The NIH International Research Career Transition Awards

bridges vol. 9, April 2006 / Noteworthy Information

Less than a year old, the International Research Career Transition Award is a very novel program geared towards postdoctoral fellows from other (i.e. non-US) countries. To date, six postdoctoral fellows have been accepted into the program; by the end of the year, about 20 participants are anticipated. "The overall goal is to provide for the professional growth and career development of postdoctoral fellows in their transition to research independence as they move to universities and research institutes to set up their own laboratories," says Louis Simchowitz, the program director for this NIH-wide initiative, who regards these objectives as an integral part of the training mission of the NIH.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest}Conceptually, the program consists of two phases: Phase I offers international scientists two to three years of postdoctoral training in all areas of biomedical research within any of the institutes and centers at the NIH. During Phase II, fellows are placed in staff positions at research institutes and universities in their home countries for an additional two to three years.

While Phase I is financed completely by the NIH, which provides standard postdoc stipends and benefits based upon years of experience, as well as transportation costs, Phase II is funded by foreign science foundations or central government agencies. In the latter phase, the total value and resources of the start-up package (stipend, benefits, equipment, personnel, and supplies) are left to the discretion of the foreign science foundation or government agency. The NIH, however, asks that the home country provide travel funds for one trip back home each year while the fellow is at the NIH. The purpose of this benefit, as Simchowitz points out, "is to maintain a connection with university officials and administrators that will lead to offers of advanced postdoctoral and/or faculty positions."

For the NIH, he adds, the eligibility criteria are quite simple: a Ph.D. (or possibly an M.D.) degree and identification of a suitable NIH scientist to serve as mentor, supervisor, and advisor for the host laboratory. Most importantly, the applicant must be eligible for funding by the foreign science foundation/ministry when he/she returns home for Phase II of the Award.

Currently, Germany (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG ), France (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, INSERM ), and Belgium (Flanders) (Research Foundation - Flanders, FWO) are participating. Agreements with other countries are pending, although some of the discussions presently underway are quite preliminary. Simchowitz remarks that there is "considerable high-level interest on the part of several countries in Western and Central Europe and a few in Asia and South America."

For further questions, programmatic, administrative, or financial, please contact:
Dr. Louis Simchowitz
Program Director