Thursday, 16 January 2014 08:58

Rain on Parched Fields? HHMI Opens National Competition for New Investigators

Written by  ASCB Post Staff
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Erin-OShea-credit-Kathleen-Dooher-HHMIErin O'Shea, Chief Scientific Officer at HHMI
and an ASCB member, spoke of the success of
HHMI's 'People not Projects' approach to funding.
Photo credit: Kathleen Dooher, HHMI
Just when it seemed that the pool of research funding was down to puddles, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced Wednesday a national open competition for 20-25 new HHMI investigators who will be awarded $150 million in new funds over the next five years. All applications are self-nominations and endorsement letters are only required if the candidate becomes a semifinalist.

In addition to traditional biomedical researchers, the HHMI competition is open to plant biologists, biomedical engineers, evolutionary biologists, biophysicists, computational biologists and chemical biologists. HHMI wants applications from PhDs and/or MDs with more than five but fewer than 15 years in a tenured or tenure-track position at one of 200 eligible U.S. institutions (for a full list click here). Applicants have to be the current PI on a national peer-reviewed funding grant such as an NIH R01 as of June 2014. The deadline for applications is June 3, 2014, but finalists will not be announced until the spring of 2015. All semi-finalists must make a brief personal presentation on their research at a symposium in April 2015 to be held at the HHMI Janelia Farms campus in Ashburn, VA.

The winners will become full-time HHMI employees for five years while remaining at their home institutions. By hiring individual scientists, rather than funding research proposals, HHMI believes it can give its investigators the freedom to explore new areas, follow their instincts, and change directions. "A Hughes' appointment gives our scientists the freedom to ask hard questions and to follow unexpected discoveries," said Erin O'Shea, Chief Scientific Officer at HHMI and an ASCB member, in a video about the HHMI investigator program. She added, "This is our 'People not Projects' model, and the 60 years of achievements in basic science supported by HHMI says that this model works."

Full information on the new HHMI Investigator competition is available here