Next Generation Researchers Initiative

NIH has launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative to address longstanding challenges faced by researchers trying to embark upon and sustain independent research careers, and to take steps to promote the growth, stability and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.

Three young researchers in labcoats looking at a test tube

Policy

On August 31, 2017, NIH announced policy details in the NIH Guide Notice: “Policy Supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NOT-OD-17-101)”. The policy amends the definitions of, and policies supporting, early stage investigators (ESIs). In addition, it creates a new policy for early established investigators (EEIs), previously referred to as mid-career investigators, and describes how NIH will monitor the implementation of the policy to determine the impact on ESI and EEI diversity in the NIH portfolio   Further information can be found on the policy page.

Background

NIH and its stakeholder community have for many years been concerned about the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise. Too many researchers vying for limited resources has led to a hypercompetitive environment. Many highly meritorious applications go unfunded. This has too often resulted in misaligned incentives and unintended consequences for talented researchers at all career stages who are trying to succeed and stay in science. The current environment is particularly challenging for many new- and mid-career investigators.

Over the last several years, NIH has taken numerous steps to balance, strengthen, and stabilize the biomedical research workforce.

However, these measures have only taken us so far. While the percentage of NIH awards that support early-career investigators has gone from declining to flat, these gains have been offset by a decline in the percentage of NIH awards that support mid-career investigators.

The 21st Century Cures Act, enacted December 13, 2016, includes a section entitled, “Investing in the Next Generation of Researchers” that requires the Director to “Develop, modify, or prioritize policies, as needed, within the National Institutes of Health to promote opportunities for new researchers and earlier research independence, such as policies to increase opportunities for new researchers to receive funding, enhance training and mentorship programs for researchers, and enhance workforce diversity”. To ensure the long term stability of the biomedical research enterprise, NIH must encourage successful independent careers for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs), and retain them as they become Early Established Investigators (EEIs) in a way that enhances workforce diversity.

Approach

  • ICs will develop evidence-based strategies to identify, grow and retain ESIs and EEIs across these critical career stages.
  •  The NIH Office of the Director will centrally track and maintain an updated census of the status of ESIs and EEIs. 
  • NIH will encourage the development and testing of metrics that can be used to assess the impact of NIH grant support on scientific progress.
  • NIH will also place greater emphasis on current NIH funding programs aimed at early-stage and mid-career investigators, such as:
    • NIH Common Fund’s New Innovator Awards
    • National Institute of General Medicine Sciences Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA)
    • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) awards
    • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Supplements to Advance Research (STAR) from Projects to Programs

Impacts

  • The goal for FY 2017 will be to fund approximately 200 more ESIs and 200 more EEIs than funded in FY16.