Wow. The NIH has issued RFA-RM-10-019 which sets out to bypass postdoctoral training and install lucky grantees as faculty straight out of the doctoral award.
This FOA issued by the National Institutes of Health, solicits applications for the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award (DP5) from institutions/organizations that propose to appoint and support exceptional, early career scientists directly following the completion of their Ph.D. (or equivalent) or M.D. (or equivalent) training into an independent academic research position, thereby omitting the traditional post-doctoral training period from their career path.
Sounds interesting. How about the details? My first concern is size and scope, given the bad NIH history with "starter" awards like the R29/FIRST award and study section cultures that expected an R21 before awarding a fundable R01 score.
This DP5 program is full modular R01 size- applicants can request up to $250,000 in direct costs per year for a full 5 years. Schweet! No worries on that score.
So who is eligible to be the PI?
At the time of application, the Early Independence PI must be within 12 months before or after the completion of their Ph.D. (or equivalent) or M.D. (or equivalent) training. By the end of the award period, the PI is expected to be competitive for continued funding of his/her research program and for a permanent research position.
Hmmm, "to be competitive...for a permanent research position". That sounds a bit dodgy to me. In the part about the application being "required" to demonstrate things, the following are key.
Evidence that the Early Independence PI will be appointed into an independent research position...A detailed description of the laboratory space to be provided...career enhancement opportunities available to the Early Independence PI, equivalent to those offered to assistant professors...opportunities for the Early Independence PIs to apply for additional research funding without being required to do so.
Soooo. The University has to pony up a non-permanent position that does not have to be at the assistant professorial rank and they have to let the person apply for additional funding. They have to do the usual claim about making space available and that yes, this is an independent position, blah de blah. It's okay. But c'mon. The NIH is planning on handing out what amounts to an R01 and couldn't be bothered to hold the University to an Assistant Professor appointment? When they can just deny the person tenure if they don't like them after the 5yr award interval?
Well, they only plan to hand out 10 of these this year and a local University can only submit two applications....get your requests in