Last summer, we reported that in fiscal year 2020 NIH supported 1,412 early-stage investigators (ESIs) as first-time Principal Investigators on R01-equivalent awards. This all-time high was seen after several years of steady growth in the number of ESIs supported since implementing NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative five years ago. Today, we take a look specifically at how ESIs and other targeted groups fared last fiscal year.
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ericka Boone as the new director of the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce (DBRW) in the NIH Office of Extramural Research (OER), and I am thrilled she agreed to take on this role, given her background, interest, passions, and work ethic. Read on to learn more about Ericka.
If you are a trainee, graduate student, post-doc, or faculty in the early stages of your career, you might be interested in the recording of a presentation from the 2021 NIH Virtual Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration in which prominent NIH leaders offer a variety of tips for junior investigators and discuss funding targets for early state investigators, keeping our attention on at-risk investigators, getting that second R01, and more.
Since launching in 2017, NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) is continuing to address longstanding challenges faced by researchers trying to embark upon and sustain independent research careers as well as to promote the stability and diversity of the biomedical research workforce. Today, we are sharing data on our progress towards increased support for ESIs and other targeted groups.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., led the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases from 1995 until his passing in 2018. Dr. Katz was a talented physician scientist, NIH leader, and civil servant throughout his career who was profoundly dedicated to mentoring and training the next cadre of scientists. During his memorial service at NIH, you can see this dedication on full display. I, along with countless NIH colleagues, were blessed with Dr. Katz’s mentoring and sage advice. That is why, in his honor, we are pleased to announce the publication of Funding Opportunity Announcements for the Stephen I. Katz Early Stage Investigator Research Project Grant program .
In December 2018, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) offered a number of recommendations to NIH on the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative.” Among those: The Committee recommended “special funding consideration for “at-risk” investigators. These are researchers who developed meritorious applications who would not have significant NIH research funding if the application under consideration is not awarded. We plan to draw more attention this year, both inside and outside NIH, to outcomes for at-risk investigators, to ensure those submitting meritorious ideas to NIH are not lost to the system.
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.
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.