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.