Friday, March 02, 2012

A Change in NIH Researcher Characteristics

According to Science magazine:

A graph posted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this month highlights the growing imbalance between the youngest and oldest researchers. In 1980, almost 18% of principal investigators (PIs) holding NIH's basic research grant, called an R01 grant, were 36 and younger, and less than 1% were 66 and older. But by 2012, those 66 and older made up almost 7% of grantees and the youngsters were at only 3%. “These are big changes,” wrote NIH extramural grants chief Sally Rockey on her Rock Talk blog. 
The average age of a PI, now around 51, tracks the aging of medical school faculty.
The growth in NIH funding began ramping up in the 1960s, but leveled off in real terms in the 1990s. I suspect that the number of people doing biomedical research supported by NIH was responsive to the rate of change of the budget.

I suspect that younger researchers are these days being funded under grants made to laboratories headed by older, more experienced researchers. I find it interesting that "the average investigator doesn't get his or her first grant until age 42."

I am not sure how research productivity of principal investigators changes with age. It might be that older investigators with large laboratories do very well on productivity, if of course they are able to manage their laboratories well.

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