By Henry Ehrlich
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has borrowed a page from BIG architecture and BIG development to entice new brains and new ideas to the field of research. On October 15, they announced competitions for both new investigators and mid-career investigators in related fields to enter a scientific realm that really doesn’t have a long history. Such competitions have been used in recent years to attract ideas for everything from the Vietnam memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC, to rebuilding the World Trade Center site in New York, to putting people into space without the involvement of NASA.
The categories are described on the web page:
“The New Investigators Award ($75,000 annually for two years) supports the development of an academic research career by providing salary support and laboratory expenses (up to $10,000 per year) for research conducted by individuals (MD, MD/PhD or DO) who have completed at least two years of allergy/immunology training and who will be entering their third or fourth year of fellowship training…
“The Mid-Career Investigators Award ($150,000 annually for five years) focuses on established investigators holding the academic rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor, or the equivalent in non-academic research settings. Recipients must have records of scientific accomplishment and independent, peer-reviewed federal or private research grant funding. These awards are available to investigators who have proven themselves capable of performing cutting-edge research in other areas, but now want to transition to work in food allergy….”
Mary Jane Marchisotto, Senior Vice President of Research for FARE, told me she has been intrigued by this approach since she heard a mining executive talk about his own company’s failure to find mineral deposits on a huge tract of land it controlled. After publishing a detailed survey of the land and announcing a multi-million dollar prize, they attracted suggestions from a wide variety of experts whose ideas struck pay dirt—literally. She feels that a more heterogeneous science population may come up with the next breakthrough. This idea takes on special urgency because of tighter NIH budgets for basic research.
The competition requires an initial two-pager, to be vetted by a FARE committee. Some of those ideas will be chosen for the next round and will be required to give more detailed proposals. The winners will be announced in March 2015.
I am not sure about this – there is a lot implied about the relationship of research and money that I don’t think bears out. I guess what I am wondering is whether this is a grant being called a prize or not… my first thought was crowd sourcing can be beneficial for fresh ideas but is that where the life cycle of food allergy research is at right now?
I didn’t mean to imply that anyone had called it a prize – I just saw elements of competition and wanted to know more about how this program/system would being new ideas in from outside the usual avenues like a regular grant. I don’t know much about funding for research but it is a big part of what FAAN/FARE has always been about so to see them trying something new to them is certainly fascinating new. Thanks for sharing, Henry!
Selena Bluntzer says
I support the thought behind this campaign, but I do feel that there are ideas in the hopper, right now, that could use that funding. Giving someone a cash endowment is not necessarily going to force-germinate an idea in their minds.
I do think, though, that there is a need to boost interest and enthusiasm in this field of study, to cultivate the researchers of the future. With unlimited funds, I say sprinkle it everywhere, but since we do not have the environment, I’d rather see money go toward developing and refining what exists in the here and now, which has not been allowed to reach its full, far-reaching potential.