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The National Advisory Council on Aging met here on the NIH campus on September 26–27. Among several actions by the Council was the approval of eight new concepts for Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). The lively discussion around these concepts is always one of the highlights of this two-day meeting, with conversations and conjecture often continuing into the corridors.

Whether the concepts approved at the September Council meeting actually become FOAs is still uncertain. That depends largely on our final budget for this fiscal year. As you probably know, we started fiscal year (FY) 2018 on October 1. We currently are operating under a continuing resolution until sometime in December, as we do not yet have an approved budget for the year.

From concept to possible FOA

Is our productivity crashing? Council approved seven concepts in May and eight in September. Yet a record 26 concepts were approved last September. Of course, some of us are still recovering from that exercise! More importantly, many of the FOAs published following these concept approvals remain active today. The new concepts are in addition to that set.

This time last year was the first time that we posted cleared concepts for a massive number of FOAs on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. And we have continued to put forth concepts for new initiatives in this area. It’s important to note as well that we are the National Institute on Aging, and that encompasses a lot more than Alzheimer’s disease alone. As is highlighted among the recently approved concepts, we’re also interested in such research areas as hearing loss, pragmatic clinical trials on aspects of care for older adults, cardiac rehabilitation, immune system function in older people, and the biology of aging as it relates to the etiology of cancer.

I encourage you to regularly check the NIH Guide. If you’re only interested in NIA-related FOAs, you can look at NIA Funding Opportunities website page, which is linked to the NIH Guide, to see which of the cleared concepts have been transformed into FOAs. And, there are several still-active Program Announcements from FY 2015 and 2016 that were previously highlighted as concepts. Take a second look—you may find something you missed the first time around!

The fine print

None of the concepts has an activity code (R01, R21, R24 etc.) yet. We do not discuss the funds assigned to a concept when it is approved, either. These can change as a function of the budget that is yet to be received. Award mechanisms and funding limits are determined when the FOAs are developed for publication in the NIH Guide. No one knows yet whether they will become Program Announcements with a three-year submission window or Requests for Applications with set-aside funds and a single due date. Program staff are listed with the cleared concepts, but they don’t have and can’t provide this information to you until the concept officially becomes an FOA.

We value your feedback, so please let us know if seeing these concepts is helpful to you by contacting us or commenting below.

Applications Funding Opportunities NACA Marie BERNARD

The first cleared concepts for FY 2018

If it’s September, it must be Council! It’s that time again! The public session of NIA’s National Advisory Council on Aging is taking place tomorrow starting at 8:00 a.m., Eastern time.

What do I need to know?

The meeting agenda and materials are available online. You can watch the archived videocast here: https://videocast.nih.gov/ in a few days.

Highlights of the meeting include the status and budget report from NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes, the report from the Working Group on Program, and an update from the Task Force on Minority Aging Research. Our featured speaker at this Council meeting is Dr. Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, who will discuss ways in which NIA and NIGMS can collaborate.

Speakers from our program divisions include:

  • Division of Aging Biology: Dr. Joseph Takahashi, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “The importance of time in food- and caloric-restriction experiments in aging: A circadian perspective”
  • Division of Behavioral and Social Research: Dr. Daniel Benjamin, University of Southern California, “Using GWAS to identify genetic variants associated with educational attainment”
  • Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology: Dr. Steve Cummings, University of California, San Francisco, “Large cohort studies of aging – Aging sister and aging brother”
  • Division of Neuroscience: Dr. Sudha Seshadri, Boston University School of Medicine, “Epidemiology of cognitive aging and dementia: Insights from the Framingham Study”

The Advisory Council’s role

NIA’s Council is comprised of experts in aging research who meet three times a year to advise NIA in a number of areas. Among these are:

  • reviewing the performance of NIA Divisions and programs
  • considering concepts for new initiatives or programs and decides whether to approve them
  • hearing brief reports from NIA grantees about research breakthroughs and new developments in aging, including Alzheimer’s disease, research
  • providing second level review of applications for NIA, in a closed session

We hope you will join us online today or watch the videocast when it becomes available. If you’re interested, links to past NACA meetings are available on the NIA site.

Please let us know what you think. How can we improve Council? Was the information helpful? Did the research presentations stimulate any new ideas? Comment here. We’re always happy to hear from you.

NACA Research Robin BARR

Join Us for the NIA Council Meeting Tomorrow

Next week, NIA’s National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) will hold its first meeting of 2016. The January 20 public session promises to be particularly interesting. NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes will provide some general background information on the FY 2016 budget for NIH and NIA. The session will also include NIH updates on research policy, as well as new scientific findings. Last week’s blog post described some aspects of the budget, but we can expect a few more details and some questions and answers from the NACA panel on NIA’s plans to use these funds.

This Council’s public session begins on Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock, Eastern time. You can watch the live videocast here: http://videocast.nih.gov. For late risers and followers on the West Coast, the videocast is archived. So you can review the highlights later. The meeting agenda and other materials will be available at on NIA’s website.

Featured speakers

The meeting will feature a number of speakers whom I think many of you will find informative. At approximately 10 a.m., NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Dr. Michael Lauer address the Council. His topic is “Evidence-Based Funding: Applying the Scientific Method to Ourselves.”

We will also hear scientific presentations from grantees from NIA’s four extramural divisions:

  • Dr. Laura Niedernhofer, associate professor, Department of Metabolism and Aging, The Scripps Research Institute – Novel Mouse Models for Dissecting Mechanisms and Therapeutic Targets of Aging (Division of Aging Biology)
  • Dr. Malaz A. Boustani, professor of medicine, Center for Aging Research, Indiana University – From Brain Care Discovery to Brain Care Delivery in Less Than a Decade (Division of Neuroscience)
  • Dr. Dalane Kitzman, professor of cardiology, Wake Forest University – A Novel Approach to Improving Exercise Intolerance in Older Patients with Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction (Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology)
  • Dr. Anne Case, professor of economics and public affairs, Princeton University – Changes in Mortality in Midlife Americans (Division of Behavioral and Social Research)

They will be followed by Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, NIA scientific director, and head of our Intramural Research Program, who will discuss activities in NIA’s in-house laboratories. Three lab chiefs will also present on research updates: Dr. Myriam Gorospe, Laboratory of Genetics; Dr. Mark Mattson, Laboratory of Neurogenetics; and Dr. Andrew Singleton, Laboratory of Neurosciences.

Council responsibilities

As I hope most of you know, our Council meets three times a year (in January, May, and September). NACA members are senior scientists and recognized experts in their fields. Many have served on NIH review panels and many have received support from NIA or another NIH Institute or Center for their research. Responsibilities of NACA members include:

  • reviewing the performance of NIA Divisions and programs
  • considering concepts for new initiatives or programs and decides whether to approve them
  • following developments and breakthroughs in aging research
  • providing second level review of applications for NIA, in a closed session.

Council members also serve on a wide range of NIA and NIH committees and working groups, including the NIH Council of Councils and the NIA Task Force on Minority Aging Research.

I hope you’ll join us by watching the online videocast. Of course, if you’re in the DC metro area, you’re welcome to come to visit the NIH campus and attend Wednesday’s open session in person. And, if you are interested you can click here for links to past NACA meetings.

Alzheimer's Disease Budget Meetings NACA Robin BARR

NIA budget, featured research highlights January NACA meeting

Everyone who is anyone is going to be at the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA), including many of NIA’s senior and program staff. If you want the most up-to-date information on NIA’s budget and funding, scientific program activities, and research highlights, tune in and join us for the National Advisory Council on Aging meeting tomorrow morning.

NIA’s Council meets three times a year—in January, May, and September. This Council’s public session begins tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock, Eastern time. You can watch the live videocast here: http://videocast.nih.gov. The meeting agenda and other materials are available online.

NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes begins the meeting with his Director’s Report, a short overview of the current and projected budgets, as well as the anticipated pay lines for the year ahead. He also will give an update on pending legislation affecting funding and other pertinent information.

One particular highlight of the September 17 meeting will be the presentation by NIH Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak about developing an NIH Strategic Plan. Congress asked the NIH to develop a unifying Strategic Plan, and the public has been engaged through recent webinars. Dr. Tabak is now visiting the Advisory Councils of most of the NIH Institutes to describe and—importantly—gain feedback on the developing Strategic Plan.

Comings and Goings

Three Council members will be concluding their 3-year terms this week. They are:

All have been actively involved with the Council’s work. Dr. Cuervo served on and chaired the Task Force on Minority Aging Research and took on the additional responsibility of representing NACA at the NIH Council of Councils. Drs. Carstensen and Skinner co-chaired a thorough Council review of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research. New members, whose nominations are now being processed, should take their places on the Council at the January 2016 meeting.

The Council will conclude with featured research highlights from each extramural NIA division:

  • Dr. Kostas Lyketsos, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine – Advances in Treating Agitation in Alzheimer Dementia: Lessons from the CitAD Study (Division of Neuroscience)
  • Dr. Vishwa Deep Dixit, Yale School of Medicine – Harnessing Immune-Metabolic Interactions to Enhance Healthspan (Division of Aging Biology)
  • Dr. Evan Hadley, National Institute on Aging – CALERIE, a 2-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Human Caloric Restriction’s Feasibility and Effects on Predictors of Health Span and Longevity (Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology)
  • Dr. J. Michael McWilliams, Harvard Medical School – Improving Outcomes in the Medicare Program (Division of Behavioral and Social Research)

The scientific presentations are usually a quite popular part of the meeting, as distinguished researchers talk about some of the most exciting findings in the field today.

The thrice-yearly NACA meetings are a vital part of NIA’s decision making process. If you’ve never been to a meeting, I encourage you to attend if you’re in Bethesda. If not, tune in to the videocast to see the process in action.

 

Meetings NACA Robin BARR

Be there or be square! The NACA meeting is the place to be.

Check out the Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging’s first meeting of 2015. You can watch it online, January 28, from 8:00 AM to about 1:15 PM EST. 

What do I need to know?

Here are the agenda and meeting materials. Here’s the link to the live videocast [Editor's Note: This link is no longer active. The archived webcast of the NIA Council meeting is available.] Some examples of what will happen during this meeting include NIA’s Director, Richard Hodes giving a status and budget report; Kevin High presenting the Council’s Working Group on Program; and Ana Maria Cuervo providing updates from the Task Force on Minority Aging Research. Starting at 10:15 AM EST, you’ll get to listen to the following scientific experts provide highlights of some of their significant research.

  • Bradley Hyman: Tau Propagation and Alzheimer Progression
  • Howard Neil Hodis: Testing the Menopausal Hormone Therapy Timing Hypothesis with Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE)
  • Rozalyn Anderson: Metabolism of Aging and Age-related Disease Vulnerability
  • Johannes Haushofer: The Psychology and Behavioral Economics of Poverty 

Remind me. What does NIA’s Council do?

Like other NIH Institutes', NIA’s Council is a committee of experts that meets three times a year to advise our organization. When it meets, NIA’s Council—the National Advisory Council on Aging or NACA:

  • reviews the performance of NIA Divisions and programs
  • considers concepts for new initiatives or programs and decides whether to approve them
  • hears brief reports from NIA grantees about research breakthroughs and new developments in aging, including Alzheimer’s disease, research
  • provides second level review of applications for NIA, in a closed session

And, why does this matter to me?

Although NACA members don’t make final approvals, their advice and direction is very closely heeded. By paying attention to NACA meetings you can learn more about:

  • the NIA budget for research in 2015 and 2016
  • new areas of research or new kinds of grants that the NIA is planning to fund
  • plans for addressing policy issues—like tightening budgets—across NIH

We hope you will join us online. And, if you are in Bethesda, Maryland, of course, you are welcome to come in person to our open session. And, if you are interested you can click here for links to past NACA meetings.

If you participate—in person or online—let us know what you think. Was the information helpful? Did the research highlights stimulate any new ideas? Comment here. We are always listening.

 

Read Next: How to find the best parts of our Council minutes

NACA Robin BARR

Watch as it happens, live! Tune in to the NIA Council webcast

Like many other Institutes at NIH, the NIA assesses and updates its research directions every few years. This exercise is an important one, resulting in a Strategic Directions document that helps set and communicate priorities for the Institute and for aging research.

We invite your comment on the NIA draft Strategic Directions.

We are updating our Strategic Directions, and I am seeking your input. A formal Request for Information, or RFI, has been issued that asks for your comments on the draft update. As I mentioned at the NIA 40th anniversary symposium at the Gerontological Society of America meeting last week, we very much look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Why is your feedback so important to us?

NIA is your institute. Our mission and directions are on behalf of the public, from the research community to older individuals. So we need to hear your voices to allow us to prepare a document that truly does reflect an ambitious and fitting agenda for the times ahead. Feedback from you and your peers is critical.

My team will read and consider all feedback submitted by December 15. You can even write to us anonymously.

View the draft Strategic Directions document here: Aging Well in the 21st Century: Strategic Directions for Research on Aging (PDF, 440K). To submit comments, please see our Request for Information.

With comments in hand, we will revise and finalize NIA’s 2015 Strategic Directions. The final version will be available to you online, and we will distribute it widely via social media and even a few hard copies.

What does this NIA Strategic Directions document say?

We outline broad themes in aging research and major challenges and exciting opportunities in specific areas of:

  • basic biology of aging
  • clinical and behavioral research
  • neuroscience
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • and more

We describe how the NIA can take action in these areas in the coming years. We all want to contribute to and enable future discoveries that will improve the health and well-being of aging Americans. I think you’ll agree that we are poised to make extraordinary discoveries in aging research.

Our Strategic Directions document asks questions like these:

  • At this moment in time, what areas of basic and translational research are primed for acceleration into clinical testing?
  • In basic science, where might we discover new and better targets to intervene on age-related cognitive decline or physical frailty?

These questions cut across our research divisions and our in-house Intramural Research Program. At their core is the imperative to improve the quality of life for all older adults.

The NIA Strategic Directions document takes a comprehensive and detailed look at our programs. It doesn’t lend itself to a quick read. I ask, however, that you please take the time to consider it fully and give us your best suggestions. While moving forward on specific projects is of course subject to the availability of funds, we encourage comments on areas of scientific opportunity and potential progress.  I hope you’ll find our draft plans an interesting and inspiring read.

Celebrating 40 years – NIA milestone and anniversary

This month, the National Institute on Aging also thanks and honors the researchers, supporters, and dedicated staff that have propelled the organization over the 40 years since our founding. I was pleased to see so many of you at the anniversary symposium on November 8 and to have the opportunity to thank you personally. We heard wonderful descriptions of NIA history and impact from grantees Eileen Crimmins, Steve Austad and Kevin High (also a current member of the National Advisory Council on Aging), as well as NIA leaders Luigi Ferrucci, Neil Buckholtz, and Marie Bernard. Many of you volunteered reminiscences of the early, pioneering days in aging research and of the institute. We celebrate NIA’s legacy moving forward–as a champion for older people and for the research that every day seeks to improve all of our lives.

These photographs were shared at the 40th anniversary symposium.

 

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Budget NACA Strategic Directions Richard HODES

Strategic Directions for Research on Aging

The Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging is holding one of its thrice yearly meetings today. Did you know you can watch online? The next meeting is on May 21, 2014, from about 8am to 3pm EST. Please save the date! We invite you to tune in, so I hope you’ll mark it on your calendar.

How do I catch up on today’s meeting?

If you want to catch the last few minutes of today’s meeting live, it will run until about 2pm EST or until we complete all business. Here’s the link to access the live videocast [Editor's Note: link no longer active]. We’ll also put a link to the archived videocast on this blog when it becomes available after the session.

And here’s the agenda and meeting materials, so you can see which parts of the meeting are of greatest interest to you.

This videocast is a new service we’re offering to enhance your access to NIA and our decision-making process about grants and funding. We’re trying to enhance the archived version so that later, you can easily find the parts of the meeting that are most relevant to your work. If you have any other thoughts about how we could make Council proceedings more available to you, please let me know by commenting below.

What does NIA’s Council do?

You may also want some background information about our Council. Like the other Institutes at the NIH, we have a committee of experts that meets three times a year to advise our organization. NIA’s Council—the National Advisory Council on Aging, or NACA—takes these important actions when it meets:

  • reviews the performance of major NIA Divisions and programs
  • considers concepts for new initiatives or programs and decides whether to approve them
  • hears brief reports from NIA grantees about research breakthroughs and new developments in aging, including Alzheimer’s disease research
  • provides second level review of applications for NIA, in a closed session

Why is the Council meeting important to me?

NACA members don’t make final approvals, but their advice and direction is very closely heeded. You can learn more about:

  • the NIA budget for research in 2014 and 2015
  • new areas of research or new kinds of grants that the NIA is planning to fund
  • the most exciting research that the NIA is funding
  • plans for addressing policy issues—like tightening budgets—across NIH

Can I listen to the Council discuss my grant application?

No. As is the case with all NIH Council meetings, parts of NIA’s meetings are closed to the public and will not be videocast. Discussion of the merits of specific grants applications happens in the closed sessions, to protect the confidentiality of the scientific peer review process.

We open as much of the meeting as possible to you, and to the public, closing only those sessions where it is absolutely necessary.

Who is on NIA’s Council?

Our Council is comprised of science leaders whose backgrounds are as varied as the different divisions of NIA, as well as leaders of professional societies and representatives from groups interested in aging research, including Alzheimer’s. Others, from the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH, are members from the federal community with similar interests. You may know someone who serves on the Council. Or, you yourself may have served in the past (thank you!). Here’s the current roster.

So please, consider watching our meetings. And if you’re in Bethesda, Maryland, you are welcome to come in person to our open sessions. Here are all our NIA Council meeting dates for 2014 and 2015.

 

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Applications NACA Review Robin BARR

Save-the-date: on May 21, 2014, tune in to NIA Council webcast

Our National Advisory Council on Aging meets three times a year to consider grant applications and programs and make recommendations, as do the Advisory Councils for the other NIH Institutes. If you’re like most people, you have never bothered to look at the meeting materials available online. Meeting minutes? That sounds terribly boring – like what you’d read when you have trouble sleeping, right?

But Council materials contain critical information about research priorities and future directions for NIA. If you never look at them, you are missing out on information that might be useful for your next grant application. So, here is my crib sheet describing where to look and when, so you can get the details you need, and quickly.

Director’s Status Report

One part of the Council materials that you’re likely to find interesting: the Director’s Status Report. Here’s the most recent status report, prepared for the September 2013 Council meeting. And here are the kinds of questions it can answer:

  • What is going to happen with the NIA budget for research in 2014 or 2015? We put everything we know about future years in the Budget and Appropriations document.
  • Why is there a new contact person for my application or grant? What happened to that program staff member I used to talk to? NIA Staff Changes are described as well.

Minutes from the previous meeting

At each Council session, we approve the minutes from the previous meeting, and these minutes contain more information you might find valuable. Here are the most recent minutes, from June 2013, and here are the kinds of questions they can answer:

  • Is the NIA planning to fund any new areas of research, or new kinds of grants? The Council discusses and recommends (or advises against) new Concept Clearances. These are special pots of money that NIA staff propose be set aside for high priority areas of research. If you are active in one of these areas of research, you might want to get in touch with us about upcoming funding opportunities.
  • What is going on with the really big, longstanding NIA grants—is the organization going to keep funding those activities or will the money be freed up for new grants? The minutes often contain reports on NIA Divisions and their programs. For example, scroll down for a program report on the Division of Neuroscience, which funds longstanding large grants like those to the Alzheimer’s disease research centers. You’ll see that the Council is recommending specific tweaks to a number of activities.
  • What’s some of the most exciting research that the NIA is funding? Every meeting, Program Highlights spotlight grantees making breakthroughs and moving our science forward.

Did you know you can watch the Council meeting, even if you’re not in Bethesda?

Some parts of Council meetings are open to the public. You can attend in person, if you happen in be in the area. Check the agenda to find out what parts are open to the public. And this year, for the first time, we will start videocasting Council meetings. You can watch the sessions live or archived.

NACA = Council = Advisory Council

The National Advisory Council on Aging goes by a number of names. At NIA we affectionately call it NACA. At other NIH Institutes the more common abbreviation for their advisory councils may be Council or Advisory Council. They all mean the same thing.

Who sits on NACA and what does it do?

Leaders in aging research, Alzheimer’s disease research, and public advocacy for aging research issues form NACA. Our Director, Richard Hodes, chairs it. I am the Executive Secretary and a number of others from the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH are members as a result of the offices they hold there (ex-officio members). Check out the membership roster.

The NACA advises program staff and the NIA Director on activities and funding. They don’t make final approvals, but their advice and direction is very closely heeded. Council meetings are an important opportunity for our staff to document and justify their proposals and activities to an extremely well-informed, external, independent group.

NACA activities and reports are one of the best ways to keep in touch with what’s happening at NIA. I hope you’ll consider spending a few minutes with the meeting materials. If you have questions on those materials, you can always reach me by submitting a comment.

 

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Meetings NACA Review Robin BARR

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