The stated goal is clearly one of helping their new generation of hand-picked (ok, study section picked) scientists succeed.
Through the use of this mechanism, the NIDDK is seeking to enhance the capability of its K01, K08, and K23 award recipients to conduct research as they complete their transition to fully independent investigator status. .... The R03 is, therefore, intended to support research projects that can be carried out in a short period of time with limited resources and that may provide preliminary data to support a subsequent R01, or equivalent, application.
$50k direct for two years is what the R03 gets you. Not all that much for a launch to full independence but better than nothing. What does NIDDK think they will accomplish for the awardee?
Increased fiscal independence for the award recipient as a precursor to complete independence.
An opportunity for the recipient to generate additional publications and data to support a subsequent R01 application.
An opportunity for the awardee to demonstrate additional success in the peer review process during the course of their career development award.
Ok, the third one is easy- accomplished by definition and a benefit not to be sneezed at. Valid.
Increased fiscal independence? Well.....maybe. If the poor K-awardee is hooked up with jerk mentors, this may not be enough. If the PI is not a jerk, the K-awardee probably already controls this much budget from the surrounding projects. But sure, every bit of independent PI-status R-mech funding helps. Valid.
The middle one though. Helps to get a publication? Maybe. For some people. And depending on the other available funds, sure this will permit preliminary data to be generated. I'm giving this goal partial marks.
So...my analysis says this is basically well intentioned and will slightly help the awardees to move up the career arc. It isn't anywhere enough, in my view. I'd rather see something R01ish for this purpose. If NIDDK really wants a hard launch, that would be smarter and more successful.