I have seen the very recent report and follow-on discussions that NIH is considering asking institutions to limit grant applications as a way to control demand. Let me present the facts. You may remember the dialogue we had back in October 2011 on how NIH should manage science in fiscally challenging times. The option of limiting applications was raised at that time but was discarded at the outset and we are not pursuing it now.
Assessing how NIH manages its funds is an ongoing endeavor and I believe strongly that it is particularly important to brainstorm with the extramural community in as many settings as possible such as annual meetings of professional societies, conversations with individual scientists, and here on my blog. In order to fully paint the picture of the options that have been proposed in the past, and to provide context to what we are considering now, these wide-ranging conversations often include mentioning ideas that NIH is not actively pursuing and may never implement. In a recent example, I shared how the question of the number of applications submitted per institution was tackled in an October 2011 analysis and also the data I posted last year about the relationship between numbers of applications and awards at different institutions.
The discussion of how to manage NIH funds that we had in October 2011 was engaging and informative, and did result in changes in policy. Notably, we launched a pilot, and then implemented the NIH Special Council Review policy which provides additional Council consideration of new and renewal applications from investigators who currently receive more than $1 million or more in direct costs. The community offered lots of other ideas as well that we may decide to consider sometime in the future, but at the moment limiting applications by institution is not one of them.
As you know it is extremely important to me to engage the community early as we are developing policies because you give us ideas we haven’t thought of and you tell us how our actions will affect you in ways we haven’t recognized. I also find it essential to provide you with the data that support the decisions we make. These principles will continue to be important to me as we move forward.