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  • Washington Highlights

    NIH ACD Discusses Sustainability and Efficiency in Researcher Support

    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Dec. 8-9 met to discuss NIH’s most recent data on support for individual investigators, and implications for developing a more stable and productive research system.

    NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Michael Lauer, MD, and the National Institute on General Medical Sciences Director Jon Lorsch, PhD, led the presentation. In their discussion, they noted that the number of NIH-supported individual principal investigators has been relatively stable for more than a decade, while the number of individual applicants has continued to increase substantially.

    They also found that the number of NIH-supported late career investigators has “steadily” increased while the number of NIH-supported early stage investigators has declined from half of all funded investigators. However, mid-career investigators have seen the largest decline in funding.

    A number of NIH programs are focusing on new investigators, and the ACD agreed on importance of supporting more recently established investigators. The committee also recognized that the NIH and research institutions have invested substantially in late career faculty.

    Additionally, Dr. Lauer and Dr. Lorsch noted a NIH analysis that found research productivity will eventually produce diminishing returns among investigators as levels of funding increase.

    The NIH stated that it will continue conducting and developing analyses and policies that study the number of individual scientists funded across the various stages of a research career.