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Navigating challenges and securing funding: The life of new principal investigators

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Text on orange side banner says "Research Funding". Text on white background says Navigating challenges and securing funding: The life of new principal investigators. Name of author Amrita Chowdhury is below the text. The logo of scientifyRESEARCH is below the text. A representative image is at right.

Who are new principal investigators? 

In the corridors of academia, new primary investigators are more than mere academics; they’re the catalysts of change and harbingers of breakthroughs yet to be unveiled.  

Newly employed university lecturers or researchers are generally referred to as new investigators. Researchers who have completed their doctoral degrees, have spent a few years in post-doctoral training and have secured a position as principal investigators recently are known as new primary investigators. 

Transitioning from a post-doc to a principal investigator (PI) is a big change for a researcher. Being a new investigator comes with a few challenges that need to be addressed for success in the role!  

Challenges faced by new PIs 

  1. As post-doc, researchers mostly focus on the projects of their principal investigators. But as a new principal investigator, one must have their own project planned. They need to think of new ideas and should use their knowledge and current understanding to develop new projects.  
  1. New principal investigators need to be on a spree to publish papers. First-author papers and ideally papers in which they are the corresponding author leave an impression on the scientific community. Publications help in maintaining a pedigree that can be tracked by the community and increase the chances of bagging funding.  
  1. It is mandatory for a new investigator to juggle between responsibilities. It is like running a business where there are people depending on the PI for their jobs. This mindset is completely different from being a post-doctoral researcher and this takes some time to get adjusted to the new responsibilities.  
  1. The skills that are learned during post-doctoral training can be helpful in lab work. But for a PI, the amount of time spent doing raw science eventually decreases. As a leader of the group, the new investigator must support their teams, and this needs some different skill sets.  
  1. A new principal investigator needs to focus mostly on writing papers and grant applications. So, developing clear writing and communication skills is critical. 
  1. One must be confident to bounce back quickly from any setbacks and then gather all the energy to start from scratch. 
  1. While networking can be hard for new PIs but it is important to grow your network. It is not always about networking up but networking with peers as well as with people in a downward hierarchy is equally important. 

Funding opportunities for new PIs 

Among many challenges faced initially by the new principal investigators, finding grants and funding to support the team and to carry out intended research is perhaps the most critical. Funding is indispensable for nurturing teams and propelling intended investigations forward. There are many funders worldwide who understand this challenge and support new investigators with research grants.  

Let’s explore these research funders specializing in start-up grants for new PIs, with a particular focus on several in the medical or biomedical field. 

Funders based in the U.S. 

The American Cancer Society is a charitable organization that fights for a cancer-free world. The Society provides funding for research, shares expert information and supports patients. The Society funds research conducted in the U.S. Some grants such as the fellowship schemes are restricted for U.S. citizens and permanent residents while others have no restrictions. The Society offers Research Scholar Grants that support early-career independent researchers (within the first 10 years of their independent research career) to support cancer research. 

The National Kidney Foundation is a U.S.-based charitable organization dedicated to kidney health and supports research that is helping advance knowledge about chronic kidney disease, treatment and patient outcomes. The Young Investigator Research Grant from the Foundation supports early-career faculty members, based in the U.S., working on nephrology research. 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF)  provides funding for early career researchers working on RUNX1-familial platelet disorder and investigating strategies that will lead to the development of therapies that will prevent the transition from pre-leukemia to leukemia for patients with RUNX1-FPD. 

The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable foundation based in the U.S. supports research and the people who study and treat liver diseases. The Foundation´s research funding is open to researchers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with some award programs open to international researchers. The foundation provides start-up grant for junior faculty members within 6 years of their first faculty appointment. 

Funders based in the U.K. and Europe 

Alzheimer’s Research UK is a U.K.-based dementia research charity that supports research that helps us better understand the cause of dementia and thereby develop better diagnostics, prevention and treatment for Alzheimer´s disease. The charity provides multiple research funding schemes for Alzheimer’s researchers based in the U.K. The charity funds Early Career Researcher Bridge Fund for early career investigators in the U.K.  

The European Hematology Association (EHA) is a member organization based in the Netherlands and promotes excellence in patient care, research, and education in hematology. The EHA Advanced Research Grant by the Association supports Europe-based early-career hematology researchers in their transition from trainees to independent researchers. 

The Novo Nordisk Fonden, an independent Danish foundation, works with the mission to improve the lives of people through better health, education, and the development of a knowledge-based sustainable society. The Foundation funds research in health, biomedicine, the arts, natural sciences and engineering conducted in Denmark and other Nordic countries. The foundation funds emerging investigator grants in many disciplines, such as endocrinology, plant science, etc., that supports early-career researchers from around the world to establish their own independent research group at a research institution in the Nordics. 

Some global opportunities 

The International Association for Dental Research (IADR) promotes dental, oral and craniofacial research for health and well-being worldwide. The IADR supports dental research through research funding for dental researchers at all career stages. The association funds IADR Joseph Lister Award for New Investigators in association with Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. to support young investigators with original research in oral disease prevention or oral health promotion. 

The ALS Association, though based in the U.S., operates globally, funding all phases of ALS Research, in addition to other ALS programs, public policy efforts, advocacy and support services. The association encourages early career research investigators from all over the world with seed grants. 

The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) seeks to improve the quality of life of people affected by frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) through various activities, including the support of researchers working on FTD at all career stages and worldwide. The Pilot Grants from The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) provide research funding for new independent researchers worldwide working on frontotemporal degeneration. 

We help new principal investigators to find funding opportunities through our curated list 

Newly appointed principal investigators are embarking on transformative research aimed at benefiting our world. With a new role comes fresh responsibilities and challenges. At ScientifyRESEARCH, we stand ready to assist these PIs in their quest for new funding, enabling them to drive groundbreaking research forward while supporting their dedicated teams. Our meticulously curated research funding database preserves their invaluable time, allowing them to concentrate on their pioneering research endeavours. 

We would like to share our curated list of funding opportunities for early career research investigators which is continuously being updated with the latest funding information: 

Bookmark this page, sign-up for our grant alerts or our monthly newsletter to stay updated with funding information relevant to you. 

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