Council of Councils Meeting

July 1, 2010

New Program Proposal

July 1, 2010
Field Value
Program Title: NIH Director’s Independent Fellows Program
Program Goal: To provide a mechanism for exceptional, early career scientists to omit traditional post-doctoral training, and transition directly from the completion of Ph.D. or M.D. (or equivalent) training to an independent academic research position. 
Background: Recent trends have demonstrated an increase in the length of the traditional scientific training period with a concomitant increase in the age at which scientists establish independent research careers.  Although traditional post-doctoral training is likely most appropriate for the majority of new Ph.D.s and M.D.s, there is a pool of talented young scientists who have the intellect, scientific creativity, drive and maturity to flourish independently without the need for traditional post-doctoral training.  Reducing the amount of time they spend in training would provide them the opportunity to start highly innovative research programs as early in their careers as possible.
Extramural Input: There are a small number of existing academic programs that provide independent research positions to elite young scientists directly upon completion of their terminal degree.  A 1-day workshop was held on May 3, 2010 to elicit input from investigators involved in those programs as well as the broader extramural community.  Participants included: administrators of existing academic programs, senior Investigators from academic institutions without existing programs, current and past fellows of existing Programs.
Proposal: We propose the establishment of the NIH Director’s Independent Fellows Program that would place elite young US residents or permanent citizens in temporary, independent academic positions at US institutions directly upon completion of their graduate degrees. 

We anticipate that this Program will include the following:
  • Institutional awards to support 2-4 Independent Fellows each.  As part of the peer-review process, Institutions will be required to provide:
    • Evidence of a demonstrable local Institutional culture committed to the success of the Independent Fellows. 
    • Institutions will be expected to provide support for the program, with the NIH award providing an offset to the fellow’s research costs.
  • For each Independent Fellow, Institutions will be expected to provide:
    • Dedicated laboratory space
    • Integration into the departmental/institutional culture as an independent scientist
    • Protected time for research
    • Authority to apply for other funding without pressure to do so
    • Mentoring equivalent to that provided to assistant professors
NIH staff who manage this program will also nurture the career development of each fellow through career development symposia and by fostering interactions between each fellow and the NIH program staff most closely linked to their research area. IC’s will also have the opportunity to provide support for individual fellows through co-funding.

This page last reviewed on April 3, 2017