Encouraging fair consideration of staff scientists on grant applications

The typical academic laboratory consists of a PD/PI and one or a small number of permanent technical staff, with the majority of the research carried out by trainees. This creates a system in which a large number of future scientists are being produced each year, well in excess of the number of research-oriented jobs in academia, government and industry. The ACD Biomedical Workforce Working Group predicts that even a modest change in the ratio of permanent staff to trainees could benefit the system without reducing the productivity of the research enterprise.  For this reason, the Working Group encourages NIH study sections to be receptive to grant applications that include staff scientists and urges institutions to create position categories that reflect the value and stature of these researchers.  This recommendation reflects the stability that staff scientists bring to many labs and the important functions they provide as part of institutional core facilities in biomedical research today.

In response to the Working Group recommendations, NIH implemented a change in the instructions to reviewers to now provide specific instruction on evaluating the Investigator(s) criterion. The instruction reads, "In evaluating the Investigator(s) review criterion, reviewers are encouraged to focus on the qualifications and expertise of the members of the research team for the work proposed, including the Personal Statement in each Biosketch. Unless the application is for a fellowship or career development award, remarks about career tracks, titles, or salaries should be reserved for the Additional Comments to the Applicant box, or the Budget section."


NIH issued modified instructions to reviewers in December 2012.


NIH Reviewer Orientation materials