Scientific progress and discovery of preventions and cures for life-threatening diseases depend on the vitality of the biomedical research workforce. We analyzed the workforce of cancer researchers applying for and receiving R01 awards from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from fiscal years 1990 to 2016, the last year prior to implementation of the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. Here we report that the NCI R01 Principal Investigator (PI) workforce expanded 1.4-fold and aged over this time frame. We tracked 9 age groups and found that the number of PIs in the 3 oldest groups increased dramatically, in contrast with the younger groups. Sustained increases in the number of funded older PIs stemmed from increases in the number of older PIs submitting applications, rather than higher funding rates for older PIs. The decline in the number of funded younger PIs was driven in part by (a) a marked increase in time from PhD degree to first R01 application and award, as well as (b) a decrease in retention of PIs in the funded R01 workforce beyond their first R01 award. The NCI is using these and other analyses to inform strategies and policies for attracting, supporting, and retaining meritorious early-career researchers.
Melissa D. Antman, Roman Gorelik, Amy Kennedy, Grace F. Liou, Eddie N. Billingslea, James G. Corrigan, L. Michelle Bennett