NIH/NCI – NCI Research Specialist (Core-based Scientist) Award (R50 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

October 9, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

This FOA is specifically for core/shared resource/central scientific support scientists.

The Research Specialist Award is designed to encourage the development of stable research career opportunities for exceptional scientists who want to continue to support research within the context of an existing NCI-funded basic, translational, clinical, or population science cancer research program, but not serve as independent investigators. These non-tenure track scientists, i.e., researchers within a core/shared resource/central scientific support, are vital to sustaining the biomedical research enterprise. It is anticipated that only exceptional scientists who want to continue to support an existing NCI-funded departmental or institutional core/shared resource/central scientific support will be competitive for this award.


The Research Specialist Award is intended to provide salary support and sufficient autonomy so that individuals are not solely dependent on NCI-funded grants held by others for cancer research career continuity. Over the past decade, there has been a major expansion in the scope of approaches, technologies and expertise required to effectively address any research question. A typical research activity includes molecular, genomic, phenotypic, and functional characterizations, each of which entails sophisticated technologies and understanding (e.g., deep sequencing, bioinformatics, imaging, flow cytometry, animal modeling, etc.). Accompanying the increases in the number of required approaches is the growing need for exceptional scientists with extensive research experience in each of those areas who provide continuity, stability and detailed scientific knowledge beyond that of a technician or a trainee. There is already a clustering of individual small research groups around central cores that specialize in different expertise (e.g., nuclear magnetic resonance [NMR], mass spectrometry [MS], sequencing, fluorescence-activated cell sorting [FACS], biochemistry, animal models, etc.), such that many experiments are performed, at least in part, through such cores. In addition, with the generation of large datasets (“big data”) that are publicly available, there is a growing need for information technology (IT) experts within many research programs or departments that previously did not rely on these skill sets. Data scientists (e.g., informaticians, statisticians, epidemiologists, behavioral scientists, and population scientists) are found primarily in computational biology groups or in data-rich big science groups. The need for such individuals is rapidly expanding to many other types of research groups.

There has been a continuing shift in the way research is organized, with increased reliance on a cadre of Research Specialists in laboratories, cores, and other scientific support facilities. Extramural institutions have begun to address the need for such scientists by providing staff support for cores that serve multiple research programs. Moreover, individual research programs have created Research Specialist positions using their grant support. However, neither of these positions currently provides the individual with either the recognition or independent funding mechanism that will attract and maintain the best scientists. These examples and many others highlight the need to create a career path for highly trained researchers who will play an increasingly important role in advancing biomedical research.

Scope of this FOA

The Research Specialist Award (Core-based Scientist) is intended to provide salary support for a sustained period of time and encourage the development of a stable career for exceptional researchers who want to continue to support cancer research within the context of a core/shared resource/central scientific support. These scientists, namely researchers within a core/shared resource/central scientific support, are vital to sustaining the biomedical research enterprise. The award is intended for research-oriented investigators with significant, relevant experience, who have shown clear evidence of productivity and research excellence in the field of their training, and who would like to support a particular research activity (e.g., core/shared resource/central scientific support), with the goal of making significant contributions to behavioral, biomedical (basic or clinical), computational, bioimaging or bioengineering research that is relevant to the NCI mission. The proposed new research support is intended to provide salaries and sufficient autonomy so that individuals are not solely dependent on NCI-funded grants held by others for career continuity. Research Specialists would have the option, with prior NCI approval, to move to other research programs or institutions while maintaining funding from this award (e.g., if the Unit Director’s core is closed, if the institution closes a core, etc.).

Unit Director of Core/Shared Resource/Central Scientific Support

The Unit Director must be a NCI-funded Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) with an established working relationship with the Research Specialist. The Research Specialist must, at the time of the R50 application submission, be supported by the Unit Director’s NCI-funded grant(s). The Unit Director, together with the Research Specialist, is responsible for planning, directing, monitoring, and executing NCI-funded research activities currently being conducted within the core/shared resource/central scientific support.

Deadline:  January 11, 2019 (letters of intent due 30 days prior to the deadline)


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities