Between the two HRA membership meetings each year, members continue to connect and learn through HRA Interest Groups.  Each group has two co-chairs who are representatives from member organizations. In addition to organizing two or more educational webinars during the year, these groups plan topics for roundtable discussions that take place at meetings of the membership.  If there is interest in developing a project among members of an Interest Group, a Task Group can be formed to work on the project.

Research Workforce and Early Career Development Working Group

To help HRA members build a diverse, motivated and committed research workforce by:

  • Creating resources to facilitate funder’s learning about grant programs for early career investigators
  • Facilitating opportunities to learn how HRA members can contribute to development and enhancement of the health research workforce
  • Identifying and disseminating practices to support development of early career investigators


Interest Group for Funders Focused on Drug and Other Therapy Development

This group focuses on issues specifically related to drug and other therapy development such as:

  • Effect of nonprofit accounting standards on funding models
  • Working with big pharma – access to drugs on the shelf and a role for nonprofits in pharma drug development programs
  • Strategies for pricing of drugs developed with nonprofit funds
  • Clinical research infrastructure to subsidize drug development costs
  • Metrics for drug development programs
  • FDA issues: need for regulatory science; the need for EMEA-FDA harmonization
  • Sharing documents such as MTAs, NDAs, research contracts, and multi-party contracts.

Discovery Science Interest Group

The term “discovery science” for the purposes of this group includes the search for knowledge of the basic biology of certain diseases or systems. “Discovery Science” implies an emphasis on innovative approaches to research questions and visualizing the path from discovery to applications improving human health. “Discovery science” also includes the analysis of large volumes of experimental data with the goal of finding new patterns or correlations, leading to novel hypothesis formation and sharing scientific methodologies among diverse scientific areas of study. This  group provides the opportunity for funders of discovery science to:

  • Share methodologies for evaluation, impact, and portfolio analysis of funded discovery science
  • Examine opportunities to pool resources to encourage (or require) open access to data
  • Learn new approaches from funders in different disease or scientific focus areas
  • Discuss how funders can encourage the publication of null results

Translating Research into Practice and Policy

The Translating Research into Practice and Policy group is focused on getting prevention and outcomes research more quickly adopted into practice and policy. There are many effective, research-based interventions to improve public health or improve health care delivery, but rarely do they get farther than journal articles. And unlike the pathways for drug development, no industry exists with the purpose is to push these interventions into use. There is, however, a growing community of researchers, health systems, quality improvement organization, and funders who are focused on the challenges of scaling-up and adopting these health improvements.

Grants Administration Interest Group

The Grants Administration Interest Group addresses a wide range of high-priority operational issues common to funders of biomedical research, by sharing information, showing how a variety of different organizations approach a specific issue, and by defining and sharing recommended approaches and best practices. Topics researched by the group include reviewer conflict of interest policies, intellectual property and patent policies, and the mentoring of early career clinical investigators.

In 2013, the Working Group organized a series of webinars for the HRA membership on grants management software systems, in addition to offerings on several other topics.

Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

In January, 2007, representatives from HRA member organizations met to consider the benefits and implications of adding a requirement for an IDP as a component of health research and training awards for postdoctoral fellows and early career investigators. Despite data demonstrating the correlation between the use of IDPs and postdoctoral productivity, IDPs are not widely used in the mentoring of postdoctoral fellows. An IDP is a professional development tool that can help postdoctoral fellows and early career investigators identify professional development needs and career objectives. Specifically, the goals of the IDP are to:

Identify short-term needs to improve performance
Identify long-term career options and the training necessary to realize those options
Clarify work expectations
Foster communication between the advisor and the trainee

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has taken a leading role in promoting the use of the IDP. Check out FASEB’s description of the goals, benefits and process of the IDP along with a list of references on self-assessment, the postdoctoral experience, career opportunities, and resources on non-academic careers. Also see FASEB’s Sample Annual Review.