As a child I loved animals and everything biology (except, ironically, insects; who would think I would become an entomologist?!). This love of science was the foundation for my wonderful career leading extramural research programs at the USDA, NIH and now as Director of FFAR, and I am humbled and honored to be part of something so significant.
When thinking about our future, it is critical that those who want careers in science can have them, and we must attract and keep the best and the brightest in our field. For FFAR and the rest of the ag and food research community, that means attracting and keeping researchers focused on subjects and in disciplines that are critical to our success. Our very future depends on the next generation of talent who will conduct fundamental and applied research generating solutions to real world problems.
For most university scientists, the availability of research grant funds in large part drives the scientific direction of their research. In this context, agricultural scientists often must place emphasis on research avenues that will be attractive to the large research agencies like NIH, instead of pursuing lines of research applicable to agricultural issues where funding is more difficult to come by. Quite understandable, as the need for extramural funding to support research programs as well as for professional advancement is acute.
So what can be done to attract and firmly keep early career researchers in the agricultural and food sciences? Fund them with an award of a size and duration that frees them to pursue exceptionally creative lines of agriculture and food research. FFAR is going to do just that. And while we are a small organization and will only be making up to 10 awards next year, it is a step in the right direction.
We plan on awarding around $600,000 (half of which is through a match) for three or more years to enable researchers to pursue a program of research, providing some stability to their funding and giving them flexibility to pursue new research directions as they evolve during the course of the grant. FFAR intends to fund at least one person in each of its seven scientific topic areas but because these areas intersect and because agriculture and food sciences are convergent, each awardee may cross a number of our areas. To limit the total number of applicants to a pool that FFAR can administratively handle and because we will only be awarding up to 10 people, we are asking institutions to nominate only one exceptionally talented candidate.
While we currently plan to ask applicants to raise the matched 50 percent of the award, FFAR is also looking for altruistic partners who share our interest in inspiring the next generation of food and agriculture scientists and who will join us in securing the future of this award.
Do you have a candidate in mind for FFAR’s New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Award? Learn more and submit a nominations here.