We’re thinking about

the future of funding —

and looking for your two cents

Published November 01 2017

The National Institutes of Health has issued not one but two proposals this year aimed at funding as many grants and as many investigators as possible, even if the pot of money for grants is not increasing. Specifically, NIH leaders are concerned about how to ensure that the research enterprise is taking the steps necessary to support the next generation of researchers.

In the spring, the NIH announced a plan for spreading funding more widely among funded investigators, the Grant Support Index, or GSI. Its goal was to cap the number of dollars an investigator could receive so as to ensure maximum productivity. The proposal received significant community comment, both supporting and opposing, and ultimately was abandoned by NIH leaders.

Out of the failed GSI came a new idea, the NIH’s Next Generation Researcher Initiative, or NGRI, a plan to increase success rates for early-stage investigators and for investigators about to lose all their funding. The NIH would 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 of scored proposals. Additionally, more emphasis would be placed on existing programs to support early- and mid-career investigators, such as the NIH Common Fund’s New Innovator Awards. The NIH also would develop and test metrics to assess and ensure that the initiative meets its goals. The NIH will develop NGRI implementation plans over the next year.

When introducing the NGRI, NIH Director Francis S. Collins wrote, “We are shifting toward a bold, more focused approach to bolster support to early- and mid-career investigators while we continue to work with experts on approaches to evaluate our research portfolio.”

As we wrote in the ASBMB Policy Blotter this summer, the NGRI addresses the difficulties that early- and mid-career investigators face in getting funding for their research and aims to achieve long-term stability for those developing independent research careers.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology public affairs staff and Public Affairs Advisory Committee are providing the NIH with feedback on the NGRI as the plan develops — representing the needs of our community and working to see that NIH actions support young scientists but that the support is balanced and ensures a sustainable future. In fact, the PAAC cares so greatly about this issue that it has created a working group charged with proposing innovative ideas to support the next generation of scientists.

This is where you fit in! We invite you to help develop a proposal from the ground floor. Imagine you have a blank piece of paper:

  • • What are the largest issues facing the community today?
  • • What policies should be re-evaluated when it comes to supporting the next generation?
  • • What initiatives work in other places that the NIH should consider?

The PAAC urges you to reach out to us and share your thoughts. They can be as detailed or as broad as you like — a one-sentence comment or a 10-page proposal. We’ll share and exchange ideas in this space and online. Together, we can build a case for where the NIH should focus its attention, assuming its intention is to support the next generation.

Post your comments here.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB. Follow him on Twitter.