Challenges and Opportunities in NIGMS reforms

Grant writing seems to become the central part of all PIs’ daily task, with multiple deadlines coming up all year around, and even a graduate student like me can feel the decline of the funding climate. While Biophysics Society meeting serves not only an opportunity to share and inform new biophysical advances,  also as an chance for people to voice and address concerns. Today at the “Conversation with NIGMS Director
Jon Lorsch” session, Dr. Lorsch introduced to us his vision and reform plan for the funding agencies. Of all, Dr. Lorsch specifically explained the new pilot program, “Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA)”. MIRA is an innovative program that grants the investigator more flexibility and sustained support compared to the normal R01 grants. The longer time duration, larger MIRA grant is designed to reduce the number of the grants that one PI has to write for application, decrease the total number of the grants application, and reduce the valuable time that academic faculty members spend on grant reviewing. MIRA appears to be quite bold reform aiming to streamline and increase efficiency for grant application processes. However, the question still remains, “Which PIs are more likely to get a grant like MIRA?” There are growing concerns over the increasing averaged age for PIs to get their first R01.  The national averaged increased from 35 yrs to 45 yrs in the past 30 years. The support for early career investigators appear to be the concern of most of the attendees. Although the MIRA also promises to boost the selection of young investigators, the challenges and competitions that the young assistant professors face on a daily basis still seems like a great barrier for the career development.

In a way that science grant is like trust fund: the money is there, but you need to wait until a certain age to use them.

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