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Fiscal Policies, and More, for 2014

You probably saw earlier this week that we announced policies for NIH’s fiscal operations and legislative mandates for  fiscal year (FY) 2014, implementing the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed by President Obama on January 17. NIH has a budget of $30.15 billion, an increase of $1 billion over fiscal year 2013. I am particularly grateful that NIH was able to recover a significant portion of the funds lost due to sequestration, which should bring our budget situation back on track not only for this year, but hopefully into the future.

Here are some key points from the new NIH Guide notices that were published Monday.

  • First, we announced how we will deal with the non-competing continuation awards. Keeping with the precedent we set up last year, and because each NIH institute and center (IC) is in a slightly different budget situation, the ICs are given flexibility to manage funding levels of these awards. Therefore, non-competing continuation awards for FY 2014 will likely be funded in the range between the commitment level indicated on the Notice of Award and 3% below that level. FY2014 non-competing continuation awards that were funded at reduced levels earlier this year (usually at the 90% level) may be fully or partially restored. Your grants management official will be working with you on the final budget levels when issuing or reissuing these awards.
  • Because of the increased NIH budget as compared to last year, and due to the cycle of out-year commitments, we should ultimately be making more competing awards in FY 2014. This is very positive news as it should result in reversing the trend of RPG success rates sliding lower each year. Remember, however, the success rates are dependent on the number of applications received, so as long as application numbers stay near or below where they were last year, combined with a higher number of awards, success rates should go up.
  • In keeping with our desire to provide appropriate support for our trainees during this critical period in their career, and keeping in line with the recommendations in the biomedical workforce report, NRSA (Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award) stipends will increase in accordance with the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Undergraduate and graduate student stipends will increase by 2%, and entry level postdoctoral stipends will be increased to $42,000 with 4% increases for additional years of experience. (More details are in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-14-046). We have been forecasting this increase in postdoc stipends for some time, to better bring them in line with a salary commensurate with their level of training and career stage.
  • Salaries received from an NIH grant continue to be restricted to no more than Executive Level II of the Federal Executive Pay scale. However, the good news is that the Executive Level II salary was increased to $181,500 as of January 12, 2014. Information on how this is implemented for NIH grantees is published in the NIH Guide (NOT-OD-14-052)
  • As always, we are totally committed to new investigators and they will continue to receive targeted support, aiming for a success rate on new (type 1) R01 equivalent grants comparable to that of established investigators.

In addition to reading the 2014 fiscal policy notice (NOT-OD-14-055) and additional legislative mandate information (NOT-OD-14-053), be sure to visit the NIH extramural financial operations page, where we will update links to the 2014 funding strategies for individual NIH ICs as they become available.

After the year we’ve just had, the bump in NIH’s budget is good news, but challenges still remain, as I’ve discussed before, particularly for our trainees. NIH will continue to track trainee and new investigator outcomes and examine biomedical workforce policies, balancing the need to protect the future of biomedical research with the need to support exceptional research already underway.

9 thoughts on “Fiscal Policies, and More, for 2014

  1. Pingback: NIH Releases Plans for Implementing FY 2014 Appropriations Legislation | The Washington Update

  2. As you said NIH is totally committed to new investigators. However, few institutes have cancelled such policy for new investigators, such as NHLBI, although it still committed to early investigators. There is a large number of new investigators, who are fighting for survival for their academic career by having their first R01 grants.
    Is that possible for every NIH institute to follow the same NIH policy?

    Thanks

  3. I am a business manager at a T32 grantee institution. I believe that there
    is a significant inequity resulting from the recent NOT-OD-14-046. I
    understand the rationale for the stipend policy being what it is, and our
    situation is one of bad timing; nevertheless, the result is very unfair.

    Two new postdocs were appointed to their positions a year ago, and are
    being reappointed. They will be funded under a grant year awarded prior to
    the effective date of the new stipend levels. Under their reappointment,
    they will be receiving an annual stipend amount of $41,364.

    By contrast, we will have another new postdoc scheduled to be appointed
    shortly — but after the grant’s non-competing renewal. This postdoc will
    be funded under the new award year with FY14 funding, and thus be at the
    $42,000 stipend level — more than the two postdocs who have had a year of
    postdoc experience.

    I know this is the result of bad timing, but that still does little to
    mollify the one year postdocs who will be making less than this brand new
    postdoc. And I expect that this sort of situation is not unique to us and
    our program.

    I am not sure what the correct course of action should be, but I believe
    that NIH needs to recognize that what has happened is not fair, and to
    come up with some quick action in order to make its postdoctoral stipend
    policy fair to those who have already been in the program.

  4. The irony of course is that my budget is always cut dramatically from what I request, the support never goes up between years 1 and 4 of the new award (in fact it went down by 3% in my current year two), and we are expected to pay higher and higher postdoctoral salaries each year. Somehow NIH must think we are all financial magicians akin to Milo Minderbinder from Catch 22. In this case the catch is, we are going to increase salaries but not your level of support (i.e. you will have higher paid workers but no supply money for them to do experiments).

    • Paul is exactly right. These are unfunded mandates by the NIH that the institution and PIs are left to grapple with. For training grants, maybe the NIH will increase the grant amount so that the increased salary mandates can be offset, but for R01s the NIH is actually cutting the grant funds but still expecting the PI to increase post-docs stipends. Something’s gotta give.

      I am not against a living wage and paying good post-docs more. However, the NIH has to reconsider this mandate and allow the PIs some felxibility as they know best which post-doc deserves what.

      • I agree, but it is not only increases in Postdoc salaries that are an unfunded mandate – annual cost-of-living salary increases are the norm for staff and faculty at most institutions, and these increasingly eat into modular budget moneys, as do the seemingly endless increases in reagent costs. Itemized budgets seem to be discouraged unless they are very large, but the modular budget cap of 10 $25k modules has not been raised for years, and never goes up during the course of an award. This needs to be addressed if we want to continue to perform good research on a reasonable budget, instead of a shoestring.

  5. What should training grant PD/PIs do if NIH announces a stipend increase after appointments to the training grant have already been made?
    Wait to hear from the awarding Institute or Center. The grants management official assigned to your grant will revise the Notice of Award (NOA) to incorporate the new stipend levels. Once you receive the revised NOA, you must use xTrain in the eRA Commons to amend any previously accepted appointments to reflect the new stipend levels.

  6. Yes — please consult with your grants management official for help in implementing these new stipend levels.

  7. I enjoy Rock Talk very much.
    My very recent 5 year, study section approved, application scored 2 percentile on the first submission and was just cut to 4 years. No reason was given. Has there been a change in then policy in the number of years even for highly scored applications?

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