NLM Director Search Update

The following email from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, provides an update on the search process for NLM’s next director.

From: Collins, Francis (NIH/OD) [E]
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2016 3:57 PM
To: NIH Advisory Committee
Subject: National Library of Medicine director search

Dear Colleagues,

I write to provide some reassurance about the ongoing efforts to recruit the next Director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).  As you know, Don Lindberg retired from this role last year, and Betsy Humphreys has been ably serving since then as Acting Director.   A Working Group of the ACD produced a very thoughtful report on the future of NLM, making it clear that this part of NIH will be more important than ever over the next decade or more.  Recommendations included vigorous support of the many crucial activities of NCBI, moving the BD2K program to NLM over time, and a variety of other important tasks.  Clearly the next Director will have a full plate!

I am taking the unusual step of writing to you about the status of this particular search, as I understand that there are concerns about whether the process of selection is working well in this instance.  Let me explain the process:  A Search Committee is named by the NIH Director, with two NIH Institute Directors as co-chairs (Eric Green and Jon Lorsch agreed to take on this role for NLM).  We choose other members to represent major areas of responsibility for that IC (see attached roster).  The Search Committee brainstorms about potential candidates and reaches out to encourage those individuals to apply.  Applications (a CV and vision statement) then come in, are reviewed for qualifications, and then the Search Committee conducts face to face interviews and conducts phone references with six to eight of the most highly qualified candidates.  That process is of course confidential.  Then the Search Committee makes a decision about which individuals would be most qualified to lead the IC, and an unprioritized short list of 3 or 4 candidates is forwarded to me.  Those individuals are brought back for a second round of interviews with myself, Dr. Tabak, Dr. Hudson, and selected Institute Directors and other senior leaders; additional references are sought (often by me personally), and then, assuming a compelling candidate has been identified, an offer is made.

Those steps have been proceeding vigorously for NLM; I have now interviewed all of the short list candidates and am conducting additional due diligence reference checking.  I hope to be able to make an offer in the next month or two.

David Lipman’s announcement of his intention to step down as Director of NCBI, effective March 31, 2016, came as a surprise to all of us.  David has been an incredible contributor to NCBI, NLM, and NIH over his 27 years here.  I want to assure you that my support for the NCBI is unshakably strong here, and that we all see the continued flourishing of NCBI as a critical part of NIH’s future.  One of the first tasks of the new NLM Director will therefore be to mount a vigorous search for a new NCBI Director, and I will do everything possible from the Director’s office to assist that. No one should take the current situation as a threat to the deep respect and admiration all of us have for what NCBI has done and will continue to do.  In fact, I sent a personal message last week to the entire staff of NCBI to provide reassurance about the central role that we expect NCBI to continue to play.  I would not want these talented and dedicated scientists to doubt for a minute the sincerity and commitment of the NIH Director and his entire leadership team in supporting their work.

Please feel free to share this message with others who inquire about this issue, and feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss.