As I posted back in December, NIH is implementing many of the recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) working group that studied the biomedical research workforce. I’d like to draw your attention to several Notices that have been posted in the NIH Guide in the past few weeks, laying out some of the details and providing a bit of background on the ACD recommendations that preceded them.
The ACD working group stated that the NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) awards provide a proven mechanism for postdoctoral researchers to achieve an independent research position, and they recommended that NIH double the number of awards. Also, the working group thought that given the long training period for biomedical researchers, NIH should shorten the eligibility period for applying to this program to hasten the transition to an independent position. (Currently, investigators with more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training experience at the time of initial application or subsequent resubmission(s) are not eligible for the award.)
NIH leadership considered this recommendation and decided to increase the number of these awards, aiming for a 30% success rate (assuming sufficient funds and meritorious applications), and to shorten the eligibility period from 5 years to 4 years. We also thought it important to emphasize the mentored research training and career development phase of the award, and therefore expect that awardees will remain in their K99 position for no less than 12 months before transitioning. We understand that these changes may mean that the R00 research plan of applicants may be less-developed than in the past, and reviewers will be asked to adjust their expectations appropriately. These changes to the upcoming Parent K99/R00 funding announcement are described in more detail in the recent NIH Guide Notice.
Another recommendation of the ACD working group was that all NIH institutes and centers (ICs) should offer comparable programs for support of graduate student training. We are implementing this recommendation by extending the F30 (individual fellowships for predoctoral training which lead to a dual degree) and F31 predoctoral fellowship programs to most NIH ICs. This will be phased in over the next two years, with a number of ICs signing on now and others joining in the next fiscal year. Check the recent NIH Guide Notices to see the list of ICs now participating in the F30 and F31 funding opportunities.
We will be announcing additional ways we are implementing the ACD working group recommendations and will be following up with a request for information on some of the other initiatives. So stay tuned.