On his last day as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Elias Zerhouni formalized the NIH’s policy of setting quotas for the number of grants awarded to new investigators. First instituted in 2007, the quotas are designed to address the decline in the average age of researchers receiving grants. Currently, the average age is 42, compared to 37 in 1980, which experts attribute to lengthy postgraduate training. In 2006, the number of first-time researchers receiving R01 grants hit a nine-year low of 1,345. In 2007, NIH set a target of 1,500 R01 grants for first-time investigators. Although some institutes found it hard to meet the target, the percentage of new investigators receiving grants for the first time rose to 19%, the same rate as established investigators. Future policy will seek to maintain an equal percentage. The NIH also plans to help more early-career researchers (defined as those within 10 years of completing their PhDs or residencies) receive grants. Currently, approximately 55% of investigators receiving their first grants are in the early stage of their careers. Source: Science

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