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President’s 2013 Budget and NIH Research Grants

As you may know, the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2013 was released on Monday. The request for the NIH is $30.86B, the same overall level as fiscal year 2012. The full details of the NIH budget request are posted on the NIH Office of Budget website, but I want to highlight some topics I often discuss here, namely the number and management of research grants.   

As described in the budget document, we estimate that these funds will support 9,415 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in fiscal year 2013, an increase of 672 above fiscal year 2012. In order to maximize resources in fiscal year 2013 for investigator-initiated grants, and to continue to focus on resources for young, first-time researchers, we propose to reduce non-competing RPGs by one percent from the fiscal year 2012 level, and to negotiate the budgets of competing RPGs to avoid growth in the average award size (estimate of -1 percent) from fiscal year 2012. Also, we will no longer build in the inflationary increases that were included for planning purposes in the out-years of competing and non-competing awards.

We will continue to follow current policies that allow new investigators to receive grants at rates equal to those of established investigators.

Finally, we will establish a process for additional scrutiny and review of awards to any principal investigator with existing grants of $1.5 million or more in total costs. The review will be conducted by an institute’s or center’s advisory council. This is similar to a policy NIGMS has had for many years, which will likely serve as good model for how we may implement this policy. 

If some of the measures described above sound familiar, you may be thinking of the information we posted last October on ways of managing NIH resources. We asked for your comments on this information, either as responses on the blog (here and here) or directly to us by email. We received comments from 348 entities (individuals and institutions), with many people commenting multiple times on the blog. The vast majority of commenters were individuals, but we also heard from some institutions.

Some commenters thought we should keep the current system, but many others supported implementation of one or more of the options. Specifically, a number of commenters were in favor of the following options (in order of the support they received):

  • Limit the number of awards per PI
  • Limit the amount of funds per PI
  • Limit salaries of PIs
  • Reduce or limit size of awards

In addition, many commenters suggested options that were not described in the Ways of Managing Resources presentation. Some options that were mentioned include limiting indirect costs, limiting certain programs (for example, large project grants), and providing more resources to small labs and individuals by limiting grants to large labs.

So thank you for your thoughtful comments. As you can see, having a dialog with the community in as many venues as possible is essential as we continue to consider how to manage our resources to fund as much of the best science as possible in these challenging fiscal times.

56 thoughts on “President’s 2013 Budget and NIH Research Grants

  1. Finally, we will establish a process for additional scrutiny and review of awards to any principal investigator with existing grants of $1.5 million or more in total costs. The review will be conducted by an institute’s or center’s advisory council. This is similar to a policy NIGMS has had for many years, which will likely serve as good model for how we may implement this policy.

    As you describe it, this is somewhat different from the NIGMS policy.

    First, the NIGMS policy sets the trigger in terms of direct costs, not total costs, and the trigger amount is $750,000. Second, the NIGMS policy provides for an additional level of scrutiny for an award that would bring the total direct funding for that PI to the trigger level, not for an award to a PI who is already at the trigger level. Third, NIGMS policy provides that the additional scrutiny will not be applied to competing renewal awards, regardless of whether it implicates the trigger.

    In relation to the first two considerations, the OER policy appears to be substantially less stringent than NIGMS policy. Even at a 100% F&A rate (substantially higher than the vast majority of institutions), a competing award would only be scrutinized if the PI is *already* at $750,000 direct costs with existing awards.

    In relation to the thirds consideration, however if the OER policy doesn’t exempt competing renewals, then it would end up being more stringent, subjecting competing renewal awards to well-funded PIs to scrutiny that wouldn’t have occurred under NIGMS’s policy.

    Could you please clarify exactly what OER intends to do?

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  3. It will be a great policy to help young and first time applicant that will bring new and creative ideas into our research community. At the same time, we should have a mechanism to examine what established investigators have established.

    • The NIH has embarked on a path to remove new investigators from the competition of established investigators. Maybe they don’€™t realize it.

      If a young investigator applies for a grant and the first revision is not funded, they are added to a list (TSA no-fly style) of applicants needing extra screening. That screening is apparently largely automated and the result is that these applicants must write a new grant application in a new research area using new techniques and preparations. This screening appears to last for the lifetime of the investigator.

      How different is different? An NIH guideline for what is a €œsufficiently different€ grant gives and example of that an applicant with an unfunded A1 proposing to work on a transgenic mouse should change their preparation to yeast.

      New investigators are generally trained in a specific area so when the NIH text algorithm says the new application is too much like the previous one (read common words), the applicant must learn a new field with different words; and then do some experiments to generate preliminary data to show that they are competent in the new field; and then write a new application; and then wait six months to see if it was sufficiently different; and then, if they are lucky, they might get it reviewed with >80% chance of rejection. Should it be scientifically reviewed and not funded, they then are added again to the TSA style list for any new applications to be checked. NIH must assure that the new application is not like either of the previous ones, and so on with no limits described. Why might a competent new applicant look for some other kind of job? Why might such bright young investigators start looking overseas for positions?

      In any case we don’t know the reliability of the similarity screening process. Has the NIH checked the accuracy by running through funded grants from the same lab? Are we positive that no lab has more than one funded grant on a similar topic? If the NIH has the data, they should publish it and if not, they should do it. At minimum, the NIH should have a preproposal system so that an applicant can submit specific aims and an abstract and get an opinion whether the changes are adequate to guarantee a scientific review before the applicant takes the time to write a new application and do the preliminary (unfunded) experiments.

      The A1 limitation was done in the name of saving a reviewer from having to examine a third or fourth revision. It takes a competent reviewer that has seen the previous application at most a couple hours to compare a new revision to the previous application. However, it takes an applicant at least six months to learn a new field and write decent application. NIH is being extremely rude to expose young applicants to that disparity. Recall that NIH’s submission figures for young investigators do not include the missing applications from young investigators who have given up on the system.
      We all know that Nobel prizes (read significant new ideas) go to investigators whose key work took place when they were young investigators. If the NIH wants to keep sending their money to fund us geezers, they should expect no new ideas, and the current tiny drug pipeline suggests they have succeeded.

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  5. Forget about direct/indirect costs—just put a cap on the number of active R01s / center grants that a PI is allowed to hold at once. Let’s say no more than 2 R01s or 1 center plus 1 R01. The only way you will be able to keep the upcoming generation (and btw, early-stage and new investigators are not the most vulnerable stage now—it’s those of us who are trying to renew 1st (single) R01 that are likely to be weeded out of science) from dying in the pipeline is by implementing some similar sort of real ‘wealth redistribution’ policy. The senior folks have had long, productive, lucrative careers with multiple simultaneous R01s/center grants. Isn’t it time for them to stop viewing things from a narcissistic lens (‘I need to make my biggest discovery yet’) in favor of saving the field that they purportedly love? If they want to see their fields continue to flourish in the future, they have to be willing to give up some of their excess in order to keep talented mid-level investigators in the game. There is NO program at NIH to protect these careers, and I would argue that we will be the ‘lost’ generation unless NIH (uniformly across institute) applies a stringent ‘no more than 2 active R01s at a time’ policy!!!!!!!!

  6. One of the most popular suggestions in your original solicitation for suggestions was mine: stop funding investigators at foreign institutions with R01s.

    I am acutely aware of the fact that stopping this practice would do little to address the budget shortfall. However, stopping this one-way flow of money (there are no reciprocal opportunities for investigators at American universities that I have been able to discover) would at least show some sympathy for the present dire and dismal funding situation that faces extramural scientists.

    It is remarkably tone deaf to continue paying lip service to promoting new investigators and stretching scarce dollars while giving away money to investigators at foreign institutions. Again, I am aware that the dollar amounts in question are (relatively) small, and would not in any substantial quantitative way address the present fiscal problems at NIH.

    That said, the 12 R01s awarded to investigators at Canadian institutions in the last 90 days (http://silk.nih.gov/public/cbz2zoz.@www.recent.awards.csv) would certainly have been of benefit to assistant professors at American institutions struggling to get their first R01, or indeed to tenured professors trying to keep research programs running.

    I’d be very interested in hearing from NIH the rationale for continuing this practice during a time in which paylines are headed toward 5% at many institutes.

  7. It really doesnt matter what NIH does with its money. Havin just had two really good grants “not discussed” and hearing the ridiculous comments its clear that grants will only go to memebers of a shrinking, mostly white and mostly male club.

    • I am sorry your grants were ‘not discussed’. Having served on many study sections, both NIH and non-NIH over the last 15 years, I can assure you that your grants were given careful consideration. All the members of study sections members on which I have served agonized over every grant, knowing full well that the decision could make or break a career. We had all been in the same situation! As for my rejected grants, after I get over being mad and step back to re-read it fresh, I can better see the holes and understand the comments. Reviewers really do try to give helpful comments so that the investigator can be successful in the future.

      • In the current world of grant reviewing, where reviewers annonymously post their reviews of grants and no one knows their identity [if the grant is unscored], I have found that there is no such thing as a fair review, unless its for their buddys’ grants. NIH should go back to the old days where ALL grants are discussed in front of all 30-35 members of the study section. This is the ONLY way to ensure fair reviews. When a reviewer gave a really bad review, many a time I have seen where others members of the committee step in and save that grant from being trashed.

        I just received the most terrible of reviews, where the reviewer was not only biased but highly inflammatory, prejudicial and aggressive. I must say I was totally taken aback. When you say things like “…terribly convoluted approach”,…”PI has clearly no clue…” how something works, trashes my published work by saying these pubs “are a gross exaggeration”….the list goes on and on. Even as a relatively senior investigator, I was very shocked by the mean-spirited nature of the comments. I cannot imagine how it would destroy a new investigator. its sad that the meanness seen in the political arena has now seeped into the scientific world.

        Its no use to complain to NIH about anything. They simply dont care about anything.

    • While the situation you describe was undeniably true in the past, and still is to a lesser degree, a far more obvious and prevalent trend today is the “sisterhood” watching out for each other.

  8. Limiting the number of R-type grants to a specific PI seems most reasonable to me. I don’t see how one PI can properly oversee more than 2 or 3.
    If the amount of money per award is more strictly limited, that would decrease the amount of effort a PI could support for themselves. In many places this means that the PI’s teaching load would be too high to be directly involved in the scientific aspects of the project. 2) it will make it more difficult to include co-investigators, especially those from other disciplines. 3) it would limit sample sizes for research with whole humans, decreasing the statistcal power and making it harder to get fundable scores for these projects.

  9. I was surprised that limiting the indirect cost percentage was not even in the top 4 that you list. Did it come up at all?

    • Indirect cost rates are determined by a negotiation in accordance with the requirements of Federal Cost Principles between an institution and the federal government. For example, indirect cost rates for universities are based on Circular A-21 and negotiated by either the HHS Division of Cost Allocation or the Office of Naval Research. Please see the recent OMB posting asking for input on cost principals governing federal grants.

      • It isn’t so much the indirect cost rate as what can be included – support of new building should be severely limited and someone at NIH should wake up to the fact that $ are fungible. When anyplace at all can call itself a university and misdirect idc’s to support their edifice complex, then bring in new asst professors on spec to stay if they bring in grants and leave if they don’t, naturally you get lousy output from lousy institutions without a supportive research environment. Using idc’s to build buildings this way bolsters the administrator’s resumes while often doing little for science other than depleting funds that could have been used for research. Believe in meritocracy? Those institutions whose research makes a difference should be considered for matching (at a less than 1:1 ratio) $ for physical plant support, those who don’t, should not. As it is, idc’s are the academic equivalent of another tax break for big oil – a political sop so every district’s community college gets a shiny new research building and the Congressman gets a photo op.
        Want another radical idea? The NHGRI initiative to spend $10M per year sequencing families that (might) have a Mendelian disorder is 40 R01′s per year – that’s ~ sustaining level for 20 research laboratories that are replaced by sequencing facilities with a couple gigantically paid PIs and a bunch of technicians. The RFA specifically forbids ANY biology, since the great ideas stimulated by the sequence will be picked up for biological investigation in grant applications by … R01 funded labs. Which don’t exist anymore. Oops.

    • Some of us are not lucky enough to get a check from the federal or state governments to keep our buildings and facilities running. Those of us at independent non-profits have a higher overhead rate. Let me ask you this…if you had to pay 100% of everything that you use out of a grant, how much do you think your overhead rate will be?

  10. With respect to the $1.5M in total costs is that amount for the particular year, or for the entire project duration. A single grant awarded for 5 yrs at $200K and 50% F&A meets that guideline. If it is calculated for the entire project duration, it means that anyone getting more than 1 grant will be subject to additional scrutiny. Can you clarify the intent?

    • As Sally mentioned above, it will take some time to work out the details. We will be sure to post when we have them.

  11. I strongly support
    # Limit the number of awards per PI
    # Limit the amount of funds per PI

    There are many large labs, in which 1 PI supervise 10-20 postdocs. In my opinion, this is a crime: wasting tax payers dollar and killing young people’s future. Let me explain, you only need to have 1-2 great paper per year to make the Investigator, Innovation and Significance of a grant proposal to score < 2. The PI of these labs thus is only interested in these high score game. This means that 19/20 postdoc's future is at risk. In addition, this causes so called " bottle neck" effect. If the PI's idea is bad, the entire team's effort goes down to the drain! Each labs total budget should be less than $500K per year. NIH should make it really hard to large labs to survive. They need to justify for extraordinary funding with extraordinary science output.

  12. Support all of those limits. They will really leverage the success rate of grant applications and give hope for talented new generations to come. For instance, my son is interested in genetics, but I am really worried and trying to convince him that genetics or biology in general is really no hope under the current policy or situation.

  13. Large labs do great research, but are also very inefficient. At the end of every major presentation in a ballroom or auditorium, the last slide shows the “cast of thousands” required to create this beautiful science. It seems that the list of names or horde of smiling faces in the lab portrait gets larger and larger as grant size and training grant spending rises. I always estimate the number of person-years of effort required to create high profile science. Wouldn’t those person years be better spent in a smaller lab?

    • Wouldn’t those person years be better spent in a smaller lab?

      Your premise is that the “great research” that goes on in the larger labs under inefficient conditions could be duplicated under efficient conditions by dispersing it to several smaller labs. I’d like to see the evidence that can happen. If you look at the big labs that are consistently on the cutting edge (with multiple extremely high impact factor papers every year), these are precisely the ones that you decry as “inefficient”. A sober consideration would have to admit that this supposed inefficiency is the route to consistent generation of high profile publications.

      What is more likely to be “inefficient” is having multiple small labs, struggling on a one-grant shoestring, all trying to accomplish the same, small potatoes work.

      • “If you look at the big labs that are consistently on the cutting edge (with multiple extremely high impact factor papers every year), …”

        What percent of “big labs” fit this description? I would estimatt well under 10%. And please identify an example lab with “multiple extremely high impact factor papers per year”. NOT lots of papers in high impact journals — lots of high impact papers.

  14. There should be a rule that PIs need to commit at least 30% of their effort to an R01, and at least 20% if they are co-Pi’s on an R01. It’s unrealistic to think that a PI can focus on an R01 grant with only 10-25% effort. This does not preclude an investigator from obtaining a very large award for studies that require bigger resources, but it will stop investigators from piling on R01′s and other grants using just a 5% effort “stamp of approval”. It the PI is in a giant lab and has a really good idea, they may be forced to include more junior members or other collaborators in the studies as co-PI’s – that’s not such a bad result, is it?

  15. What about allowing grants to be reviewed more than twice?
    Having sat on study sections, I am seeing many fantastic A1 grants that are being clustered at the top and obviously all are not being funded. In a climate were the number of grants being funded is so low, a grant that has not been funded after two submissions should not be labeled as “poor” science that cannot be submitted again. Investigators should be allowed the privilege of submitting their science for a third time.

  16. The NIH biomedical extramural enterprise evolved in part as a fund transfer program from the federal government to local entities. Much of the growth is due to little effort to limit indirect costs. In many large institutions these funds are redirected to other parts of the institution. This can be very egregious in institutions such as University of California, in which funds can go to a different Department and to a different campus. There needs to be a cap on indirect costs, and an accountability that links these funds to benefit the funded researcher.

  17. Why on earth should the NIH recede into mediocrity by socialistically guaranteeing “one grant for all comers” instead of awarding on *merit* as Rey have always done. You don’t want someone to have 6 awards? *Then write a proposal that outcompetes that PI’s proposals*. Pretty simple.

    If this degree of whining is representative of the next generation of scientists perhaps we don’t need them.

    • The above comment from “Experienced PI” does not reflect much experience, or at least not experience with their eyes open. I currently have 4 major awards, so I’m certainly not whining. However, I am explaining that someone with nothing – no prelim data, no established track record, no momentum, no team in place, no rooms full of equipment – cannot compete with those who for one reason or another have such resources. Pretty simple, indeed. And I wholeheartedly agree with other comments posted above that the efficiency with which scarce funds can be used diminishes as the number of grants & projects managed by one PI increases.

      As for mediocrity, my dear Dagny, what are the odds that the 6 best ideas of someone with grants in the top 10%tile are all better (or even different from each other) than the best idea of someone with an application at the 20%tile? What are the odds that every project in a 6-project lab will get the full creative energy of its PI compared to the project in a 1-project lab? Rather low, obviously. I don’t think you, me, or anyone is able to judge merit reliably among the top 30% of applications, yet we are supporting a system in which only those who have shall get more, and too much of our ammunition ends up in our feet.

  18. NIH needs to recognize that when paylines hover at 7-8%, peer review does not work. Most study sections can do a fair job at sorting out the best 20-25 grants out of 100. However, these same panels cannot distinguish the best 6-7 out of the same pile of 100. Money needs to be reallocated from “mega-programs” back to the R01 pool. Until this happens, peer review will not work; junior faculty will not be able to establish programs, and the next generation of scientists will be lost.

    • Cannot agree more. Basically, what is getting funded now is nuance versus great science. Is there really much of a difference between a score of 21 and 28? I think the difference and whether or not a grant at that level gets funded boils down to grantsmanship, recognition and other such nuances that almost always works against a smaller lab.

  19. As a somewhat experienced PI, I see both pros and cons in capping the # or $ awards. The awards definitely should be merit-based, rather than spreading the wealth around. The big stars are stars for a reason. In my personal experience, those super PIs are usually very smart and productive people. They should not get special treatments good or bad. The big science projects does disproportionally reward the super PIs though.

    I believe a huge problem is the subjectiveness and randomness in reviews. There are holes in every proposal, especially with the 12 page limit. To score really high say <5%-10%, a great proposal is necessary but not sufficient. To get lucky and have 3 people who fundamentally agree with you is essential: if one does not like the proposal or you for any reason, there are so many ways to sink the proposal to a 3, 4 or 5. Innovative can be called unrealistic and realistic could be called not innovative. It is all about perception. This is particularly true, if a proposal is not mainstream. Let's face it, how many truly innovative ideas are embraced by everyone from the begining? Many of us just send out more proposals and hope to win the lottery.

    Another issue NIH can address is the number of trainees in the pipeline. In my own institution, I see training grants fund a large number of PhD students and post-docs each year. At the same time, some junior faculties, who used to be the top trainees, could not land an R01 for years. Having more scientists may be a good thing, but having scientists spend most of their time writing proposals is not.

    Speaking of the time writing proposal, can NIH do a preliminary review of say a 5-page concept paper paper before we write the full proposal with all the administrative information? Or, how about just the 12 page first? That would cut down 50-80% of the pre-award admin work and save the PI a lot of time too.

    • I totally agree with your comments. I am also a somewhat experienced PI, and i totally dislike the current manner in which reviews are conducted. When reviewers used to read their reviews in front of a committee, they were never overtly biased as they knew they would look bad in front of the committee. Now, hidden in their own annonymity, they have become so aggressively mean spirited, Im completely blown away.

      I have submitted 10 R01 grants since June 2011. Six of them were unscored, 1 was found to be similar to a previous proposal [not true], so 3 are up for reviews. I plan on submitting another 3 grants this cycle. I work 24/7 on nothing but grants. Dont have time to enjoy science, ponder new questions, publish papers or read. I have never this hard, not even when I was an Asst. Prof. I am rapidly reaching the state of burn out. I blame the NIH for over funding big labs, for coming up with this new method of grant review and preventing grantees from submitting the 3rd and 4th grant version of really good grants.

  20. Forgive the ignorant question, but what is the difference between an inflationary increase and an escalation? For example, I plan postdoc costs based on the NRSA stipend levels. Is it still allowable to budget the appropriate escalation for each year of the grant? Last month my local grants administrator wouldn’t approve a new grant budget that included a 3% salary escalation, and credited the new policy (NOT-OD-12-036). If merit increases and cost of living increases aren’t allowable anymore, all of the solid people are going to avoid working for NIH-funded investigators.

    • Inflationary increases and escalation are one in the same. There is nothing in the policy that prohibits giving annual raises or making other adjustments required to accommodate increased allowable costs, but your institution will have to rebudget the funds to accommodate the increases within the approved budget. The one caveat, of course, is that if the annual salary raise is such that the salary cap now is applicable, then rebudgeting would not be allowed.

      • There is nothing in the policy that prohibits giving annual raises or making other adjustments required to accommodate increased allowable costs, but your institution will have to rebudget the funds to accommodate the increases within the approved budget.

        As I was saying in another thread, the only possible endgame if NIH keeps pushing grad student and post-doc salaries ever upward, but keeps pushing R01 budgets ever downwards–even in this case *forbidding* institutions from budgeting in R01s for the inexorable salary increases that NIH’s own policies force to occur–is that NIH will be funding vast numbers of PIs to sit in their labs–each containing one or two trainees–and they will all just be playing Angry Birds all day, because there will be no money to do any science.

        The purpose of NIH as mandated by Congress is not to provide a full-employment program for anyone and everyone who wants to run a biomedical research lab. The purpose of NIH is to fund the best possible science to improve human health.

  21. I have a more basic question? How many on here know a scientist that has made a career on T grants or by hanging on to the coat-tails of a P or U award? I bet you know quite a few! Once again, this puts small grantees at a huge disadvantage compared to Professor Godly X.

    • I don’t know any. In fact the P mechanisms are notorious for letting junior faculty be smuggled into a “PI” designation as a Core head or as a weaker link component that benefits from the senior faculty heading up the rest of the Project or Center.

    • You’ve obviously never been involved in a P01 grant. They can truly bring a synergistic team together at a far lower cost than the equivalent number of R01s. The costs? Each project has to be “R01-fundable” according to the whims of every review committee member – the myth of “hangers on” is just that, pure invention based on something somebody’s grandaddy told them about the good old days; significantly smaller budgets per project and grossly inadequate core support; AND the overall requirement that not only is every project a 6th percentile or better grant, but together they have “synergy” – a term on which no two reviewers have ever agreed on a single definition in the history of NIH. Not convinced? There is a truly staggering administrative burden at both the NIH and Institutional level, especially if this corsses institutions. And then you submit this puppy to the truly bizarre world of Institute-specific study sections … if you get to choose between being PI for one of these and an all out zom bee attack, the choice is simple. Except that the science can be SOOOO good.

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  23. Under the current system, science is highly inequitable. A tiny fraction of “elite” researchers account for most of the articles in Science and Nature. Those journals should impose a cap: each investigator should get only one article every five years. That is exactly the same system that is being imposed for grants–I can’t see how anyone could have objections. Under the new system, the top journals would bypass the peer review system, and refuse to publish the most important findings if those findings came from someone who was too prolific.

    I have a modest proposal. We should impose a blanket rule that any members of the National Academy, and certainly all Nobel Laureates, will be precluded from publishing in top journals or receiving grant awards. That would make the current system much fairer, and would keep the 1% from hogging all the glory.

    Seriously, it is entirely reasonable to give young investigators a boost (they already get a boost, but arguably they should get a bigger one). That does not mean that the money to do this should necessarily come by blanket discrimination against the top researchers just because they are successful. Moreover, many or most of the costliest project are producing shared infrastructure that saves time and money for hundreds or thousands of other researchers–it would be foolish to cut back on such projects.

    • Your sarcasm aside, the premise you are holding is totally wrong. The assumption that big journals are the only treasurers of good science is absurd and elitist. These journals are not necessarily to promote science; they have to make profit. Unfortunately, no matter how big a scientist or star performer YOU are, you don’t set the trend in science. You follow the trend that these journals suggest to be hot. There are multiple layers of issues that go in publishing in these journals. If you have ever published in these top tier commercial journals (Nature, Cell etc) or reviewed manuscripts for them, you might have learnt that it is not all about science. Cheers!

  24. Many good points. Caps or no caps, I agree with Kim Orth and Jean M.

    1. The limited monies have rendered the NIH Review process dysfunctional.( …sad but true!). There is no way that ANY study section can objectively select the top 8-10 grants out of 100. They CAN usually select the top 25 out of 100. These 25 should go into a” hat” and then 8 should be selected by the blind folded Chair. Let’s call a lottery by its rightful name instead of asking a study section to do the impossible. At the very least it would be more fair.
    2. Two tries… Why? In my 30 year career some of my best work has been funded on the third try! Stamina is good!

  25. Could somebody explain to me why NIH has to pay a fraction of the salary of tenured faculty? This strikes me as somewhat outrageous, particularly so for faculty involved in biomedical research at private universities. Once the institution hires and tenures faculty members, shouldn’t it pay their salaries, instead of asking the federal government for a subsidy? Why should taxpayers pay the salaries of professors doing research at private universities? In the biomedical sciences, teaching loads are typically not too high. The faculty is under a lot of pressure to secure external funding, and that is OK as long as the funding goes into supporting graduate students and postdocs and laboratory expenses. But that the institutions expect taxpayers to pay the salary of their own professors defies understanding!

    • Perhaps when you explain where else in government the Fed contracts for a service and only expects to pay half the cost. Ever heard the screeching about “unfunded mandates”? Out of curiosity, does a local or state entity pick up part of the cost of building a new fighter jet? How is company profit and overhead charged when building a battleship? Or an ultimately nonfunctional bit of FBI software upgrading?

      The NIH contracts the local university to do a job for them….it is fair that they pay for it. University contribution is bonus, not expectation.

  26. As a soft-money person (along with many of the people NIH funds), I’m worried that limiting the number of funded grants would effectively limit my collaborative grants. If I could only be on 2 R01′s, and have to pay my whole salary out of that, I would have a strong disincentive to include other PI’s on the grants. If I did, I couldn’t have any students. I think we need to discriminate between labs that have lots of grant money because they are mega labs, and those that do because the PI is trying to fund him/herself as well as a modest number of students.

    • To be concrete, I am currently co-PI on two R01′s, and PI on an R21. I have a modest number of students funded on those 3 grants (not counting my co-PI’s students): 1.5 post-docs, and 1.5 graduate students. What is left pays only just over half of my salary.

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