on matters relating to research activities. This could include an evaluation of the cost versus scientific benefit of proposed space-based research. A similar approach is used by the NIH, where advisory councils within each of the institutes and centers provide a second-tier review of research under consideration for funding. A NASA Research Advisory Committee for Life and Physical Sciences would ensure that the very limited opportunities and funds for space-based research are extended to the best combination of high-quality intramural and extramural studies and that appropriate progress toward research goals is achieved after protocols are in place. The creation of such an advisory body would be expected to re-establish a solid bridge with the scientific community by giving it a voice in guiding NASA life and physical sciences research.
• Regularly issued solicitations for NASA-sponsored life and physical sciences research are necessary to attract investigators to research that enables or is enabled by space exploration. Effective solicitations should include broad research announcements to encourage a wide array of highly innovative applications, targeted research announcements to ensure that high-priority mission-oriented goals are met, and team research announcements that specifically foster multidisciplinary translational research.
• The legitimacy of NASA’s peer-review systems for extramural and intramural research hinges on the assurance that the review process, including the actions taken by NASA as a result of review recommendations, is transparent and incorporates a clear rationale for prioritizing intramural and extramural investigations.
• The quality of NASA-supported research and the interactions with the scientific community would be enhanced by the assembly of a research advisory committee, composed of 10 to 15 independent life and physical scientists, to oversee and endorse the process by which intramural and extramural research projects are selected for support after peer review of their scientific merit. Such a committee would be charged with advising and making recommendations to the leadership of the life and physical sciences program on matters relating to research activities.
Realizing the growing challenge of the need to rapidly translate basic findings to applications, the biomedical research enterprise in the United States has reorganized to expand the emphasis on education and training programs for target audiences, ranging from practitioners to researchers to students, as one way to expedite the translation of discoveries to practice. One successful vehicle for these efforts is the recently launched, NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Awards. An ancillary goal of the CTSA program is to increase the number and quality of collaborations among practitioners, scientists, patients, and administrators.
The NIH model of research education, which provides training for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees (F and T awards) and junior faculty investigators (K awards), offers clues to how NASA could design unique educational programs that improve translation in the life and physical sciences, including some or all of the following elements:
• A curriculum-based program for flight surgeons and physician-astronauts to expand their research knowledge and skill set. Such programs are comparable to the NIH team-based K30 awards (clinical research curriculum awards).
• Mentored research training of junior faculty in biomedical sciences, similar to the NIH K (career development) awards. An essential element of these programs is that they demand that a majority of the trainee’s time be protected for instruction and research. When such expectations are not feasible or practical, CTSAs provide continuing and professional education in specific areas of research.
• Career enhancement awards for junior faculty in nonmedical life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. In the physical sciences and engineering, and in many nonmedically related disciplines in the life sciences, junior faculty are expected to develop independent research portfolios upon their academic appointment. Thus, to attract new talent, it is essential to create funding mechanisms specifically targeted for junior faculty. These