Although we are living in a time of unprecedented scientific opportunities, the funding climate has become increasingly challenging for researchers. In light of this issue, the NIH and its individual Institutes have begun considering a range of options to enhance research funding stability and flexibility. The proposals on the table are diverse. Institutes are considering using different funding mechanisms that target investigators at specific career stages. For example, some Institutes are designing programs for early-career stage investigators, while others are focusing their efforts on more senior scientists.
We, at the NIAMS, have decided to focus on early-established investigators (EEIs), those who have recently renewed their first R01 award. These individuals are most vulnerable, and are going to be offered an opportunity to broaden their project with funds that will encourage more innovation and the opportunity to move their project into a comprehensive program.
The goal of the program, called Supplements to Advance Research (STAR) Awards, is to promote innovation and exploration of new research directions. Ultimately, we believe that the awards will assist EEIs in making the transition from work on a single research project to leadership of a comprehensive research program. EEIs will be eligible for the award early after the renewal of their first R01, and candidates will be asked to express a vision for their research program and to explain its significance and potential impact. Candidates also will need to detail their plan for achieving their research goals. Institutions will be asked to contribute to the success of this effort by affirming a strong commitment to supporting the awardee’s research program.
The STAR program was developed with input from NIAMS staff, NIH colleagues, the extramural research community, and the NIAMS Advisory Council. We plan to launch the program in 2015 and will be reaching out to the community and the eligible investigators to raise awareness about this initiative. We are pleased to provide supplemental innovation funding to enable EEIs to build a research program. We expect that this will be a very important component of our ongoing efforts to support the biomedical research workforce and the development of the next generation of investigators. More information about the STAR initiative will be available in the NIH Guide in the coming months.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health