Francis Collins delivered the keynote speech at the 8th annual National Postdoctoral Association meeting in Philadelphia on March 13. According to the NPA, Collins referred to his own experiences as a postdoctoral researcher, saying, "The mix of the joy and the pain is characteristic of science in general… it was a very up and down experience."
The National Institutes of Health's support of early-stage investigators took center stage in Collins' speech, with an emphasis on the NIH's goal of aiding young investigators in their transition to independence. "The goal is to have a success rate comparable to established investigators submitting new applications, which should reduce the period of postdoc training," Collins says. To accomplish this, he added, the NIH will encourage young investigators to submit R01s, cluster grant review, discussion, scoring, and ranking within a study section, and have reviewers focus more on proposals than a researcher's track record. "He reiterated that the NIH is actively seeking ways to decrease the time to independence," the NPA said.
Collins fielded a myriad of questions related to common concerns of postdocs, the NPA writes, including visa issues for international researchers, increasing funding for K99 grants and including cost-of-living allowances in awards.
And speaking about the NPA's Postdoctoral Core Competencies Toolkit, Collins said, "It's a good blueprint for conversation. Postdocs can show it to their mentors and ask, 'Are you providing me this?'"