Smaller presence at SOT, but big enthusiasm for science
By Robin Mackar
Although the NIEHS and NTP presence at this year’s Society of Toxicology (SOT) annual meeting March 10-14 was much smaller than usual due to budget concerns, enthusiasm for science was still in abundance.
San Antonio was the place to be for those who wanted to hear the latest toxicology findings, learn about funding and training opportunities, and personally meet some of the NIEHS and NTP staff attending and participating in the meeting.
Before the official meeting even kicked off, staff members were busy serving on committees planning for next year’s conference, setting up posters and exhibits, and teaching continuing education courses.
At the Meet the Director symposium on March 11, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of both the NIEHS and NTP, updated SOT attendees on the current federal budget scenario, which she acknowledges is something that has been changing on an almost daily basis.
Birnbaum talked about steps being taken at NIH to prepare for the sequestration. “As of March 1, the federal government is operating under a sequestration, which means a 5 percent cut for NIH,” Birnbaum said. She discussed how the payline for grants at NIEHS would likely have to drop, resulting in fewer new grants being funded. Birnbaum encouraged attendees to continue their conversations with NIEHS program staff to keep abreast of available funding announcements and opportunities.
Birnbaum also used her time to update attendees on happenings at the Institute, including progress toward developing cross-cutting implementation plans to help NIEHS reach its overall strategic goals.
One of the most popular spots for new investigators, as well as long-standing grantees, was the centrally located NIH resource room.
“The funding room was always busy,” said Annette Kirshner, Ph.D., program administrator in the NIEHS Cellular, Organ, and Systems Pathobiology Branch of the Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT). Kirshner and others in DERT, including Janice Allen, Ph.D., from the Scientific Review Branch, worked with SOT to host the room and a brown bag luncheon, so new investigators could become familiar with the NIH peer review grant process. DERT staffed the room for two days, providing one-on-one consultation time with researchers who had questions about NIH funding and training opportunities.
Another popular session was the symposium chaired by Paul Foster, Ph.D., of NTP, and Earl Gray, Ph.D., of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It was standing room only for the “Nonmonotonic Dose-Response Curves and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Fact or Falderal?” session, which also featured Birnbaum.
(Robin Mackar is the news director in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a frequent contributor to the Environmental Factor.)