Refining research practices and environment

Despite our efforts to evoke change in practices that drive our research enterprise, it has been difficult to gain traction in areas that most affect researchers on a daily basis including animal care and use, chemical and biosafety, and compliance. Enhancing the visibility of our contributions and listening to our community is a vital part of our Mission.

How can we improve research practices at MGH?

Advocating for financial security for investigators

Over the last two decades, it has become the norm that research investigators provide 90-100% salary support through grants and corporate sponsored research programs with an emphasis on those that have maximal indirect cost rates. As Federal extramural funding dollars have dwindled and private grant support mechanisms have become inundated with grant requests, many investigators are feeling increasingly insecure about the sustainability of their research enterprise and in providing their own salary support as well as that of their support staff. This is especially trying during cycles where grants are ending or are not renewed. Our goal is to work with the hospital administration to identify and cultivate new strategies to increase the financial security of our researchers.

As an example, it is vitally important that research focused sundry funds remain intact and untaxed. These sundry funds have become the lifeline for departmental chairs and investigators to provide a safety net for researchers when grant monies wax and wane. They are often tapped for maintenance, repair and replacement of aging and new equipment. They serve as a source for development of new ideas for the generation of new proposals. Requiring investigators or their Chiefs to spend down their sundry portfolio yearly could have a detrimental impact on their ‘rainy day’ funds, ultimately eliminating one of the primary security mechanisms offered to primary investigators here at MGH.

Organizing the Committee on Fundamental Research into a more widely recognized entity that serves the research community

Looking to the future, the CFR will have a formalized and well-recognized status within the hospital.   Past work by this committee has already made amazing inroads in refining and retooling the MGH enterprise.

We propose the following action items:

The CFR will continue to have vital roles in leadership at MGH including representation on ECOR, the ORCD, and representatives active in the Research Institute.

We will seek expanded roles in acting as a liaison between these established groups. This will build on our unique insights into research in terms of actively running laboratories, developing research infrastructure and mentoring clinical and postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students.

We will become a more visible entity at MGH and provide information to our researchers.

We have now expanded our membership to encompass all departments.

Increasing representation of Fundamental Research Scientists on ECOR

In 2004, ECOR amended its policy to allow elected, active research professors to have representation on the council. Under the current system, 2 representatives per academic rank are elected and serve 3 year terms.

While this was a major step forward, we have identified a weakness: the election process can be skewed merely by the size of the department and is heavily weighted to clinical based investigators who have a disparate number of votes, limiting representation by fundamental researchers. It is our goal to have equal representation of basic and clinical scientists as elected representatives.