WASHINGTON-A new program at the National Science Foundation will give institutions a larger voice in training researchers in the life sciences. The initiative, which NSF plans to launch with a $4 million investment next year, is also aimed at stimulating interdisciplinary research in the nation’s universities.

Called the Research Training Group Awards, the program is sponsored by the NSF’s Biological, Behavioral and Social Sciences (BBS) directorate. The foundation hopes to award each of 10 universities a total of $1.5 million over five years for student stipends, tuition, specialized equipment, and supporting materials. The training can focus on undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral-level programs, but it must “create new or significantly enhanced multidisciplinary educational opportunities” as well as provide access to state-of-the-art laboratory research equipment.

Training awards, in which universities received grants to support students of their choice, were once the norm for NSF. In 1966, for example, they accounted for 4,200...

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