NIH considers creating a transition award for senior investigators to help sustain the US scientific workforce

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is exploring a new grant mechanism for emeritus faculty that would let senior investigators exit their NIH research grant supported role. It would facilitate the shutdown of their lab and the transfer of their work, knowledge and resources to junior colleagues, the head of the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research, Sally Rockey, explained in a blog post. The NIH is soliciting information and feedback about the proposed grant mechanism, which is intended to help sustain the US scientific workforce.

Early responses to the idea have mostly been negative. For example, Jeremy Berg, the former director of the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, called the mechanism ‘a remarkably bad idea’. Berg questioned its necessity given that grantees can already transfer their grant to an appropriate colleague, with NIH approval, and he said the NIH’s co-principal investigator mechanism provides an even clearer path for such a handover. One major question is how the NIH will fund this new grant mechanism with its stagnant budget. Some observers suggest that the money will need to be drawn from other grant mechanisms, which they warn could hurt grant funding success rates.