Nature Neuroscience speaks up for young researchers

The Editorial in the November issue of Nature Neuroscience (12, 1351; 2009) emphasizes the importance of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy of funding an increasing number of grants to young investigators with merit scores below the ‘payline’. Early-stage investigators are “especially vulnerable to funding crisis and are often at a disproportionate disadvantage when competing with more established laboratories for R01 grants. Such actions that protect some of these young investigators are critical if we are to retain young scientists and encourage our future research base”, states the journal. This problem may have been exacerbated by recent efforts to streamline the grant peer-review process, which may mean that evaluators are putting even more store on previous track-record, hence putting young researchers at a greater disadvantage. The Editorial identifies other factors that could be hindering young researchers in the cold funding climate. Although affirmative actions to help younger, less established, researchers are seen by some as unfair, Nature Neuroscience concludes: “Given the dismal projections for NIH budget growth, a step of this magnitude is necessary to support young investigators and to preserve the future of the scientific community as a whole.”

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