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Scheme gives new researchers a leg-up

A scheme that helps new bioscience researchers to set up their own labs and establish a track record in research has been given an overwhelming vote of approval in a new survey of participants and heads of university bioscience departments.

Without a track record it can be difficult for new researchers to get research funding. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) New Investigators scheme helps bioscientists at the start of their careers overcome this obstacle. A new survey of scientists who had participated in the scheme shows 97% of respondents felt the New Investigators scheme helped them to establish their own lab. 74% thought that the scheme had furthered their careers.

BBSRC's New Investigator scheme was launched in 2001, and is primarily aimed at newly employed university lecturers, research fellows, and researchers in BBSRC-sponsored institutes. To date a total of 239 scientists have been funded through the programme.

The New Investigator scheme is designed to help talented researchers without grant application experience, by providing grant funding for applicants who fall just short of the threshold for grant allocation in the peer review process.

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One researcher who has benefited from the scheme is Dr Jonathan Peirce at the University of Nottingham. He says the New Investigator scheme proved hugely beneficial and helped him to set up an operational lab for his research in visual neuroscience.

"For academics the first few years as a principal investigator is a truly critical period. Yet all too frequently they find themselves without staff or equipment and all the enthusiasm in the world won't allow them to begin the experiment that they're itching to run", he says. "The BBSRC NI scheme fills this niche very well. It provides sufficient funding to get your feet on the ground and start work in this critical first step."

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "The UK bioscience community is world-leading and underpins key industries, such as pharmaceuticals. We have some of the best bioscience talent and it is great to see that the New Investigators scheme is playing a key role in developing the brightest scientists embarking on their careers. The scheme is helping us to develop the country's future research leaders in the biosciences."

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