NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
April 27, 2004 • Volume 1 / Number 17 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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A Conversation with Dr. Daniel C. Sullivan

Dr. Daniel C. Sullivan, associate director for the NCI Cancer Imaging Program, and several other NIH researchers developed a new model for NIH funding of consortium research projects. This model was recently approved by Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, the NIH deputy director for extramural research. Dr. Sullivan talks about this new funding model with the NCI Cancer Bulletin.

Dr. Daniel C. Sullivan Why is this new funding model for team science needed?
Right now there are only a couple of ways that NIH can fund a team project. In every case, only a single principal investigator is recognized in the grant, and other team members do not get recognized in their academic institutions for their contributions. Also, under current NIH mechanisms, transdisciplinary teams must structure an application to fit the mission of a single institute, which often imposes artificial constraints on their projects. This model eliminates those constraints.

So how does it work?
Under this model, a team would submit a single application consisting of a bundle of different applications for each individual project within the larger project. The entire application gets a single score, but each project would be funded individually by different NIH institutes and have its own grant number. An outside special emphasis panel convened by the NIH Center for Scientific Review would review the entire application. Staff from the appropriate institutes would serve as the management team to administer the entire consortium after it has been funded.

Initially, any projects for which this model can be used will have to be identified through an RFA or program announcement. The NIH Interdisciplinary Road Map Committee will most likely be the first to use this new model.

Are there other efforts under way to promote team science?
There is a lot going on. The NIH Interdisciplinary Research Committee is one example. The NIH Bioengineering Consortium (BECON) has created a committee on interdisciplinary research and team science. Then there is a new subcommittee of the Committee of Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. This subcommittee, the Research Business Models Subcommittee, is investigating a variety of ways to improve the climate for team science. It is quite a serious effort. More information on its work is available at

So there are lots of things going on across NIH and the Federal government. But this particular consortium idea is one of the first very specific pragmatic proposals to provide a new funding mechanism for investigators.