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NIH institute considers broad shift to ‘people’ awards

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Science  25 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6195, pp. 366-367
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6195.366

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Some institutes within the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are considering a move away from grants for a specific research plan to no-strings support based on an investigator's promise. The idea of funding "people, not projects" is popular among some nonprofit, private biomedical research funders, but until now has not caught on widely at the $30 billion NIH. The most far-reaching proposal comes from NIH's basic research institute, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. It is seeking feedback from the research community on the idea of giving all its roughly 3300 investigators the option of applying to swap their project grants for a single, long-term award based largely on their track record. But NIH officials and others acknowledge that such an approach should be phased in with care to avoid shutting out some scientists.