’s current bandwidth and delay the Institutional Network Award’s application deadline.

ASN acted upon the wide-ranging concerns raised by its members. Despite the concerns noted above, ASN is willing and ready to work directly with NIDDK and across the kidney community to optimize the program and make it a success.

More information about the new program can be found on the NIDDK website. NIDDK hosted a pre-application webinar to address questions from the kidney community in June 2020 and while the webinar is not accessible, NIDDK collected and will post Frequently Asked Questions online.

Date:
Thursday, July 9, 2020