In response to extensive stakeholder feedback to its release in May of preliminary plans for a new policy designed to optimize distribution of grant funds across the research community, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) introduced an updated strategy for consideration by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) during its meeting on June 8. The Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) is intended to address the mandate in the 21st Century Cures Act to develop strategies to enhance support for early career investigators. As opposed to the previously proposed Grant Support Index, which applied point values to research activities and established a cap on the amount of activities for which an individual scientist could hold a primary role, the NRGI will require NIH Institute and Center (I/C) directors to reprioritize funds to release an estimated $1.1 billion over the next five years (approximately $210 million annually) to fund additional investigators with 10 or fewer years of experience as a principal investigator. To streamline this process, program staff in each I/C will identify these “rising stars” and prioritize support for these individuals through the 25th percentile and track funding decisions for this group.
In addition to the planned reallocation of funds to sustain early and mid-career scientists, the NGRI includes a longer term effort to develop reliable and appropriate metrics to assess productivity and outcomes of NIH funding. This effort will be spearheaded by the ACD and discussed at future meetings. Stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on the NGRI and possible strategies to consider through the Open Mike Blog or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.