National Institute of General Medical Sciences announces new funding mechanism for early-career scientists

Earlier this week, NIGMS announced a new funding mechanism for early-career researchers–the MIRA, for Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for New and Early Stage Investigators (R35). This mechanism is intended to support scientists, rather than specific projects.  It’s a bit of an experiment for NIGMS, so they are limiting eligible applicants to NIH-defined Early Stage Investigators and New Investigators at the assistant professor rank or equivalent (postdocs on K99s are not eligible; but if you have an R00 you may be). This award is an expansion of the funding program released in January for NIGMS-supported investigators with two or more awards from that agency. Unlike the previous award, you don’t need to be already funded by NIGMS to apply.

Your friendly Research News editors heard NIGMS director Jon Lorsch talk about the rationale for this program earlier this spring. We learned that the intention of this program is move away from funding specific projects and instead invest in scientists–for these awards, you don’t even submit an aims page. Lorsch hopes that this approach will improve stability–and therefore creativity–for investigators, as well as allow them to explore promising directions when they arise out of the experiments rather than wait for permission from program officers. NIGMS also hopes they can improve funding distribution and invest in more scientists.  This will allow them to have a broader research portfolio, with more diversity in the kinds of scientists and institutions–something, Lorsch says, that is difficult to achieve in a project-based model under existing funding (read: political) conditions.

Unsurprisingly, there was immediate skepticism about how it would all work (also see comments the NIGMS blog), but give them credit for trying.

Applications are due September 9th (November 19 for AIDS-related applications).