NIH Suspends Recently-Announced Grant Support Index Policy, Launches “Next Generation Researchers Initiative”

On June 8, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins announced that based on feedback from the scientific community in response to the May 2 proposed policy change to use a Grant Support Index (GSI) as a means to “optimize stewardship of tax payers’ dollars,” NIH has decided to take “a more focused approach to increase the number of NIH-funded early-staged an mid-care investigators (ESI).” Instead of the GSI, Collins announced the agency will implement a “Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI).” The issue was discussed at the June 8 NIH Advisory Committee to Director (ACD) meeting following a presentation by NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak.

According to the NIH Director, NGRI will:

  • Make “substantial funds from NIH’s base budget” available to support “additional meritorious” ESI and mid-career investigators who are defined as individuals with less than ten years as a principal investigator and “are about to lose all NIH funding or are seeking a second award for highly meritorious research.” Beginning this year, total funding will be $210 million (the amount needed to fund these additional investigators in the first year) and gradually increase to approximately $1.1 billion per year, depending on available resources.
  • Track the impact of the 27 NIH institutes and centers funding decisions for early- and mid-career investigators “with fundable scores to ensure this new strategy is effectively implemented in all areas of research.”
  • Place greater emphasis on special awards with the aim of supporting early-career investigators “with applications that score in the top 25th percentile,” including such awards as: the NIH Common Fund New Innovator Awards, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ (NIGMS) Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases’ (NIAMS) Supplements to Advance Research (STAR) from Projects to Programs, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) award.
  • “Encourage multiple approaches to develop and test metrics that can be used to assess the impact of NIH grant support on scientific progress.” In the short term, according to Tabak, the agency needs “validated metrics for output (productivity)” and metrics for grant support that are based on commitment and not on dollars. A working group of the ACD will review analyses and will be discussed at future ACD meetings.

NIH launched a new web page and will continue to receive feedback via the Open Mike blog or via email to publicinput@od.nih.gov. A recording of the discussion can be viewed via videocast on NIH’s website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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