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The Impact of Individual Mentored Career Development (K) Awards on the Research Trajectories of Early-Career Scientists

Nikaj, Silda, PhD; Lund, P. Kay, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002543
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Purpose This analysis examined the role of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) individual Mentored Career Development Award (K01, K08, K23) on launching and sustaining independent research careers for early-career scientists, and investigated the effects of these awards during and after the doubling of the NIH budget.

Method The authors used grants data from the NIH covering the period 1990 through 2016, and compared success in receipt of R01 equivalent awards (R01 Eq.) and Research Project Grants (RPGs) for K awardees and K applicants who did not receive funding. The analysis combined regression discontinuity design with coarsened exact matching, and regression.

Results Overall, receipt of K award was associated with a 24.1% increase in likelihood of first independent NIH award (P < .01), and a larger number of R01 Eq. and RPG awards. After accounting for first major independent awards, K awards were uncorrelated with receiving second major independent research awards. Comparing different funding periods, K01 awards were predictive of subsequent R01 Eq. and RPG awards after but not during the NIH doubling, K08 awards were predictive only during the NIH doubling, and K23 awards were predictive during both periods.

Conclusions Receipt of Mentored Career Development Awards was linked to increased likelihood that early-career scientists successfully transitioned to an independent research career. These findings indicate that extending funding to additional K award applicants with meritorious scores could significantly strengthen the pipeline of biomedical researchers. In addition, enhancing K awards may be relevant to sustaining research careers for clinician scientists.

S. Nikaj was a labor economist, Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, Office of Extramural Research, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, at the time of the study.

P.K. Lund is director, Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, Office of Extramural Research, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Funding/Support: The research was performed as part of the authors’ regular work duties. All authors are employees of the NIH.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The data consist of administrative records. Participants consent to the NIH using data for evaluating the effectiveness of programs.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the NIH or the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Previous presentations: The authors have presented data at the Data Policy Seminar (NIH: April 19, 2018, and October 19, 2017), American Evaluation Association (November 10, 2017), and Evaluation Training Advisory Subcommittee (March 5, 2018).

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at http://links.lww.com/ACADMED/A619.

Correspondence should be addressed to P. Kay Lund, Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, Office of Extramural Research, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, Rockledge One, Room 3539, Bethesda, MD 20892; telephone: (301) 496-3255; e-mail: kay.lund@nih.gov.

Written work prepared by employees of the Federal Government as part of their official duties is, under the U.S. Copyright Act, a “work of the United States Government” for which copyright protection under Title 17 of the United States Code is not available. As such, copyright does not extend to the contributions of employees of the Federal Government.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges