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Objectives and Background

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) announces the availability of two-year administrative research supplements to currently-active NIDCD-supported R01 and P50 grants for junior tenure-track faculty in Otolaryngology. This initiative targets applicants who have demonstrated a keen interest in forging an independent physician-scientist career track in fundamental, translational or patient-oriented research within the NIDCD scientific mission areas of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech and language, but have less than two years of prior full-time research training and experience in the biomedical or behavioral sciences. Such individuals would not be competitive applicants for NIDCD mentored clinician-scientist career development (K08 & K23) awards or for research project grant awards, including the NIDCD Small Grants (R03). This program seeks to nurture these individuals to successfully compete for NIDCD K08/K23 awards and R03 awards.

The NIDCD recognizes the compelling need to recruit physicians trained in the surgical subspecialty of otolaryngology into its research enterprise to facilitate translation of fundamental scientific discoveries within its scientific mission from “bench-to-bedside.” The rigors of clinical training and the need for refinement of surgical skills over the years of residency, post residency fellowship training and early clinical practice have proven formidable challenges for attracting otolaryngologists to integrate a research trajectory into their careers. In addition, the dearth of physician-investigator role models among clinical faculty members and the desire to strike a more favorable balance between work and life/family demands have discouraged many promising physician-scientists from pursuing this career track. While the popular perception is that physicians are disadvantaged in the NIH peer review process, it has been recently demonstrated that physician-investigators, whether engaged in basic or clinical research, compete favorably with non-clinical PhDs for NIH R01 funding across the NIDCD and the other NIH Institutes (Kotchen et al., JAMA 2004; NIDCD data).

The NIDCD K08/K23 Award Program has been shown to be an efficacious vehicle for transitioning junior clinical faculty with substantive research backgrounds in otolaryngology to independent investigators competitive for NIH research grant funding. However, there are junior faculty members in otolaryngology with a keen interest in research, but limited research backgrounds. NIDCD requires that its K08 and K23 applicants have at least two years of prior research experience.

The present initiative is one of the responses of the NIDCD to a corpus of recommendations directed to it by the Conference on Research Education and Training in Otolaryngology (Grandis, JR, et al.: Research Education and Training in Otolaryngology: Meeting Summary and Research Opportunities; OHNS 2006; 135, 361-367), co-sponsored by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation and the NIDCD in late 2005.

This research supplement program hardwires a mentoring relationship between the sponsoring PI and the budding clinician-scientist through directly “tethering” the latter to the funded NIH research grant of the mentoring PI. The research experience proposed for the candidate must be within the research scope of the parent grant at the level of the specific research aims, and it must have the potential to contribute significantly to the research career development of the candidate. It is expected that a follow-up mentored K-award (K08 or K23) or R03 application will be prepared and submitted during Year Two of the supplement award period.

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