EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

In 1985, 3,040 applications were submitted by scientists 36 years old and younger for individual investigator (R01) grants from the National Institutes of Health, and 1,002 received awards, for a "success rate" of 33%. In 1993, 1,389 applications were submitted by scientists 36 and under for R01 grants, and 302 received awards, for a success rate of 21.7%. The drop in success rates of young investigators followed a general trend of lower success among all applicants. The major difference in age groups was the change in the number of applications. The number of young investigators applying for grants dropped by 54% between 1985 and 1993, whereas the number of older applicants increased by 26%. Even when R23 and R291 grant awards are added to the R01 awards, the number of R01 plus R23 awards made in 1985 was 1,308, and in 1993, the number of R01 plus R29 was 527. The implications of these facts for the future of biomedical research are extremely serious. These recent trends in the funding of young biomedical research scientists and the fact that young biological scientists have historically had a smaller base of support to draw on when beginning their careers raise serious questions about the future of life-science research. It is the purpose of this report to present data about the trends and examine their implications. It must remain for another group to try to determine the causes of the trends.

The leading position of the United States in the life sciences and biotechnology is due in large part to generous federal support since World War II. Like the physical sciences in the first decades of this century, the life sciences are in the early phase of a major scientific revolution. This revolution is driven largely by the powerful tools and unifying concepts provided by molecular biology, a field that emerged through basic research on

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R23 grants were intended for new investigators until phased out in 1987. R29 grants, also intended for new investigators, were initiated in 1986.



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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences EXECUTIVE SUMMARY INTRODUCTION In 1985, 3,040 applications were submitted by scientists 36 years old and younger for individual investigator (R01) grants from the National Institutes of Health, and 1,002 received awards, for a "success rate" of 33%. In 1993, 1,389 applications were submitted by scientists 36 and under for R01 grants, and 302 received awards, for a success rate of 21.7%. The drop in success rates of young investigators followed a general trend of lower success among all applicants. The major difference in age groups was the change in the number of applications. The number of young investigators applying for grants dropped by 54% between 1985 and 1993, whereas the number of older applicants increased by 26%. Even when R23 and R291 grant awards are added to the R01 awards, the number of R01 plus R23 awards made in 1985 was 1,308, and in 1993, the number of R01 plus R29 was 527. The implications of these facts for the future of biomedical research are extremely serious. These recent trends in the funding of young biomedical research scientists and the fact that young biological scientists have historically had a smaller base of support to draw on when beginning their careers raise serious questions about the future of life-science research. It is the purpose of this report to present data about the trends and examine their implications. It must remain for another group to try to determine the causes of the trends. The leading position of the United States in the life sciences and biotechnology is due in large part to generous federal support since World War II. Like the physical sciences in the first decades of this century, the life sciences are in the early phase of a major scientific revolution. This revolution is driven largely by the powerful tools and unifying concepts provided by molecular biology, a field that emerged through basic research on 1   R23 grants were intended for new investigators until phased out in 1987. R29 grants, also intended for new investigators, were initiated in 1986.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences the most fundamental of life processes. Indeed, just as quantum mechanics, a discipline that stems from inquiries into the most fundamental properties of light and matter, is the wellspring of the entire multibillion-dollar electronics and information-processing industry, molecular biology is already beginning to yield applications of enormous medical and economic benefit. Life-science research is supported through an array of funding sources-including state governments, such nonprofit organizations as voluntary health groups and philanthropies, and private industry-but the federal role remains pre-eminent. The basic research from which modern biotechnology emerged is conducted primarily in universities and funded primarily by the federal government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and it continues to serve as the wellspring of the insights underlying major new biotechnological innovations. To maintain its economic and academic leadership in life-science research, the United States must not only maintain a stable funding environment for established life scientists but also provide opportunities for young scientists-our nation's source of established researchers. Indeed, young investigators are not merely apprentices for future positions but a crucial source of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas in the day-to-day research that constitutes the scientific enterprise. Any reduction in the quantity or quality of young people embarking on scientific careers both jeopardizes scientific progress in the years ahead and seriously weakens the current pool of talent from which science flows. Yet, largely as a consequence of changes in the funding environment, many young people perceive biological and biomedical research to be less and less attractive. PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF THIS STUDY The mid-1980s marked the beginning of a decline in the fraction of lifescience investigators who were awarded research grants from NIH and NSF. Sufficient funds used to be available to support the top one-third of proposed research programs, but recent years have witnessed intensified competition for increasingly scarce resources. As the fraction of successful grant applications fell to 10–20% in some agencies in the late 1980s, research in the life sciences in the United States came under severe strain. A modest rebound in the last few years has not returned the overall situation to its former state.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences This study by the Committee on the Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, in the National Research Council's Board on Biology, was prompted by a concern that the diminution of research funds was having a disproportionate effect on investigators beginning their careers as independent research scientists and might be threatening the continued supply of new scientists in basic biological and biomedical research. The committee's concern about the future supply of biological scientists is based on the small increase in recent years in the awarding of doctorates in life sciences and the events reported here that show that the number of young investigators applying for support is decreasing. At the same time, the population of university-based scientists is aging. The committee is composed of researchers and administrators in academe, industry, and philanthropy. It was charged To examine the current funding mechanisms available from major federal and private agencies. To examine the current level of funding by these agencies. To examine the problems and constraints in the funding system. To examine the consequences of inadequacies of funding and in the funding mechanisms. To present recommendations for improving the funding system. The objective is to stimulate increasing numbers of young investigators to pursue academic research careers. The committee's findings and its recommendations of ways to improve the funding of newly independent investigators are excerpted in this executive summary. YOUNG INVESTIGATORS AND THE SCIENTIFIC "PIPELINE" A newly independent scientist who has just secured a junior faculty position has completed a long training process, often lasting 26 years–12 years in elementary and secondary school, 4 years in college, at least 5 years in

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. training, and usually 2–5 years in postdoctoral research. Of the 4 million U.S. high-school sophomores in 1977, about 10,000 (0.25%) were estimated to receive Ph.D.s in science or engineering by 1992. The process in which students flow through this training process into careers in science or engineering has been referred to as "the pipeline." The attrition from the pipeline suggests that at all points in the pipeline there are attractive career alternatives to the path that leads to a Ph.D. in science or engineering. Baccalaureates in the life sciences might choose to enter the workforce or go to medical, dental, veterinary, business, or law school, rather than proceed to graduate study. Even for one with a Ph.D. in hand, an academic research position is far from certain. Ph.D. recipients can choose to take industrial or government jobs, rather than continue with academic postdoctoral research. Postdoctoral researchers have a similar array of choices, at a higher level, available to them. The choices that they make depend, in part, on things that can be quantified-salaries, demands for faculty, and the growth of related industries-but also on more qualitative factors, such as the perceived excitement of research in the field or the perceived difficulty in obtaining funding and sustaining a productive research career. YOUNG INVESTIGATORS: FINDING RESOURCES FOR AN INDEPENDENT RESEARCH CAREER While setting up a laboratory, young investigators must juggle the demands of research, teaching, departmental responsibilities, and grantapplication writing. Most newly independent life scientists (scientists who have completed their graduate and postgraduate training and have been directing their own laboratory for less than 5 years) are expected to raise funds to support their new research programs and often a substantial proportion of their own salaries. The difficulty is often exacerbated by the need to write multiple grant applications because funding agencies are less likely to provide substantial funds to an untested new investigator than to an established investigator. The reduced rate of federal funding for young investigators led to a concern that the research funding agencies might be favoring the maintenance of established scientists over initiating the programs of new investigators. Indeed, newly independent investigators usually apply for their first grants in direct competition with established investigators, who are seeking renewals of previous grants or additional funds for continuing projects. In comparison

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences with their senior colleagues, investigators are often criticized for not having sufficient preliminary data to support their applications. That causes pressure to design projects that are based on previous postdoctoral work and to avoid experiments that are novel and perhaps risky, regardless of their potential importance. Even highly select newly independent scientists, such as recipients of the prestigious Searle Scholar Award, have difficulty in securing funding for research programs. Responses from the 1990 and 1991 Searle award recipients indicate that although 74% received some form of extramural funding to begin their careers, the grants were often small and of short duration. Only a little over half the scholars were funded by major federal agencies, such as NIH and NSF. The average Searle award recipient has been turned down for almost four grants-a remarkable figure, considering their youth and their unusually high quality. Many young investigators that committee members work with daily, whether successful or unsuccessful, describe the current funding situation as "bleak," "dismal," and ''depressing." Despite a frequently stated love for research, large numbers of young investigators talk in our laboratories about leaving academic life for the perceived security of industry. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS The committee was formed in 1991 because of a perception in the scientific community that newly independent investigators were being selectively disadvantaged over the preceding 5 years as research funds for lifescience research stabilized and the absolute number of research grants actually declined. Newly independent investigators, it was argued, were not competing effectively with more experienced investigators for the increasingly scarce research funds. The committee found that young investigators suffered in two ways during the late 1980s, when success rates for obtaining awards from the major supporters of biological and biomedical research dropped precipitously. First, the success rate of younger applicants dropped with success rates of applicants of other age groups-a general and shared disadvantage. Second, whereas in earlier years younger applicants consistently had higher success rates than older applicants, their success rate from 1989 to 1991 was lower than that of many age groups-a new and special disadvantage. Thus, in those difficult times, young investigators lost their advantage in the awarding of grants. The

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences number of applications submitted by young investigators was dropping precipitously at this time. The result of the decrease in number of applications and the decrease in success rate was a severe reduction in the number of young investigators being supported by NIH. In 1985, 1,002 R01 grants were awarded to applicants 36 years old and younger. In 1990, only 330 R01 grants were awarded to applicants of that age group; by 1993, the number had dropped to 302. The R23 and R29 grant programs for new investigators did not make up for the decrease in R01 grants. The total of R01 grants plus R23 grants awarded to investigators 36 and under in 1985 was 1,308, and the total of R01 plus R29 grants in 1993 was 527. This committee believes that it is necessary for the continued health of the biological research enterprise that steps be taken to understand and remedy this situation. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SUPPORT FOR YOUNG INVESTIGATORS The committee found striking differences among federal funding agencies in the attention given to ensuring that young investigators were adequately supported. The committee recommends that a public agency that does not have a special grant mechanism for newly independent investigators develop one. The benefit of such programs, aside from their intrinsic value of providing funds earmarked for young scientists, is that they will also provide a framework for long-term development of research personnel in each discipline. The committee encountered a paucity of data on the career paths and funding success of young scientists once they leave graduate school. To ensure a healthy basic-science enterprise, there should be mechanisms for monitoring the scientist pipeline. In the private philanthropies and voluntary health organizations, there was a remarkable degree of support for young investigators. Many of these organizations favor funding new researchers as a means to direct research toward particular diseases. These organizations have, however, been criticized for a tendency to fund the same few highly qualified scientists, rather than distributing funds more broadly. DIFFERENCES IN FUNDING FOR BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE The committee noted the difference in overall federal and nonfederal support for biomedical and nonbiomedical, or biological, life-science research. Biologists study phenomena ranging from single plant cells to entire ecosystems with approaches that range from molecular evolution to plant

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences pathology to environmental science. Not only are the funds available for biological sciences much smaller than for biomedical research, but the effort to ensure a future supply of scientists in the field was much less pronounced. The funding prospects appear to be much bleaker for a young biological scientist than for a biomedical scientist, with respect to both the research dollars available and the likelihood of obtaining them. The difficult funding environment in the biomedical sciences, which stimulated this study, has been in place in the biological sciences for many years. RECOMMENDATIONS The committee reviewed the mechanisms for funding newly independent investigators in a large number of federal and nonfederal agencies. Chapter 5 of its report contains a list of specific recommendations for the improvement of existing programs and the institution of new ones, from which the following have been drawn. Following on its findings that young investigators did not fare well during the difficult funding environment of the late 1980s, the committee has designed its recommendations to prevent the recurrence of such events by recognizing that young investigators require special attention at the beginning of their independent research careers. The scientific dominance of the United States in the life sciences is built, at least in part, on the tradition of giving scientists their intellectual independence early, when they are most likely to be innovative and productive. The committee believes that the winnowing process should be least stringent at this point and tighten once the investigators have had some time to demonstrate their ability. The committee recognizes the inherently higher risks in funding less-established investigators but notes that they need not be funded at the levels of established investigators. Although our recommendations regarding life-science research funding have been framed against the current background of fiscal restraint imposed by our huge national debt, we caution that the financial pressures must not make us short-sighted. The United States still leads the world in most fields of biomedical and biological research. From basic research will flow a host of new approaches to urgent medical, agricultural, and environmental problems. Yet if our lead is to be maintained and if urgent problems are to be solved by American-trained scientists, the federal government and other funding agencies must provide major new resources in support of basic life-

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences science research. Expenditure of the new funds should be viewed as an investment that will not only extend and deepen our understanding of basic life processes, but also speed the development of biotechnology and related industries that will spring from fundamental new knowledge. The United States spent $838.5 billion on health care in 1992 and is expected to spend more than $1 trillion in 1994. The 1992 NIH budget of some $10 billion is only 1% of this total expenditure. FEDERAL EXTRAMURAL FUNDING OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES National Institutes of Health The First Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST) award (R29) program, designed to support newly independent researchers in the initial stage of their research careers, is excellent. However, it is underused by the biomedical community. To make it a more widely used program, the committee recommends an increase in the total amount of the 5-year award from the current $350,000 to a maximum of $625,000 (i.e., from $70,000 to $125,000 per year). Although the cost of the program will increase, the number of awards should not be diminished, because the pipeline for the supply of biomedical scientists must be maintained to meet the continuing demand. The maximum amount would not be awarded automatically. Rather, like research budgets for R01 grants-the long-standing principal vehicle for NIH support of extramural research-the budgets of R29 awards would be adjustable on the basis of the study sections' recommendations of the funds needed to conduct the research. An increase in the R29 amounts would respond to the most common complaint of newly independent investigators-that the current amount is not sufficient to start up and run a new laboratory in biomedical science, particularly if the investigator must pay a large fraction of his or her salary from the grant. The R29-application review process should be modified so that study sections are fully aware that the applications have a separate status from R01 applications. The simplest modification would be to review R29 grant applications en bloc at a study-section meeting, giving the chairperson an opportunity to point out the specific conditions of these grants.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences The application instructions should clearly state, and the peer-review panels should be instructed, that preliminary data are not necessary in the consideration of a FIRST application but that their absence can be compensated for by the strength and justification of original and untested data. An R29 recipient should have the option to apply for an R01 grant on the same subject at any time before the expiration of the 5-year period. If the R01 is awarded, the remainder of the R29 money should be returned. That allows a newly independent investigator to use an R29 to gather preliminary results in preparation for a full-fledged R01. National Science Foundation NSF has traditionally funded newly independent investigators. The committee encourages NSF to establish an equivalent of the FIRST award that will be funded for terms and in amounts liberal enough, within or beyond the usual practices of the NSF, for adequate support and encouragement of young investigators. In March 1994, as the committee was preparing this report for publication, NSF's National Science Board approved the initiation of the Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) program. The program will incorporate several existing NSF programs aimed at the young investigator, including the NSF Young Investigators Awards, Research Initiation Awards, and Minority Research Initiation Research Awards. Applicants for the CAREER program will generally be within 4 years of their initial appointment, and applications will be judged on the basis of a career plan that includes research, teaching, and outreach. Awards will be for 3–5 years at a funding level appropriate to the discipline. Depending on program decisions that will be made at the NSF directorate and divisional levels, the program could support a larger number of persons than have been supported under the previous programs. With time, it will be learned whether the new program answers the need that led this committee to recommend that NSF initiate a program like the FIRST awards.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Locally Administered Funds The committee acknowledges the importance of locally administered funds, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Undersea Research Program and the Hatch and McIntire-Stennis Act funding program. Those programs, which have been determined to be critical for the universities and for individual research efforts that need extra support, should be maintained and strengthened. U.S. Department of Agriculture The National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP) was adopted by Congress and implemented in 1991. The President's budget for 1994 calls for an increase of the budget to approximately $130 million. This program will have a large impact on the funding of newly independent investigators in the 1990s. The committee recommends continued support and increased funding to the full $500 million for agricultural research recommended in a 1989 National Research Council report but in increments greater than the $50 million per year adopted by the Office of Management and Budget. NONFEDERAL FUNDING OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES Industrial Funding Newly independent investigators and the graduate and postdoctoral students whom they might train form the pool of scientists on which industry draws for its own research efforts. Although many industrial firms support academic research, the amount of support and the mechanisms of support vary widely. Thus, academic scientists interested in obtaining industrial funding must spend considerable time locating appropriate sponsors. Individual firms approach solicitation, review, and funding of academic research differently. Considerable time and money must be spent by each company with an interest in the funding of basic research. The ad hoc nature of this enterprise tends to militate against the support of newly independent investigators. The funds spent by industry to solicit and review proposals and to support new investigators could be spent more effectively through the establishment of a foundation to support these scientists. The common goal would be cost-

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences effective use of resources to attract and increase the nation's pool of scientists, but, because of the highly competitive, secretive nature of industrial research, cooperative funding of a foundation of this nature would be possible only if the research were structured to emphasize fundamental new knowledge. Industry could support the foundation through endowments, annual donations, or multiyear subscriptions. Funding might be scaled to the size of the participating companies. The tax treatment of company support and the framework within which any intellectual property would be administered warrant separate expert study. Philanthropic Funding The philanthropic foundations are to be commended for their efforts in funding newly independent scientists, for developing grants that directly address the specific needs of this cohort, and for identifying and funding "orphan" fields that are not well supported by other, larger institutions. As with many other organizations, it would be valuable for the general research funding mechanisms used by philanthropies to incorporate data-collection features that allow more accurate monitoring of the flow of students and researchers in the scientist pipeline. Voluntary Health Organization Funding The voluntary health organizations (VHOs) should be encouraged to continue their commitment to research on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, despite the pressure to devote more of their income to service functions. The record of VHO programs reveals that these organizations are heavily committed to supporting young investigators. VHOs are urged to continue, and if possible expand, that commitment. University Support New and especially younger faculty are the life blood of the university system, providing the surest protection against academic stagnation and accelerating the expansion of scientific frontiers by applying new techniques and interdisciplinary work. Because it is critical that a university further its new faculty members' careers, we recommend the following. To the greatest extent possible, more support should be channeled into startup costs and into salary support to ensure that teaching and administrative responsibilities of newly independent investigators are

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences appropriate. Intramural support programs that favor newly independent investigators, in addition to startup packages, constitute effective mechanisms for rapid adjustment of scientists' research perspectives and goals. Scientists should be provided with both encouragement and advice in seeking extramural support. Newly independent investigators should have access to graduate students to facilitate their own maturation and encourage a sense of community. Each university should establish a university-wide standing committee to examine continuously the special needs of its new faculty and to develop the best possible support packages for them. SUPPORT FOR NEWLY INDEPENDENT FEMALE INVESTIGATORS AND UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITY GROUPS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES A detailed analysis of these issues is outside the purview of this committee. Nevertheless, the committee believes that the continued low enrollment record of minority-group members and the failure of women and minority-group members to gain access to positions of authority in the life sciences is a serious issue with direct implications for the long-term vitality of the enterprise. The committee could identify no difference in likelihood of funding between women and men in the life sciences, once they had assumed faculty positions. The sex disparity identified was the decreased likelihood that women would achieve positions in which they would be eligible to apply for grants. Although almost 40% of all newly trained biologists are women, women made up just 18% of NIH competing research-project grant applicants in 1991. That might be because the percentage of women in the biology workforce has increased only recently, the contingent is relatively younger and junior in rank, and, at some institutions, junior faculty sometimes do not qualify to serve as principal investigators. The success rate of NIH postdoctoral National Research Service Award F32 applications by women decreased slightly from 44.2% in 1990 to 42.2% in 1991.

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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Numerous local and national initiatives have been designed to attract members of underrepresented minority groups to careers in the life sciences. Institution-wide programs for college undergraduates and high-school students bring students in underrepresented minorities to university and college campuses for summer laboratory research. But the programs often lack followup mechanisms to provide advanced alternatives for study in summers after their first experiences. Also missing is a stable source of funds to administer the summer programs. NSF, NIH, foundations, and VHOs should be encouraged to contribute funds. Individual investigators also should be mobilized by their institutions to participate in these programs. To link the institutions and those who could benefit from the programs, there should be a coordinating national center that can maintain a dynamic inventory of programs and people to facilitate appropriate matching of the two. The center must have knowledge of both the resources, including local and national programs, and the programs for candidates at every stage of preparation from high school (or even earlier) through academic junior appointments to full-time industrial or government positions.

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