NIH Loan Repayment Programs: A Lifeline for Biomedical and Biobehavioral Researchers: Applications Accepted September 1 – November 15

By the time many researchers have completed their education and training, they have amassed on average $160,000 in student loan debt. The NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) are a set of programs established by Congress and designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. The LRPs counteract early-career researchers’ financial pressure by repaying up to $35,000 annually ($70,000 over a two-year contract) of a researcher’s qualifying educational debt in return for a commitment to engage in research areas important to the mission of NIH. Continue reading

Funding Longevity by Gender Among NIH-Supported Investigators

For nearly 10 years, more women than men received PhDs in the biomedical sciences, yet women are still underrepresented at every subsequent stage of academic advancement. In 2015, for example, women earned 53% of PhDs, but they comprised only 48% of post-doctoral fellows, 44% of assistant professors, and 35% of professors. To better understand what might be contributing to women’s underrepresentation in later stages of academia, Dr. Lisa Hechtman and her colleagues at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) analyzed “funding longevity by gender” among funded NIH investigators. Their analysis, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, yielded a number of interesting findings which I’d like to share with you.
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Trends in Diversity within the NIH-funded Workforce

As highlighted in many previous blog posts and the recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report, promoting a strong biomedical workforce is a top priority for the NIH.  In 2017, NIH launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, which is a multi-pronged approach to increase the number of NIH-funded early stage investigators. An important component of this initiative is the call for increased transparency and availability of data about the make-up of the biomedical research workforce. More complete data will allow NIH leadership to best understand and address the needs of our emerging workforce. Continue reading

NIH Announces Stipend and Benefit Increases for National Research Service Award Recipients

We are pleased to announce that stipends will be increased for those supported by Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSAs). As a result, approximately 15,000 NRSA training grant appointees and fellows spanning career stages from undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers will receive a two percent stipend increase for Fiscal Year 2018. Please see the recently released NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-175 for the specific new stipend levels. Continue reading

The Issue that Keeps Us Awake at Night

The most important resource for the successful future of biomedical research is not buildings, instruments, or new technologies – it’s the scientists doing the work. But by now, it’s no longer news that biomedical researchers are stressed – stressed by a hypercompetitive environment that’s particularly destructive for early- and mid-career investigators. But those are the researchers who, if we don’t lose them, will comprise the next generation of leaders and visionaries. Almost 10 years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took steps to improve funding opportunities for “early stage investigators”, those who were 10 years or less from their terminal research degree or clinical training. Those steps helped, but many stakeholders have concluded that more is needed. Continue reading

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

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

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

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