New International Competition Focuses on Early Career Scientists
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute today launched an international competition to select up to 35 early career scientists working at academic institutions in 18 countries on five continents with the goal of helping these talented individuals establish independent research programs.
“Science is an international endeavor, and HHMI wants to help develop the next generation of scientific talent worldwide,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “We are especially interested in helping scientists through the challenging early years, when they are just starting up their labs and research support is difficult to get.”
The Institute has committed $24 million for the International Early Career Scientist Program and will award each scientist who is selected a total of $650,000 over five years. The competition is open to scientists who have trained in the U.S., run their own labs for less than seven years, and work in one of 18 eligible countries. Those countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Eligible researchers in these countries are invited to submit applications.
“Science is an international endeavor, and HHMI wants to help develop the next generation of scientific talent worldwide. We are especially interested in helping scientists through the challenging early years, when they are just starting up their labs and research support is difficult to get.”
Jack E. Dixon, HHMI vice president and chief scientific officer, noted that these countries all have a sufficiently robust scientific infrastructure to help ensure that early career scientists will receive support from their research institution and their peers. At the same time, Dixon said that resource constraints in these countries mean that HHMI’s research funding may help these scientists move ahead with potentially transformative research projects.
This competition is designed to give a boost to international scientists who return to their home country to do research after training in the United States. If successful, this pilot project could form the basis for a larger international endeavor. “HHMI’s investigators are deeply involved in the international research community, and we want to make sure that community is as robust as possible,” Dixon says. In a June survey of HHMI investigators and early career scientists, 73 percent of those who responded reported international collaborations, and 62 percent said they have international postdoctoral students in their laboratories.
The International Early Career Scientist competition complements HHMI’s recent initiative to support 50 highly promising early career scientists in the United States through its Early Career Scientist Program, which was initiated in 2008. Early career support can be even more important internationally, because many scientists working outside the U.S. do not get the large startup packages that are available to faculty at many U.S. universities.
In its international competition, HHMI is seeking the top young researchers from a wide variety of biomedical research fields. Applicants must have started their first independent research position on or after January 1, 2004 and have completed graduate or medical school or postdoctoral training in the United States. They can hold a position at any nonprofit research institution or university in one of the 18 countries.
Awardees will receive five-year grants—$250,000 in the first year, and $100,000 each subsequent year—and will be invited to participate in research meetings with HHMI investigators and early career scientists. They will also be eligible to receive a five-year extension of the grant upon completion of a successful review, for a potential total of 10 years of research funding.
“This is truly an experiment,” said Edwin W. McCleskey, a scientific officer at HHMI. “We want to see if our international investment in early career scientists can make a difference worldwide.”
The competition opens on December 1, 2010, and closes February 23, 2011. Interested scientists can submit their applications on HHMI’s website, www.hhmi.org/research/application/iecs2011.
Panels of distinguished biomedical researchers will evaluate the candidates’ applications. Finalists will be invited to HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, in November 2011 to give a presentation about their work for the reviewers and their fellow applicants.
The International Early Career Scientist Program carries on HHMI’s commitment to funding top international researchers. HHMI has spent over $145 million starting in 1991 to fund international scientists working in specific geographical areas, including Canada, Latin America, and Easter Europe, or on a specific field of research, such as parasitology or infectious disease.
In 2009, HHMI committed $60 million to build a new research institute in Durban, South Africa, dedicated to studying the deadly co-epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis. The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) is a groundbreaking collaboration between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The facility will be housed in a 40,000 sq. ft. research building that is currently under construction on the campus of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. When completed in 2012, it will employ about 80 scientists and 40 support staff. HHMI is also funding an International Student Research Fellowship competition to support international graduate students doing research at U.S. universities.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. HHMI is headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org/about/
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