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

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

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

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

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

Conversations About NIH Support of Graduate Training Programs

Monday, in a blog post on the Feedback Loop, colleagues at NIGMS outline the recent history of NIH’s efforts that impact graduate student training, as well as recent discussions beyond NIH on how to modernize and revitalize graduation education and training.

These conversations raise an important question, “Is NIH’s support of graduate-level training keeping pace with how we do science?”. ….. Continue reading

Update on the Postdoctoral Benefit Survey

In 2014, the NIH announced that it was going to distribute the NIH postdoctoral benefits survey to collect information on benefits available to postdoctoral researchers at different institutions. The survey was launched in response to a report on the biomedical research workforce from an Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) working group. …. Continue reading

How Would You Address Diversity in the Physician-Scientist Workforce?

As part of a wider initiative to shape the future direction of research training for the biomedical workforce as a whole, we at the NIH are actively pursuing ways to examine the physician-scientist workforce and to optimize training for clinicians seeking research careers. Physician-scientists face some challenges and career transition pathways unique to being in a clinical career track, hence the need for a specific focus on this workforce. Continue reading

Welcoming the Inaugural Director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs

I am pleased and excited to announce that in August, Dr. Kay Lund will join NIH as the inaugural director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs. As you might recall, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director‘s Biomedical Workforce Working Group recommended that NIH recruit a leader and establish a dedicated office to guide NIH’s training and development of a well-prepared biomedical workforce…. Continue reading