tor because it thrives on the exchange of ideas and communication. Currently, NIH emphasizes research project support through the R01-type mechanism. Although this strategy has been very successful overall, it tends to isolate scientists both physically and intellectually. The vision for the future broadens funding policies and mechanisms in order to encourage applications that empower groups of scientists with diverse expertise to devise collaborative approaches to complex biological problems.
Possible new mechanisms would differ from current project and center grants by acknowledging multiple PIs, each with primary responsibility for a particular disciplinary component of the proposed study. In this way, both responsibility and credit could be allocated appropriately, providing new investigators with the recognition needed to advance their careers. Some of these mechanisms should be framed in such a way to encourage engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and chemists—as well as clinical and basic biomedical researchers—to join these research teams. Such an arrangement would permit those without explicit training in the biological sciences or medicine to enter the field. New investigators serving as PIs for parts of projects within these collectives would be encouraged to think independently as acknowledged experts in a given area, while having the advantages of operating within a collaborative group.
The committee’s vision for collaborative research involves one in which independent researchers from different disciplines or with different sets of expertise come together as equals. In this way, the reach of a collaborative group can be more than just the sum of its constituent parts as independent researchers engage each other in questioning that spans traditional disciplinary boundaries. In fact, interdisciplinary collaborative research teams argue for increased independence as investigators in such teams must be able to fully trust those in different research areas as they work together to solve problems of common interest.
The criteria for the R01 award deserve reconsideration. Currently, R01-type mechanisms and traditional study section behaviors are biased toward experienced investigators because of an emphasis on preliminary data and track record. The system has moved so far in this direction that most “new investigators” are over 40 years old and—counting their graduate studies—have already been working as practicing scientists for 12 to 15 years. The vision for the future would provide opportunities for postdoctoral researchers and other non-faculty to apply for their own research funding in order to establish independence earlier in their careers. The vision extends to providing opportunities for transitioning to inde-