The ASBMB provides feedback regarding the NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative

Update 8/21/2017: The NIH recently named the following individuals to their working group:

Co-chairs: Jose Florez, MD, PhD, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD, Principal Deputy Director at NIH.

The rest of the working group comprises of 14 other members, including 8 university research faculty, two postdoctoral fellows, and directors of two NIH institutes. The individual members can be found at the NIH webpage.

Shortly after rescinding the Grant Support Index, the National Institutes of Health devised a strategy to support early- and mid-career biomedical investigators. “More early- and mid-career investigators are losing funding and are shunted out of the biomedical research enterprise,” said Rick Page, a biomedical researcher and assistant professor at Miami University in Ohio. “As a community, we need to find and implement best practices for supporting … the future lifeblood and leadership of the biomedical research enterprise.”

The proposed Next Generation Researchers Initiative, or NGRI, addresses the difficulties that early- and mid-career investigators face in seeking funding for their research and aims to achieve long-term stability for those developing independent research careers.

Instead of placing a cap on the number of federal grants per investigator, the NGRI will extend application paylines for early-stage investigators and investigators about to lose all their funding. The NIH will rearrange priorities to free up at least $210 million per year, ramping up eventually to $1.1 billion per year, to fund grants by early-career investigators within the 25th percentile. Additionally, more emphasis will be placed on programs already in place to support early- and mid-career investigators, such as the NIH Common Fund’s New Innovator Awards. The NIH will also develop and test metrics to assess and ensure that the initiative meets its goals.

The ASBMB welcomes these efforts by the NIH to increase diversity and sustainability throughout the biomedical research endeavor. As the NIH prepares to roll out its new initiative, the ASBMB recently submitted a list of questions to the NIH, soliciting additional information regarding its implementation. These inquiries include:

  1. How will the priorities that will be “rearranged” to fund this initiative impact the biomedical research community?
  2. How many new proposals will be funded within each individual institute and center, given varied current intra-institute paylines?
  3. What type of data and benchmarks will be used to measure efficacy of the NGRI?
  4. How will these funds be divided between early- and mid-career investigators?
  5. What are the exact definitions and mechanism to be used for funding mid-career investigators?

We look forward to working with the NIH as the NGRI is implemented. To see the exact questions we asked, please refer to our NGRI Letter. To provide answers and approaches to future challenges, the NIH plans to release a policy statement in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts, publish an article in a peer-reviewed venue and establish a working group of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director. We at the ASBMB recognize the importance of ensuring a sustainable and diverse research environment, and we believe the NGRI is a positive step toward this goal.

 

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