Monday, September 3, 2012
Risk-Reward at NIH
Over the past decade the NIH
Office of the Director has created four grant programs that operate outside the
traditional grant review process to promote "high-risk/high-reward"
The Pioneer Award was
launched in 2004 for scientists of exceptional creativity who propose highly
innovative approaches to important research challenges. The award
provides up to $500,000 in support over five years.
Instead of submitting a
traditional research proposal, applicants submit a 3-5 page essay describing
their vision for addressing a major research problem and their qualifications "to
engage in groundbreaking research." The essay must explicitly address how
the planned research is different from an investigator's current or prior work.
Applications are reviewed by
an external committee rather than a standing NIH study section, and finalists
are interviewed in person at NIH.
The New Innovator Award was
launched in 2007 to fund investigators who have graduated in the last 10 years
and have not received an R01 grant. The award provides up to $300,000 in
support over five years.
Applicants submit a 10-page
essay describing why a scientific problem is uniquely suited to this grant
program, what makes the project "unusually innovative," and why the scientist
is personally qualified to lead the project.
The Transformative R01
program was launched in 2009 to fund "exceptionally innovative and/or
unconventional research projects that have the potential to create or overturn
fundamental paradigms." Transformative R01s provide up to five years of
support and do not have a funding cap.
Applicants submit a 12-page
research plan that includes a description of how the work is significantly
different from "mainstream science."
Finally, the Early
Independence Award (EIA) was launched in 2010 to allow students to bypass a
postdoc and immediately begin independent research. EIA awards provide up
$250,000 of support over five years.
Applicants must be less than
a year past graduation and must submit a 12-page research plan explaining their
rationale for skipping the postdoc, their preparation to run a lab, how the
project is innovative and how the proposal is related to the applicant's prior
Applications for New
Innovator, EIA, and Transformative R01 programs are first sent to a scientific
review group of outside experts and then are evaluated by an NIH advisory
committee. EIA applicants are interviewed before selection.