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NIH to fund ''wild and crazy'' research

Scientists who have been linkurl:complaining;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/52946/ about flat NIH funding may get relief in the form of a new funding scheme. But run-of-the-mill researchers need not apply. This linkurl:grant initiative;http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-GM-08-002.html is only for exceptionally innovative and unconventional proposals. "The wild and crazy projects," that linkurl:Laurie Tompkins;http://www.nigms.nih.gov/About/Tompkins.htm , a program direct

By | July 31, 2007

Scientists who have been linkurl:complaining;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/52946/ about flat NIH funding may get relief in the form of a new funding scheme. But run-of-the-mill researchers need not apply. This linkurl:grant initiative;http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-GM-08-002.html is only for exceptionally innovative and unconventional proposals. "The wild and crazy projects," that linkurl:Laurie Tompkins;http://www.nigms.nih.gov/About/Tompkins.htm , a program director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) wants to see cross her desk are those that will have a big impact on a large number of scientists. The program, which offers scientists a $800,000 package over four years, is called EUREKA, for Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration. Several institutes have committed to funding the EUREKA projects, but at $5 million, for 13-17 projects, NIGMS is allotting the most money. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will bring another $3 million to the table, for a grand total of $8 million for these super projects. It's only for 2008, but Tompkins says that if things go well, NIGMS will consider running another in 2009. Tompkins is used to seeing projects that were turned down because they were too risky, too unproven, "but the reviewers couldn?t stop talking about them!" It's these kinds of project she wants to see funded. The challenge, says Tompkins, will be to train reviewers to think very differently. "Human nature goes for the safe thing that will give you results for sure." The proposals will be assessed for their likelihood of success, but reviewers are only supposed to discard the proposals that have "zero chance of success," says Tompkins. This is a major departure from the usual way grants are reviewed, which many scientists have criticized (read linkurl:this;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/8/1/24/1/ opinion piece in our August issue) as being too rigid. You can prove that your project has a fighting chance of success in three ways, says Tompkins: The first most standard method is to provide preliminary data, the second --and most important -- is to show the logical flow of your experimental plan, and the third is to show you have a record of solving tough problems (but we don't know the total number of projects funded). That last one isn't limited to seasoned principal investigators, either. Young investigators may have impressive history on work they've done in grad school or as a postdoc, she says. "We don't want to discourage young investigators. So use whatever it is you have, but make sure the logic is as tight as possible," says Tompkins. "We think good ideas can come from everybody." Do you think this grant initiative will be successful? Do you think it will satisfy linkurl:those;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/8/1/24/1/ who say NIH doesn't fund the right projects?
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Comments

August 2, 2007

This is wonderful!\nSometimes (only sometimes!) like this I regret not working in the States!\n\nDimitris Kioussis,\nNIMR\nMRC\nUK

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