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Help Secure the Future of Science: Support Young Investigators Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic!

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To the leaders of research funding agencies in the United States,

The scientific research community understands that the entire world is going through very difficult times due to COVID-19. Scientists and engineers working in research environments are not immune to these challenges, and we must adapt and help to the best of our ability to overcome problems during this pandemic. Research institutions have implemented unprecedented, but necessary, steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and keep us all safe. In particular, Heads of Universities, Institutes, and Governments have instituted temporary bans of non-essential lab work, and have encouraged scientific teams to continue their work remotely to reduce the impact of these directives on research productivity. In particular, it has been suggested that scientists and engineers focus their efforts on writing scientific articles and grant applications using data collected in their labs.

Although this recommendation is generally sound and suitable, this policy has the unintended consequence of particularly disfavoring Young and Early Investigators. Unfortunately, Young and Early Investigators are unlikely to have had enough time to establish their labs, and generate meaningful and substantial data to write peer-reviewed scientific papers or apply for grant awards.

At this time, it is unclear what specific measures government institutions such as the National Institute of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and others are taking to promote a fast and healthy recovery of scientific research in the United States. However, we petition these institutions to implement directives that take into account the development of Young and Early Investigators’ careers during these challenging times. Below, we make several recommendations that can reduce the impact that COVID-19 protective measures have on the career of Young and Early investigators.

  • Develop new RFAs exclusively eligible to Young and Early Investigators
  • Increase funding ranges for Young and Early Investigators
  • Increase funds and term requirements for career development awards designated for young faculty (e.g., K awards for NIH, CAREER for NSF)
  • Lessen requirements for preliminary data in grant applications for Young and Early Investigators.

The scientific community greatly appreciates the vast resources that the NIH, NSF, and other government institutions have committed to the scientific and professional development of Young and Early Investigators, particularly during challenging times like these. Your continuous support ensures that the United States is consistently at the forefront of scientific and engineering innovation in the world.

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