What Can We Learn from the Early Outcomes from the NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards?

In earlier posts, like this one, we discussed the importance of moving towards “evidence-based funding.”. NIH seeks to apply data-driven strategies to conceptualize, develop, implement, and evaluate policies, such as those that will affect the NIH-supported biomedical research workforce. Today, we’d like to spotlight a recently published analysis of an award program directed to investigators early in their careers – a population that has received much attention at NIH and beyond in recent years. Continue reading

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NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Policy Now Posted

Today we posted a policy (NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-101) describing current plans for the Next Generation Researchers Initiative.  Since I first blogged about it in June, NIH leadership have reviewed data (see accompanying blog) and deliberated about how best to proceed.  Our goal is to increase the number of NIH-funded early-stage investigators and assure, as best we can, that funded early-stage investigators have a reasonable chance to secure stable funding during the earliest stages of their independent research careers. This new policy will supersede previous notices on new and early stage investigators (NOT-OD-08-012, NOT-OD-09-013 and NOT-OD-09-134). …. Continue reading

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Data On Trends According to Career Stage

By the 21st Century Cures Act, the Next Generation Researchers’ Initiative calls on the NIH to develop policies to increase funding opportunities for new researchers seeking to secure early independence. To put the Initiative in perspective and to extend on previous blogs we’ve posted on changing demographics in NIH-funded researchers, we thought it would be useful to explore trends according to career stage.

First, some definitions.  We define “Early Stage Investigators” (ESI) as those who are within 10 years of completing their terminal degree or post-graduate clinical training and who have not yet secured independence as a PI of a substantial NIH research award.  …. Continue reading

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NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative

At the Advisory Committee to the Director meeting last week, NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Larry Tabak presented a new NIH initiative to strengthen the biomedical workforce. This presentation followed extensive discussions with stakeholders both here through this blog, at stakeholder meetings, and at NIH advisory council meetings over the last month. We heard unequivocal endorsements for supporting early-career and mid-career researchers given the hypercompetitive funding environment —a challenge we have addressed many times in my blog posts. However, many voiced concerns about our taking a formulaic approach to capping grant funding and called on us to be more direct in enabling greater support for the next generation of biomedical researchers. For this reason, we have shifted our approach to a focused initiative to support early- and mid-career investigators. …. Continue reading

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Following Up on Your Feedback on How to Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce

We appreciate the many thoughtful comments posted to the blog about working together to improve NIH funding support for early- and mid-career investigators to stabilize the biomedical workforce and research enterprise using a measure called the Grant Support Index (GSI). Some clear themes have emerged, including: …. Continue reading

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Mid-career Investigators and Shifting Demographics of NIH Grant Recipients

While NIH policies focus on early stage investigators, we also recognize that it is in our interest to make sure that we continue to support outstanding scientists at all stages of their career. Many of us have heard mid-career investigators express concerns about difficulties staying funded. In a 2016 blog post we looked at data to answer the frequent question, “Is it more difficult to renew a grant than to get one in the first place?” We found that new investigators going for their first competitive renewal had lower success rates than established investigators. More recently, my colleagues in OER’s Statistical Analysis and Reporting Branch and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute approached the concerns of mid-career investigators in a different way – by looking at the association of funding with age. Today I’d like to highlight some of the NIH-wide findings, recently published in the PLOS ONE article, “Shifting Demographics among Research Project Grant Awardees at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)”. Using age as a proxy for career stage, the authors analyzed funding outcomes for three groups …. Continue reading

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Additional Guidance Available on NRSA Stipends for Postdocs

We’d like to call your attention to a recently released NIH Guide notice that provides awardees with additional guidance related to the increases in postdoctoral NRSA stipends for postdoctoral researchers with 0,1 and 2 years of experience that go into effect December 1, 2016. As you may recall from earlier blog posts, under the Department of Labor’s revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as of December 1, 2016, US salaried, full-time professional workers will be entitled to overtime pay if they are paid below the new FLSA defined threshold. As described in an op-ed by NIH Director Francis Collins and Department of Labor Director Thomas Perez, “Fair Pay for Postdocs: Why We Support New Federal Overtime Rules,” NIH will increase postdoctoral NRSA stipends to start at levels above the new FLSA threshold, recognizing the contributions that postdoctoral researchers make to the NIH mission and that postdoctoral research activities – like most biomedical research careers – often exceed forty hours a week and do not neatly fall into hourly shifts. ….. Continue reading

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How New US Overtime Provisions Will Affect Postdoctoral Researchers

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the law that contains overtime pay provisions for employees across the United States, entitling all US workers to overtime pay unless they are exempted because they are paid on fixed, preset salaries; are engaged in executive, administrative, or professional duties; and are paid at least $23,660 per year. Today, a historic change to this act has occurred – under the new rule, the overtime pay threshold will be increased to $47,476, effective December 1, 2016. …. Continue reading

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