T H E   N I H    C A T A L Y S T   N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R    1 9 9 8 


by Fran Pollner

The NIH Office of Research Services (ORS) may actually become what everyone knows is impossible: all things to all people at NIH, especially the "bench scientists," says Leonard Taylor, acting director of a year-old division within the ORS that was assembled with the needs of intramural researchers in mind.

The fiscal year just departed saw the transfer of four programs out of the predominantly extramural National Center for Research Resources and into ORS to make them more responsive to the intramural community. The four—Medical Arts and Photography, the NIH Library, Veterinary Resources (see story, page 7), and Biomedical Engineering and Instrumentation—formed the ORS Division of Intramural Research Services (DIRS).

A more recent reconfiguration has divided the last mentioned of these programs into two distinct entities: the Scientific Equipment and Instrumentation Branch, centering on laboratory and electronic equipment services, and the Bioengineering and Physical Science (BEPS) Program, a new division-level organization unique among ORS components in that its mission is actually collaborative research.

"The lines are blurring now between biology, bioengineering, and the physical sciences. Interdisciplinary approaches are becoming essential," observes Cherie Fisk, acting director of BEPS. BEPS—and its 20 engineering, mathematics, and physical sciences experts with a passion for invention—offers that support (see page 9).

With the addition of the 300 people on the DIRS and BEPS rosters, ORS now numbers more than 1,300, says ORS Director Steve Ficca, "and we stand behind the researchers in so many ways that even the scientific directors have been heard to say, 'Gee, I didn't know you did that!'"

Anyone who meandered through the posters at the NIH Research Festival, however, couldn't help but be exposed to the ORS influence, displayed on dozens of boards depicting such activities as hazardous waste disposal, postexposure prophylaxis against retrovirus infection, maintaining the Shared Resources Database, and overseeing the construction on campus of the new Vaccine Research Center.

There are more initiatives in store for ORS, Ficca adds: The process for recruitment of permanent directors for both DIRS and BEPS has begun, and by the by fiscal year 2001, the way ORS is funded will have changed. ORS now gets most of its operating money from the central management fund, with the remainder coming from fees for service. But the millennium will bring an 85-percent fee arrangement. "The scientific directors," he notes, "will know exactly what their money is buying."

Service with a Smile at the NIH Research Festival

Sunshine on a Rainy Day: Ed Sunderland sings the praises of the NIH Library document delivery services (including the Web of Science and Porpoise programs; see story, page 6) providing desktop access to full-text on-line journals for the entire intramural research program­"even Rocky Mountain Labs can log on" to the home page (<http://nihlibrary.nih.gov>) "with a few clicks, at no additional cost." This year, Sunderland says, the library's on-line stacks have increased from "a handful to about 300" titles, including Cell, Immunity, Neuron, PNAS, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Brain Research, Lancet, Neuroscience, and Gene—"the most heavily used in the library, the ones that are practically destroyed from use before it's time for them to be bound."

Two days of free seminars on the library's electronic resources are scheduled for December and will be held in the NIH Library Training Room. Registration is not required.

December 3 December 17
9:30 am­10:30 am: Web of Science 9:30­10:30 am: PubMed
11:00­12:00 noon: Internet Grateful Med 11:00am­12:00 noon: Web of Science
1:00 p.m.­2:00 pm: Reference Manager Windows 1:00 pm­2:00 pm: EndNote plus Windows


Green Giants: Capt. Ed Rau (right), Environmental Protection Branch, ORS Division of Safety (with Jack Kehoe, a Safety Kleen, Inc., chemist), elaborates on NIH's "one-of-a-kind" ultraviolet peroxidation system, used to treat on-site almost all of NIH's aqueous mixed wastes (hazardous chemical wastes that contain low levels of radioactive materials). "We pioneered this method," says Rau. "It's environmentally friendly, totally enclosed, and leaves no residues."

Desperately Seeking Centrifuge: Ron Edwards (left), director of computer systems, ORS Division of Intramural Research Services, demonstrates the wonders of the Shared Resources Database, a free, on-line swap meet that enables the transfer of still useful (and, in some cases, never been used) items from one lab or office to another. Created in June 1997 by ORS, CIT, and NIAID, the database has been accessed by 9,935 individuals; 1,800 surplus pieces have been listed
mostly lab equipment, like centrifuges, incubators, and DNA sequencers, says Edwards, but also items like computers, printers, and cabinets. In addition to an "available resources" section, which currently lists and exactly describes about 80 items, there's also a "requested resources" list for those in search of specific elusive (or otherwise expensive) materials. The database can be accessed at
< http://dirs.info.nih.gov/resource.htm>.


Reaction Time: Jim Schmitt, medical director of the Occupational Medical Service, ORS Division of Safety, runs a service that's available "24 hours a day, every day"— the Retrovirus Exposure Surveillance Program, which has enrolled about 5,000 people since it opened in 1988. NIH, Schmitt says, is one of a very few research institutions in the country that offer both routine testing for employees who may be inadvertently exposed to a retrovirus at work and postexposure evaluation and treatment (available also to anyone exposed while at NIH). About one-quarter of enrollees work with a primate retrovirus in a lab or animal care setting; the rest work with human body fluids or patients. Nearly 34,000 enzyme immunoassays have been done, most for HIV-1. Of the 334 injuries reported over the past 11 years, 119 were considered serious enough to result in infection; 79 percent of those offered postexposure prophylaxis accepted treatment. The time taken to report to OMS and initiate prophylaxis has decreased over the years, to less than an hour in the past two years. As yet unknown, however, is how well used the program is. "Awareness at NIH is high," Schmitt says, "but we have no idea how much injury goes unreported."

Return to Table of Contents