Simons Foundation, HHMI and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announce Selection of Faculty Scholars

The Simons Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are pleased to announce the selection of 84 faculty scholars, early-career scientists who have great potential to make unique contributions to their fields. The scientists represent 43 institutions across the United States.

“We are very excited to welcome these accomplished scientists into the HHMI community,” says HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “We’re equally gratified to work alongside our philanthropic partners to help these early-career scientists move science forward by pursuing their bold ideas.”

Through the new Faculty Scholars Program, the philanthropies will spend about $83 million over five years to support the first cohort of scientists selected to receive grants. The five-year grant awards range from $600,000 to $1.8 million, including indirect costs. The awards are subject to applicants and their institutions fulfilling the requirements of the grant-making organizations. Faculty scholars are required to devote at least 50 percent of their total effort to the direct conduct of research.

“Support for outstanding early-career scientists is essential for continued progress in science in future years,” says Marian Carlson, director of life sciences at the Simons Foundation.

This is the first collaboration between the Simons Foundation, HHMI and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The philanthropies joined forces to create this program in response to growing concern about the significant challenges that early-career scientists are facing. The career trajectory for early-career scientists has become much less certain as competition for grant support intensifies. In the past two decades, the U.S. has witnessed a dramatic decline in the National Institutes of Health research award success rate for scientists, as well as a striking increase in the average age at which an investigator receives his or her first R01-equivalent grant.

“We are delighted to help enable superb early-career scientists to bring transformative innovation to priority global health problems,” says Chris Karp, director of global health discovery and translational sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In today’s constrained research funding environment, the creativity and energy that researchers bring to starting their own labs can quickly be sapped by the time-consuming and often frustrating quest for grant funding. Within a few years of a new faculty appointment, a researcher’s institutional start-up funds typically come to an end. Pressure to secure federal grant money may lead to ‘safe’ grant proposals. As a result, creative and potentially transformative research projects may fall by the wayside.

“This program will provide these scientists with much-needed flexible resources so they can follow their best research ideas,” says David Clapham, vice president and chief scientific officer of HHMI.

Early-career researchers with more than 4, but no more than 10, years of experience as faculty members were eligible to apply for this competition. Faculty at more than 220 institutions were eligible. Distinguished scientists reviewed and evaluated more than 1,400 applicants on their potential for significant research productivity and originality, as judged by their doctoral and postdoctoral work, results from their independent research programs, and their future research plans.

A list of the 84 faculty scholars is available here.

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