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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS GENERAL CONCLUSIONS The Committee on the Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences was formed in 1991 to study the status of research support for newly independent investigators, scientists who have completed graduate and postgraduate training and have been directing their own laboratories for less than 5 years. The stimulus for such a study was the perception in the scientific community that newly independent investigators were being selectively disadvantaged over the preceding 5 years as research funds for life-science 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. There was concern that the review groups that determine funding priorities, faced with a difficult choice of maintaining an already active research program or beginning a new one, were favoring the former. The committee found that young investigators suffered in two ways during the late 1980s when success rates in obtaining awards from the major supporters of biological and biomedical research dropped precipitously. First, the success rate for younger applicants dropped with the rate for 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 special advantage in the awarding of grants. The number of applications submitted by young investigators was also dropping precipitously. The result of the decrease in number of applications and a low success rate was a severe reduction in the number of these investigators being supported. This committee believes that for the continued health of the biological research enterprise it is necessary that steps be taken to understand and remedy this situation.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences In the private philanthropies and voluntary health organizations, there was a remarkable degree of support for young investigators. Many of these organizations actually favor funding new researchers as a means to direct research toward particular diseases of interest. A criticism that has been directed toward these organizations is that they tend to fund the same few highly qualified people, rather than distributing the limited funds more broadly. The committee noted the difference in overall federal and nonfederal support between biomedical and nonbiomedical, or biological, life-science research. Not only are the funds available for biological sciences vastly smaller, but the effort to ensure a future supply of scientists in the field was also 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 funding difficulties in the biomedical sciences that stimulated this study have been in place in the biological sciences for many years. 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 from basic research in the most fundamental of life processes. Just as quantum mechanics, a discipline that stemmed from inquiries into the most fundamental properties of light and matter, was the wellspring of the entire multibillion-dollar electronics and information-processing industry, molecular biology is beginning to yield applications of enormous medical and economic benefit. Thus, although our recommendations regarding biomedical and biological research funding have been framed against the background of the current fiscal restraint imposed by our huge national debt, it is our firm conviction that these financial pressures must not make us short-sighted. The United States still leads the world in most fields of biomedical and biological research. From American basic research will flow a host of new approaches to urgent medical, agricultural, and environmental problems. Yet if this lead is to be maintained and if these urgent applications are to be developed by American-trained scientists, the federal government and other funding agencies must provide major new resources to support basic biological research. 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
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences the development of biotechnology and related industries that will spring from new fundamental knowledge. A MODEL FOR GRANTS TO NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS In the course of its study, the committee reviewed many programs designed to support the initial stages of the careers of newly independent investigators and generated a set of features that it deemed important in any program designed for their benefit. It is likely that no granting program can adhere completely to this list. Rather, we provide it as a guide for agencies and organizations that wish to establish new programs or modify existing programs. The features are as follows: Grant applications from newly independent investigators should be reviewed separately from those from more seasoned investigators. This provides a means to judge newly independent investigators as a cohort, rather than against more experienced scientists. Young investigators tend to cluster in exciting and active fields of research. That leaves them at a competitive disadvantage relative to their colleagues in less popular fields. Review panels should be encouraged to consider the promise of an applicant and the research plan. The research plan should be judged on its merits and on its likelihood of providing new information, without a requirement for extensive evidence that it will succeed. A requirement for preliminary data discourages young investigators from trying new ideas. In its place, panels could require letters of recommendation from past preceptors. A grant period should be at least 3 years, and optimally 5 years. The young investigator has to establish a new laboratory and train inexperienced personnel during the period of the first grant. Grants of short duration discourage young investigators from establishing a new avenue of investigation. The budget allocation should be sufficient to fund the project in its entirety. Budgets should include adequate funds for both equipment and supplies and recognize that the laboratories of young investigators are likely to grow more quickly over a 5-year
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences span than those of senior investigators. Provision of adequate budgets would reduce the time spent in preparing multiple applications for research support. Grants should reward institutions that limit administrative responsibilities of the newly independent investigator and carefully structure teaching responsibilities. A model for such a program is the Research Career Development Award, which provides salary support for investigators in return for partial release from teaching and administration. In addition to its honorific attribute, this award affords the recipient more time to pursue research. Because it uses the same research application that is submitted for research support, it also reduces the number of applications that an investigator needs to write. The amount and type of teaching assigned to newly independent investigators should be structured to stimulate their research. Teaching courses at the advanced level exposes young faculty to potential research students for their laboratories (both senior undergraduates and graduate students) and provides a forum for the discussion of research ideas. The model grant system described above clearly is designed to advantage young investigators at the beginning of their independent research careers. The 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. It is the committee's view that the winnowing process should be least stringent at this point and tighten once they 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. The cost of research varies with the discipline, as well as with the age and experience of the scientist. The committee therefore makes no general recommendation regarding the absolute amount of an initial research award. MONITORING THE NUMBERS OF SCIENTISTS The committee found 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, the scientist pipeline should be monitored.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences The committee found that very few organizations can accurately track their funding of newly independent investigators and recommends that methods for the confidential monitoring of age and scientific-experience characteristics and the sex of applicants and awardees be adopted. The committee recognizes that federal statutes require that such data be provided voluntarily by applicants. Nevertheless, in the absence of such data the ability to ensure an adequate supply of young scientists and to maintain a stable population of established scientists is impaired. Availability of such data would also provide a way to monitor the effectiveness of new educational initiatives and to measure the proposal pressure generated by newly independent investigators. The National Research Council's biennial survey and database of doctorate recipients might serve as a means for the tracking we suggest. RECOMMENDATIONS ON FEDERAL EXTRAMURAL FUNDING OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH The First Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST) Award The First Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST) Award (R29) program 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). The maximum would not be automatically awarded. Rather, like R01 research budgets, the budget of the R29 would be negotiable and based on the study section's recommendations of the funds needed to conduct the research. An increase in the R29 budget 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. An increase in the R29 funding ceiling will inevitably have an impact on the grants portfolio at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For instance, if the raised ceiling is instituted, one would expect the size of the budgets for R29 grants to increase and their number to rise as more qualified investigators apply for R29s, instead of R01s. The successful applicants will receive more
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences funding, reducing the need for multiple applications with their many associated costs. A second important benefit will accrue to young investigators who were forced by budgetary constraints to apply for R01s. If the current higher success rate for R29s than for R01s is maintained, more young investigators will obtain funding. That might require larger numbers of R29 grants for the R29 success rate to remain approximately where it is today. Finally, there is a benefit to the scientific community in having all young investigators considered as a cohort, rather than having them compete in two arenas for funding, as they must do now. Raising the budget ceiling for R29 grants will also help to alleviate a problem that arises at the time of the first renewal application: the need to award large increases in funds to successful investigators whose laboratories have expanded during the period of the FIRST award. Nevertheless, the institutes should continue to be flexible in awarding budgetary increases to renewal applications to ensure that the most productive investigators are adequately funded. The review process should be modified so that study sections are fully aware that R29 applications have a separate status from R01 applications. The simplest modification would be to review R29 grant applications en bloc at the beginning of the study-section meeting, giving the chairperson an opportunity to point out the specific conditions of these grants. The chairperson would be assisted by the development and circulation of a brochure containing the guidelines for judging new grants. Such a document would reduce variability among study sections in evaluating applications for new grants. The committee also recommends the consideration of NIH-wide panels organized by broadly defined research disciplines to review R29 applications separately, as is the practice for postdoctoral-fellowship applications. The advantage of this system is that it permits a more accurate overview of research interests among newly independent investigators. In addition, it equalizes the competition among research applications in ''hot'' and "cool" fields. 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 can be replaced by the strength and justification of an original and untested idea. That would make it possible for an applicant to propose research on the basis of only an original and untested
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences new idea, rather than a continuation of postdoctoral research. Applicants could then submit research proposals once they had been assured of faculty positions while they were still holding senior postdoctoral positions. Receiving the grant at about the time the applicant begins a faculty appointment would facilitate the setting up of the laboratory and the conduct of research. The R29 recipient should have the option to apply for an R01 grant on the same subject at any time before the end of the 5-year period. If the R01 is awarded, the remainder of the R29 money must be returned. That allows a newly independent investigator to use an R29 to gather preliminary results in preparation for a full-fledged R01. Locally Administered Funds The committee acknowledges the importance of locally administered funds, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Undersea Research Program funds and Hatch and McIntire-Stennis Act funds. Funding programs that have been determined to be of critical importance to universities and to individual research efforts that need extra support should be maintained and strengthened. NIH's Biological Research Support Grant program has been terminated after long years of criticism of the program for vague funding guidelines and accounting procedures that made it difficult to measure effectiveness. The committee suggests that NIH consider reinstitution of the program while encouraging local directors of it to use funds primarily for newly independent investigators. To ensure that the research funded is the most meritorious, funding decisions should be made through locally established peer-review panels. Additionally, a more rigorous accounting of the distribution of funds should be established at the local institution. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE The National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP) will have a large impact on the funding of newly independent investigators in the 1990s. The program was initiated in 1991 at a funding level of $73 million and increased in 1992 to $97.5 million. The program is to be funded at $130 million in 1994. These funds are administered by the NRICGP on a competitive basis to support fundamental research relative to sustainable agriculture.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Data on the total funding and success rate of young investigators, particularly of untenured faculty at academic institutions, should be maintained for the NRICGP to permit accurate assessment of the effectiveness of the initiative. Similar mechanisms should be established to monitor the effectiveness of Hatch and McIntire-Stennis Act funds. NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION The National Science foundation (NSF) has traditionally funded newly independent investigators. The young investigator awards profiled in Chapter 3 are examples of this commitment. The committee encourages NSF to continue to emphasize programs for the newly independent investigator and to monitor the development of the recently initiated Faculty Early Career Development Award program to ensure that it meets its mission goals. NSF should also maintain its current policy of restricting the number of publications listed in a curriculum vitae to a maximum of 10. That helps to reduce the disparity introduced by prior funding success or simply by experience and thus can benefit newly independent investigators. The committee believes that switching the emphasis from quantity to quality of publications is a laudable action for all levels of research funding. RECOMMENDATIONS ON NONFEDERAL FUNDING OF NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES INDUSTRIAL FUNDING Newly independent investigators and the graduate and postdoctoral students that they train form the pool of scientists from which those who will contribute directly to industrial advances are drawn. Although many industrial firms support academic research, the dollar level of support and the mechanisms through which they do it vary dramatically. 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 expended 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.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences The funds expended by industry in soliciting and reviewing proposals and in supporting new investigators could be spent more effectively through the establishment of a foundation to support these scientists. The common goal would be cost-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. Industrial support of the foundation could be through endowments, annual donations, or multiyear subscriptions. Funding might be scaled to the size of the participating companies. Administration of the foundation would need to be independent of participating companies; e.g., grant applications would have to be reviewed through an independent peer-review mechanism. Grants would be funded in the name of the foundation and would have features similar to those described earlier in this chapter. 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. It is recommended that philanthropies increase their support of all fields of life-science research, particularly newly emerging fields. Their ability to move support rapidly from one field to another is ideally suited to the support of newly emerging disciplines and for underfunded established disciplines, such as conservation biology, systematics, environmental biology, marine biology, and limnology. Philanthropic grants are highly prestigious and create a competitive atmosphere among the funders for applicants and among the applicants for the grants. A highly talented applicant can receive comparable grants from
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences several philanthropies. To support as many scientists as possible, the committee recommends that the philanthropies that serve common constituencies cooperate to ensure that the grants are widely distributed by limiting either the value or the number of grants that a person can receive. VOLUNTARY HEALTH ORGANIZATION FUNDING The voluntary health organizations (VHOs) should be encouraged to continue their commitment to research into 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. Although the smaller sums of the VHOs' 1-to 2-year grants serve young investigators well as supplements to larger grants, somewhat larger grants extended to 3 years could prove more effective for organizations with larger programs, such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. The additional time would serve the important purpose of allowing newly independent investigators to gather sufficient preliminary data to justify applying to the major federal agencies for research grants. UNIVERSITY SUPPORT New, younger faculty are the life blood of the university system, providing the surest protection against academic stagnation and providing for expansion of scientific frontiers by the application of new techniques and interdisciplinary work. State-and private-university funds are essential for newly independent investigators. The committee was unable to identify consistent patterns of state support favoring newly independent investigators that were independent of the universities. Full recovery of direct and indirect costs associated with extramural grants is necessary to maximize university research efforts; underrecovery requires an institution to subsidize current research programs, thus drawing scarce funds away from other university funding vehicles designed to support newly independent faculty. It is clear that recovered costs are used to develop startup packages and indirectly facilitate the work of newly independent investigators through support of services. Support of services is a low-visibility effort but comes at the critical junction between postdoctoral status and faculty career.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Because it is critical that a university further its new faculty members' careers, we recommend the following: New faculty members should be provided substantial unencumbered time, but not isolation. Careful structuring of teaching responsibilities can provide unencumbered time, and adequate collegial advice can avoid isolation. To the greatest extent possible, more support should be channeled into startup costs and into salary support to limit the teaching and administrative responsibilities of newly independent investigators and to provide appropriate teaching duties. Intramural support programs that favor newly independent investigators, in addition to startup packages, constitute effective mechanisms for rapid adjustment of a scientist's research perspectives and goals. Procedures should exist for providing scientists with encouragement and advice in seeking extramural support. Many universities have developed informal mentorship programs focused on improving the grant applications of newly independent investigators. Such programs require additional time on the part of established faculty, but the payoff is in the increase in extramural funding of junior faculty. 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. RECOMMENDATIONS ON SUPPORT FOR FEMALE NEWLY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES The committee could identify no difference in the likelihood of funding between women and men in the life sciences, once they had assumed faculty positions. The disparity identified was the decreased likelihood that a woman would achieve a position in which she would be eligible to apply for a grant.
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Although almost 40% of all newly trained biologists are women, they made up just 19% of NIH-grant applicants in 1990. In addition, only 31% of the postdoctoral-fellowship dollars at NIH were directed to women scientists. A detailed analysis of this issue is outside the purview of this report. However, the committee believes that the continued failure of women 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. As women proceed through many years of training in the life sciences and begin to enter the workforce, the constraints on their success and career progress become more apparent. The transition from postdoctoral fellow to faculty member coincides with many women's child-bearing years. Universities that recognize this problem and provide inexpensive extended-hour day care are to be commended and should be encouraged. Industry seems to have already grasped the implications of the increased number of women in the workforce, and many companies are now providing financial support to employees in need of day-care assistance as part of their own recruitment and retention initiatives. Attention should be given to the promotion of women to department chairs, deanships, and other executive positions to achieve a sex balance and reflect the increase in the number of women entering the scientific workforce. The lack of senior role models, limited access for women to the research network, and excessive institutional committee assignments, teaching responsibilities, and mundane administrative duties are impediments to the advancement of women that require institutional attention. RECOMMENDATIONS ON SUPPORT FOR UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITY GROUPS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES From the summary in Chapter 4, it is apparent that numerous local and national initiatives already in place are 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. The programs often lack
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The Funding of Young Investigators in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences followup mechanisms to provide advanced alternatives for 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. And individual investigators should be mobilized by their institutions to participate in these programs. Although the existing initiatives provide adequate model programs to increase dramatically the recruitment of members of underrepresented groups to science and mathematics careers, program implementers are frustrated by the difficulties in finding the most suitable candidates in sufficient numbers. To link the institutions and those who could benefit from the programs, there should be a national coordinating 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 junior academic appointments to full-time industrial or government positions. The Washington, D.C., area would be an ideal location for the center, because of the presence of federal agencies and the national offices of key interest groups. The center must be in a position to assemble, through staff and volunteer participation, well-informed and independent advocates who are in a position to counsel federal, state, and local establishments and the private sector. There is reason to believe that the flow of students in underrepresented minority groups from secondary school into advanced programs has started in earnest and that programs are in place to accommodate them when they reach the stages of advanced training. Therefore, a national center could be an effective means of matching programs and people. The center should be equipped to advertise itself, through public-relations campaigns, to the underrepresented minority groups that are targeted for recruitment. No new specific programs for young investigators in underrepresented minority groups are recommended here. However, the existing programs should be strengthened.
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