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A Staff Award

The US National Cancer Institute is planning to offer a new sort of award for those who want to conduct research, but don't want to be a principal investigator running a lab, reports ScienceInsider.

Last year, NCI Director Harold Varmus — who is stepping down at the end of this month — was one of the co-authors on a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences editorial that argued for changes to the US biomedical research ecosystem. One suggestion, among many, put forth by Varmus and his co-authors was for a decreased reliance on graduate students and an increased use of staff scientists to oversee and conduct experiments in the lab.

As ScienceInsider's Jocelyn Kaiser writes, this new K05 "research specialist award" would support scientists with a master's, PhD, MD, or other advanced degree who are working as lab research scientists, core facility managers, or data scientists. Kaiser notes that the scientist would have to be sponsored by a PI and institution and that the award would cover the salary of the scientist, though not any research expenses.

One worry about the program is that "every single postdoc in the United States who's got any interest in doing cancer research will apply for this … if they don't get a PI job," Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, tells her.

Kaiser adds that NCI is starting small, with $5 million for 50 or 60 awards for the next year and a half.

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