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Study: Some Scientists Stack up Grants Even in Lean Times

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A number of researchers whose work is being funded by the National Institutes of Health received multiple grants last year, according to a survey to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the journal Nature.
The study, which was conducted by Nature, found that while federal funding for the NIH has flatlined over the past four years and the scramble for grants has become more fervent, 200 scientists received six or more NIH grants each in 2007, while 22 of those received eight or more.
Some of the recipients at the top of the NIH’s list of multi-grantees were conference organizers such as Andrew Robertson of Keystone Symposia, who received 32 separate grants averaging of around $15,000 each.
But others received far more money to run large labs. For example, John Reed, a cell biologist at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, received 11 grants in 2007 totaling nearly $11 million for his 35-person lab, Nature found. Another, Joseph McCune of the University of California, San Francisco, received $25.4 million from nine grants.
The NIH’s Center for Scientific Review currently is drafting a report and a set of policy recommendations aimed at speeding up grant delivery and enhancing the integrity and efficiency of the review process.
One recommendation under consideration would call for researchers to devote at least 20 percent of their time to any single research grant, which would limit the number of grants awarded per investigator to five.
Though some more established scientists have been able to rake in multiple grants from NIH, one of the side effects of the Institute’s flat funding that NIH Director Elias Zerhouni and the CSR have pointed to is the difficulty younger researchers have in winning their first grant.
The CSR called supporting early-career investigators a “top challenge” and a “top priority” at the NIH that has arisen from the self study of NIH peer review, and the committee already has recommended funding more R01 grants for early-career investigators. It plans to release its recommendations in April.

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