On August 31, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a new policy intended to bolster support for early career biomedical researchers and fulfill a mandate within the 21st Century Cures Act. The goal of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative is to retain early career investigators, thus stabilizing the biomedical research workforce pipeline and decreasing the average age at which researchers lead independent research projects.
Specifically, the new policy will prioritize funding for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) – defined as individuals within 10 years of completing their terminal research degree who have not yet served as a Principal Investigator (PI) on an NIH Research Project Grant (RPG) – and Early Established Investigators (EEIs), PIs within 10 years of receiving their first NIH RPG who are at risk of losing grant support, either all or in part. By prioritizing ESIs and EEIs, NIH hopes to improve retention of biomedical researchers across all career stages and reduce the uncertainty faced by these particular groups as they seek to establish independent research programs.
As announced during the June meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), NIH has established a goal of funding approximately 200 more awards to both ESIs and EEIs in fiscal year (FY) 2017 than were funded in FY 2016, extending funding for these groups to the 25th percentile. The estimated costs of this expansion are $210 million per year, ramping up to a steady state of $1.1 billion after five years. Individual Institutes and Centers will be responsible for reprioritizing funds to achieve these benchmarks. Implementation and effectiveness of the policy will be monitored by a recently appointed Working Group of the ACD.