Evaluation of a mid-career investigator career development award: Assessing the ability of OppNet K18 awardees to obtain NIH follow-on research funding


The National Institutes of Health K18 award mechanism provides funded opportunities for established investigators to gain knowledge in fields outside of their primary disciplines, but outcomes associated with these awards have not been evaluated to date. NIH’s Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet) is one of the few initiatives that has used this award mechanism. We explored how the unique features of K18 awards affect the ability of recipients to obtain follow-on NIH research funding. We compared outcomes (ability to obtain follow-on funding and interval between receipt of the primary award and receipt of the first follow-on award) associated with OppNet K18 awards to findings from evaluations of other NIH career development (K) awards, which usually target early-career investigators. We hypothesized that K18 award recipients might be (1) more successful than are other K award recipients in obtaining follow-on NIH research funding due to their career experience or (2) less successful due to the competing demands of other projects. By analyzing follow-on NIH research awards and interview data, we found that OppNet K18 award recipients were at least as successful as were other K award recipients in obtaining follow-on funding and may have been more successful by certain measures. K18 awards produce their outcomes with a lower investment per investigator than do other K awards, suggesting continued or enhanced use of the mechanism.   Read Full Article at PLOS ONE.