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NIH Continues to Tweak Policy for Investing in Young Researchers

As previously reported, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced over the summer a new policy aimed at increasing the number of early career investigators competing successfully for NIH grants. The Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) included two new definitions of early career investigators: Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) would include researchers who completed their degrees within the last 10 years and have not yet received their first NIH grant; Early Established Investigators (EEIs) would have to be within 10 years of receiving their first independent R01-equivelent research award.

In a presentation to the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director last month, NIH Principal Deputy Director Larry Tabak discussed the deliberations of a working group tasked with implementing the NGRI, including a number of concerns with the policy released in August. The working group recommends that NIH shift its policy away from the arbitrary 10-year cutoffs as set in the two definitions and instead place the focus on investigators who are the most “at risk” of losing their funding, regardless of age or years since degree. Another area for concern by the working group is that existing funds are to be used to fund awards to the determined investigators, possibly diverting funds away from established researchers. NIH will continue to refine the initiative over the coming months. The working group is expected to release its report in June.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NIH Announces New Next Generation Researchers Policy

On August 31, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new policy aimed at increasing the number of early career investigators competing successfully for NIH grants. The Policy Supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative implements Section 2021 of the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted in late 2016, which calls for the agency to prioritize investment in the next generation of biomedical researchers.

The Next Generation Researchers Policy sets two new definitions of early career investigators: Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and Early Established Investigators (EEIs). Early Stage Investigators are defined as a “program director/principal investigator who has completed their terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years and who has not previously competed successfully… for a substantial NIH independent research award.” An Early Established Investigator is a “program director/principal investigator who is within 10 years of receiving their first substantial, independent competing NIH R01-equivelent research award as an ESI.” Funding will be prioritized for an EEI if “(1) The EEI lost or is at risk for losing all NIH research support if not funded by competing awards this year, or (2) The EEI is supported by only one active award.”

The new policy will take effect this year (fiscal year 2017), with a goal of funding approximately 200 more ESI and EEI researchers (each) than were supported in FY 2016. Individual institute and center (IC) directors are tasked with determining how best to re-prioritize funding to enable these investments this year. A working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), which advises the NIH Director, has been established to monitor the implementation of the new policy.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

National Academies Requests Input on Two Higher Education and Workforce Studies

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce is requesting input for its consensus studies on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century and the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. The Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century Workforce is inviting comments and reactions on previously received input on competencies and core educational elements for Masters and PhD programs. The opportunity to provide input is open until September 22, 2017. The Committee on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative is requesting input on the barriers that members of the next generation of biomedical and behavioral researchers may face as they develop their independent research careers. The opportunity to provide input to the Committee on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative is open until October 1, 2017.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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