Thoughts on the Recent NIH DURC Stakeholder Engagement Meeting

On Thursday, NIH held its second stakeholder engagement meeting on components of the U.S. government biosecurity oversight framework. As I prepared for this meeting and collected my thoughts around the meetings that ultimately shaped the current USG DURC policies, it struck me that it has been almost 17 years to the day since the inaugural (June 30, 2005) meeting of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB).  I couldn’t help but start to think about the technological differences between now and 2005.  For example, on the day of that first NSABB meeting, the list of things that did not exist include: smartphones, free Wi-Fi, widespread use of electronic health records, and, of course, ubiquitous use of social media.

The remarkable pace of technological development, when applied to biomedical research, is equally, if not more, staggering. As a scientist, I’ll admit I’m thrilled to see how science is being used to make our lives better. However, as a policymaker, I’m extremely cognizant of the importance of ensuring the science we support maximizes the benefits while minimizing risks. After a decade since the NSABB helped shape the first USG DURC policy, we thought it imperative to take a fresh look at our DURC policies to ensure they’ve kept pace.

As part of its series of public sessions related to biosecurity, this week NIH heard from a variety of stakeholders including institutional officials, researchers, policy experts, and other members of the public on the USG’s DURC oversight framework.  The meeting featured three sessions focused on the DURC policy scope and definition, policy implementation and effects, and potential future considerations for oversight.

For those of you who were unable to attend (and even those who were), I wanted to share a few of the major highlights of the meeting. 

  • Multiple speakers emphasized that the DURC policies provide a good overarching framework in which the degree of oversight is justifiable. There was good discussion on whether the classification of agents and experimental types was the most effective strategy moving forward.
  • Some speakers thought that the scope should be expanded to encompass non-federally funded research, and there was much discussion of how the democratization of biology necessitates consideration of bottom-up approaches to risk mitigation.
  • Communication.  Communication.  Communication.  It was very clear from the discussions and public comment portion that effective communication is critical to ensuring robust oversight of DURC and the success of these policies. Just a few ideas included sharing best practices beyond the academic institution and dedicated efforts to promote understanding and transparency in policy development.

These are just a few of the key takeaways I heard from the meeting. Importantly, this meeting is only one step in the NIH approach to engaging the stakeholder community on this issue. There will be another stakeholder engagement meeting later in 2022. All of the information we are collecting will also help inform the deliberations of the NSABB as they work on their current charge.

In case you were unable to join us earlier this week, I hope you have found this recap helpful.  If you were in attendance, please let me know if I left anything out!  Finally, a recording of the full meeting will soon be available on the NIH Videocast if you are interested in seeing the action for yourself.

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric

Introducing NIH’s New Scientific Data Sharing Website

I am very pleased to announce the availability of a new website on Scientific Data Sharing. Whether you are involved in an NIH-funded project and want to understand which sharing policies apply to your research and how to comply, or you are a researcher looking to access scientific data from NIH-affiliated repositories, this site is for you.

NIH has a long-standing commitment to making the research it funds available to the public. This commitment is demonstrated through a variety of sharing policies that function to increase the transparency and availability of scientific data and resources.  NIH policies expect:

  • The appropriate sharing of scientific data to be maximized
  • Data from large scale genomic studies to be broadly and responsibly shared
  • Research tools developed with NIH funding to be made accessible to other researchers
  • Unique model organisms to be made available to the scientific community
  • Clinical trials to be registered and summary results reported in
  • Peer reviewed manuscripts to be publicly available on PubMed Central

The new website will help you navigate these policies, providing you with step-by-step guides, infographics, tools and resources to help you on your way. In the case of clinical trials and public access policies, the site provides a central access point and visibility to these policies, and links out to existing NIH sites for more information.

A key goal of the site is to serve as a central portal, providing information on both NIH-wide and NIH Institute and Center-specific sharing policies and data repositories in a way that is easily sortable and searchable. You may have seen the short video preview of the site we released last week to pique your interest.  The video below provides a more extensive tour (~3 min), highlighting key features and resources.

Over the next few months, in preparation for the new NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy that goes into effect for applications due on or after January 25, 2023, we will be adding a number of resources to the site including: sample sharing plans, tips for taking data sharing into consideration when developing your budget, additional FAQs, and more. We’ll be sure to let you know when these new resources are released through the Nexus and other channels. We are also planning on a two-part webinar series on the new NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy to be held this summer to walk the community through the details of the new policy and answer questions, the recording of which will also be available on the website. Interested in an early heads up about webinar registration?

The site will regularly feature new and existing resources, events, and tools from across NIH, so check back regularly to see what’s new on the Resources section of the home page and the News and Events page! Have questions about sharing and accessing data? The Contacts and Help page on the new site will help you identify who you might reach out to when in need of assistance.

Thank you to the many, many people at NIH and in the broader extramural community who helped us develop requirements and user test early versions of the site.  Your assistance has been invaluable.

Let us know what you think of the new site. We welcome suggestions. Each page of the site provides an opportunity for you to let us know what is working and what we can improve.

This is a guest blog by Dr. Mike Lauer, the NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research (OER). Dr. Lauer writes about NIH research funding policies and data at his blog, Open Mike.

Dr. Mike Lauer
NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, in a very strange year,
OSP is so quiet, because there’s nobody here!
Teleworking from home, like the whole NIH,
But science policy has hardly slowed pace!
OSP staff are masterfully juggling,
Homeschool and glitches and cat laptop snuggling!
While COVID 19 has grabbed our attention,
OSP’s 2020 still had much to mention.
At long last, it’s final, the DMSP!
(Data sharing policy, to the cognoscenti…)
Please share your data and show us your plan!
It might affect if you get your next grant…
Doesn’t go into effect until 2023,
So, look for more guidance, tell us what you need.
Advisory Committees? Why, yes, there were three:
The NSABB, the NExTRAC, and the EAB.
sIRB exception for COVID is there,
COVID trial results, we hope that you’ll share!
Bioethics funding, we hope you’ll apply!
As a working group wrestles with using gene drives.
And when we look to the horizon, what should appear?
A glimpse at what continues into the next year
On CRISPR! On DURC! On biosafety!
On clinical trials diversity!
On digital health! On genomic data!
On privacy protections, based on risk or pro rata!
From primate research conducted with rigor,
De-identity challenges growing bigger and bigger,
Despite the pandemic, we see science advance,
And so, too, goes policy! (On Zoom! In sweat pants!)
As we come to the end of the year 2020,
From across OSP, there are wishes a-plenty,
To policy wonks, friends, and family,
To stakeholders and critics and the whole USG,
Stay healthy! Stay well! Wear a mask! Hang in tight!
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night!

NExTRAC: Considerations for Gene Drives Research and an Emerging Biotechnology Framework

Last year, NIH unveiled the Novel and Exceptional Technology & Research Advisory Committee (NExTRAC), a forum for advice and transparent discussions about the scientific, safety, and social issues associated with emerging biotechnologies. Today and tomorrow, the NExTRAC will be meeting to address its first two charges: considering the safety and responsible use of gene drives in biomedical research and establishing a framework to guide NExTRAC in future deliberations of emerging biotechnologies. Amidst the continuing backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proactive consideration of science on the horizon may feel esoteric, but science continues unabated and so must our examination of the appropriate boundaries under which to continue to develop new biotechnologies to improve human health and quality of life.

Indeed the recent celebration of the Nobel Prize awarded to Drs. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier for development of the CRISPR gene editing technology and announcement of the World Health Organization (WHO) position on genetically modified mosquitoes, illustrate the timeliness of Monday and Tuesday’s NExTRAC workshop on biosafety guidance and considerations for field work for the use of gene drives. There are many questions to be considered in using this technology to control vector-borne diseases, like malaria or dengue fever, ranging from the practical – is current biosafety guidance adequate? – to the scientific – what is the current state of the science on risk mitigation strategies? – to policy implicating – what is the state of infrastructure for oversight and engagement? We hope that the convening of experts in the field and comments from the public will begin to bring some clarity to these questions.

Gene drives is, of course, only one of many emerging technologies on the horizon, and the Working Group to Establish a NExTRAC Framework is laying the groundwork for future considerations of these technologies by the Committee. They will be presenting a draft report describing their current thinking on identification of emerging technologies or areas of science and a deliberative process and prompts for discussing and evaluating such technologies. This framework, pending approval by the NExTRAC, will be incredibly useful for guiding the work of NExTRAC in the future.

In keeping with the commitment of the NExTRAC as a public and transparent forum for discourse, the virtual meeting can be watched live at: and will be archived for future viewing. We hope you will have a chance to tune in and public input on NExTRAC activities is always welcome at

Posted by Dr. Carrie D. Wolinetz, November 9, 2020