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NIH Revises Policy to Help Early-stage Investigators Land R01 Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has revised its policies to ensure that new investigators and early-stage investigators are supported at the same success rates as established investigators submitting new applications.
In a notice released last week, NIH clarified its policy for researchers it considers to be New Investigators, who have not yet received an R01 research grant, and Early Stage Investigators, which NIH defines as New Investigators who are also within ten years of completing a terminal research degree or medical residency.
One way NIH hopes to improve the record of these investigators in winning first-time grants will be to encourage them to apply for traditional R01 funding opportunities. NIH said in the notice that it has seen an increase in the use of Small Grants (R03), and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21), which has resulted in a smaller percentage of ESIs applying for and obtaining R01 funding.
Because R03 and R21 grants are limited in scope and in period of support, NIH added, “they may not be the most effective way to launch an independent research career." Thus, NIH said it will particularly encourage early stage investigators to apply for R01 funding opportunities.
By encouraging these investigators to apply for these grants, NIH hopes to “accelerate the transition to an independent scientific career with substantive NIH career support.” 
These applicants will be identified so that their career stages may be considered, and NIH expects that these ESIs will make up a majority of the new investigators. In order for NIH to reach its goal to fund these early-career researchers, it expects to “continue to rely on a pool of high quality R01 applications from New Investigators,” but that will require tweaking its policy.
NIH said that there is concern that new investigators “do not fare as well in peer review as those from established investigators,” and that they receive fewer awards than experienced investigators when they are compared against applications from more experienced scientists. To hurdle this issue, NIH plans to cluster applications from early investigators together so that they may be reviewed together and improve their success rate.
These applicants may perform better because their applications “will be more effectively evaluated when judged against other applications from individuals at the same career stage.”

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