The pediatric surgeon's road to research independence: utility of mentor-based National Institutes of Health grants.J Surg Res. 2013 Sep; 184(1):66-70.JS
The current research environment for academic surgeons demands that extramural funding be obtained. Financial support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is historically the gold standard for funding in the biomedical research community, with the R01 funding mechanism viewed as indicator of research independence. The NIH also supports a mentor-based career development mechanism (K-series awards) in order to support early-stage investigators. The goal of this study was to investigate the grants successfully awarded to pediatric surgeon-scientists and then determine the success of the K-series award recipients at achieving research independence.
In July 2012, all current members of the American Pediatric Surgery Association (APSA) were queried in the NIH database from 1988-2012 through the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. The following factors were analyzed: type of grant, institution, amount of funding, and funding institute or center.
Among current APSA members, there have been 83 independent investigators receiving grants, representing 13% of the current APSA membership, with 171 independent grants funded through various mechanisms. Six percent currently have active NIH funding, with $7.2 million distributed in 2012. There have been 28 K-series grants awarded. Of the recipients of expired K08 awards, 39% recipients were subsequently awarded an R01 grant. A total of 63% of these K-awarded investigators transitioned to an independent NIH award mechanism.
Pediatric surgeon-scientists successfully compete for NIH funding. Our data suggest that although the K-series funding mechanism is not the only path to research independence, over half of the pediatric surgeons who receive a K-award are successful in the transition to independent investigator.