Nexus April 2011
Dr. Sally Rockey

Rock Talk

More on Women in Research Careers

Last month I blogged about the participation of women in NIH extramural programs, and I promised more information when the paper that we prepared in collaboration with the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health came out, so here it is. You can read the full article External Web Site Policy to delve into the analytical details, but I wanted to highlight a few of the important findings, primarily focusing on the R01 program.

The paper presents two studies. The first, a cross-sectional analysis from fiscal year 2008 data, compared women’s and men’s grant application, success, and funding rates for 17 award programs (plus T32 trainees) that represent a typical “career ladder.” As shown in the figure below, which summarizes data shown in the report, the proportion of women applicants compared to men generally decreased at more advanced career stages. Similar findings appeared in a 2007 National Academies report. External Web Site Policy

Graph showing the Average Age and % Female of Awardees

The report goes on to show small differences in the success rates or funding rates between women and men for most research programs. Looking specifically at the R01 program, the sexes had equal success rates (23%); however, women had small and what appear to be persistently lower funding rates than men (26% vs. 28%), presumably because men submit more applications per person than women. When we looked separately at new (type 1) applications, the sexes had nearly equal success and funding rates but there were differences with renewal (type 2) applications where men had higher funding rates.   Another bright spot is that women and men awardees both received the same percentage of requested direct costs (87.5%) and women actually received larger awards than men. 

The second part of the paper goes on to show that men were more likely to have more than one concurrent R01 awards than women. But, looking at all principal investigators with two, three, or four concurrent awards, the study shows that women attain these milestones when they are younger than men. Honing in on factors that may explain the  differences between male and female applicants, the paper shows that proportionately more women proposed human subjects research than men (~50% vs. ~30%), and they were equally successful on those applications. However, it was noted that many of these projects are less likely to be submitted for renewal. Also, women were less successful than men on applications that did not involve human subjects.

Our take… Overall, the authors showed that women have comparable success and funding rates to men for most award programs. And, women awardees, on average, received at least as much as men in direct costs requested per application. However, there remain areas that I think could benefit from improvement, including retaining more women in biomedical research as they climb the career ladder. Continuing to look critically at trends in funding will be important as we move forward.

I encourage you to take a look at the paper by Pohlhaus, J.R.; Jiang, H.; Wagner, R. M.; Schaffer, W. T.; Pinn, V. W., “Sex Differences in Application, Success, and Funding Rates for NIH Extramural ProgramsExternal Web Site Policy Academic Medicine 86 (6): 759 June, 2011.

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Be Prepared for the Unexpected

I have heard recently from various groups in our community that there are increasing calls to action from animal rights activists. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions and to work for causes they believe in. Unfortunately, when the call to action involves intimidation, threats and violence it turns from voicing opinions to inciting acts of terrorism. Threatening the safety of scientists and students both at their home and at their institutions is terrorism and, plainly put, is intolerable.

NIH supports the judicious and ethical use of animals in research to develop life-saving treatments for many diseases affecting the public health. All animals used in federally-funded research are protected by laws, regulations and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their humane care and use. Fulfilling these protections is a collaborative effort between NIH, federally-supported scientific investigators, and research institutions. I know that those of you who are federally-supported scientists and institutions, are committed to upholding the laws, regulations and policies that ensure the appropriate care and use of animals in your studies.   

Being prepared for the unexpected, whether it is from natural disasters or human-directed events, can help mitigate deleterious effects to both your animals and yourself. We have a variety of resources that you can use as you build your preparedness program. I hope you will take the time to prepare a plan but will never have the need to use it.

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Myth Busting: Number of Grants per Investigator

Update 5/13: The second graph and the table below are incorrect and have been updated in a new post.

 Meetings have taken me out of the office and made me a bit negligent in my blogging.  Let’s catch back up by discussing more about the distribution of NIH funding.   

There are many urban legends about NIH funding, only some of which have some basis in fact. For example, we often hear that there are many successful PIs who continuously add to their bounty by piling on more and more NIH awards. Is this true?

Take a look at the graph below to see, on average, how many NIH research project grants a PI holds in any given year.

                      Average Number of Competing and Non Competing RPG Awards per Contact PI per Year

Graph showing average number of competing and non competing RPG awards per PI per year

In fact, on average, PIs only have between one and two awards at a time. It differs among PIs at different institution types but only slightly. However, if we take a look at the investigators who receive the most funding (the top 20% of the total pool), we see they averaged 2.2 grants in fiscal year 2009; although, a significant portion have three grants ongoing at any given time. 

Top 20% Highest-Funded Investigators: Distribution by Number of RPG Grants Held

It is important to point out that NIH makes funding decisions based on our vigorous review process and the alignment of proposed research with IC priorities. Thus the success of any applicant, and the number of grants she or he holds, is based on a competitive process that I believe these data well reflect. Having said that, these data point to the fact that NIH awards are generally distributed broadly among PIs and not concentrated among a few.

Updated 4/8/11

Here are the raw numbers used to create figure 2 above.

Number of RPGs Held Number of PIs (Top 20%)
FY 1986 FY  1998 FY 2004 FY 2009
1 1,203 1,010 975 1,168
2 1,832 2,345 2,725 2,868
3 580 1,138 1,841 1,637
4 176 407 735 636
5 43 123 265 193
6 10 26 91 67
7 2 13 24 14
8 1 5 14 9
9 0 1 1 2
10+ 1 0 2 0
Total 3,848 5,068 6,673 6,594

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Top Stories

The Right Steps for Filing an Appeal

Have you ever been dissatisfied with the result of your initial peer review? Have you wondered how the NIH appeals process works? Did you know that there is a difference between a grievance and an appeal? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are in luck, because NIH just reissued and clarified the appeals policy for any decision made during the first level of review (NOT-OD-11-064). The policy applies to all competing applications received for due dates on or after January 25, 2011.

The appeals process works like this. First, the investigator must contact the NIH program officer (PO) to discuss the concerns and outcomes. Second, if the investigator would still like to proceed with an appeal, he or she should contact their authorized organization representative (AOR), since that person must concur with the appeal in order for it to be accepted by NIH. The appeal letter must meet these three criteria:

  1. Describe the flaws in the review process;
  2. Explain the reasons for the appeal; and
  3. Be based on one or more of the following issues:
    • Evidence of bias on the part of one or more peer reviewers;
    • Conflict of interest, as specified in regulation at 42 CFR 52h.5. “Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects”, on the part of one or more peer reviewers;
    • Lack of appropriate expertise within the Scientific Review Group (SRG); or
    • Factual error(s) made by one or more reviewers that could have altered the outcome of review substantially.

If the letter does not meet the criteria listed above, then the concern is probably a grievance and not an appeal. Also, if the appeal letter is based solely on differences of scientific opinion, it will not be accepted by NIH as an appeal. 

Then, if review staff and program staff support the appeal, the original application will be re-reviewed. If the review and program staff do not support the appeal, then the PD/PI can either withdraw the appeal, or the appeal letter can be made available to the IC’s council during the second level of review.

Finally, if the appeal goes to council, council can either recommend re-review or deny the appeal. The PD/PI will be notified of the decision within 30 days of the council meeting.

More details are provided in the complete Guide Notice, NOT-OD-11-064.

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New Resources

Developing Your Budget Podcast

All About Grants logoIn this podcast on developing your budget, Grace Olascoaga, a grants management officer from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, helps you figure out what to include in the budget, which form to use, and where to go for help. For more information, visit OER’s developing your budget page.

To get new All About Grants podcasts as they are released, subscribe by visiting us on iTunes or catch our podcast RSS using your favorite software.

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Stay Informed with MyRePORTER Alerts

Since its release last year, MyRePORTER has allowed you to create and save custom queries to search for projects in the RePORTER database. Now the MyRePORTER function has gone one step further to keep you up-to-date on NIH funded research projects. With just a few clicks, you can easily subscribe to receive weekly email alerts for new projects that have been added to the RePORTER database that match your saved queries.

To sign up for these alerts, sign in to your MyRePORTER account (if you don’t have one, learn how to create one) and check the boxes in the “Alert” column to receive alerts for saved queries.

Image showing MyRePORTER dashboard with Alerts column highlighted

Once you have chosen the queries of interest, you will automatically receive a weekly email with up to 25 new entries. If there are more than 25 new projects, there will be a link to the full list in RePORTER.

Image showing MyRePORTER email alert

To learn more about the features of RePORT or to find out how to sign up for the RePORT listserv, visit the inaugural issue of the RePORT ReSource newsletter.

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New Website to Help Researchers Collaborate

Clinical & Translation Science Award LogoA new Collaboration Opportunities website, sponsored by the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Consortium, is designed to help researchers post requests for needed collaborators and search for opportunities to collaborate with others. Those who post and respond do not need to be affiliated with a CTSA institution.

Postings can be for either developing projects or for more established projects in need of collaborators. Projects should address an interesting question in clinical or translational science. If you want to be notified when colleagues post projects, please subscribe at CollabOppNotice.

The NIH National Center for Research Resources administers the CTSA program, which supports a cooperative network of institutions focused on advancing clinical and translational research.

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Podcast on Clinical Research Inclusion

All About Grants logoAs we continue our podcast series on grant writing, Dr. Della Hann, Deputy Director OER, explains why it’s important to include women, minorities and children in clinical research. Wonder what you should do if your enrollment projections are not quite on target? Listen to “Including All in Clinical Research” for the answer to this question and more.

To get new All About Grants podcasts as they are released, subscribe by visiting us on iTunes or catch our podcast RSS using your favorite software.

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You Ask, We Answer

Frequently Asked Transparency Act Questions

The main questions we hear about Transparency Act reporting are:

  1. Who must report on subaward and executive compensation information?
    Recipients of NIH grants and cooperative agreement awards must report executive compensation and subaward information only when they receive new NIH (Type 1) awards issued on or after October 1, 2010. A new award can be identified by the “1” appearing as the first digit in the award number (e.g., 1R01CA987654). This requirement currently does not include receipt of NIH Type 2, Type 3, Type 5 or other awards issued on or after October 1, 2010.

  3. How long after my award is issued will it appear in for reporting?
    In most cases, awards should be available in for reporting purposes within a month of the issue date listed on the Notice of Award. Submission of grant award information from NIH requires transmission through multiple government systems, including the HHS TAGGS (Tracking Accountability in Government Grants System), before it becomes available in Time is then required for to successfully transmit the data to; only then is it available for subaward and executive compensation reporting. 

Looking for more information on Transparency Act reporting requirements? Visit our Web page dedicated to the topic or e-mail us at If you have questions about the system used to report subaward and executive compensation data, please contact the Federal Service Desk at

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May 13, 2011: CTSA Collaboration and Resource Sharing Symposium

Date: May 13, 2011

Time: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: NIH Main Campus, Building 31, Wing C, 6th Floor, Conference Room 10

What Will Be Learned

NIH’s National Center for Research Resources Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program and the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) will sponsor a one-day symposium designed to encourage collaboration and resource sharing. among members of the Military Health Service (MHS) and the CTSA consortium.

Focus areas will include:

  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Health Economics
  • Applied Informatics

Participants will learn about existing Military Health System (MHS) clinical data resources, plans for building a de-identified data store to support data-intensive studies, and a vision to sponsor external research/enhance internal research leveraging of this data. Workshop presentations will include:

  • Existing MHS clinical data resources
  • ONC Vision for Secondary Use of EHR Data
  • New Approaches for Point-of-Care Design
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Insights from Behavioral Economics into Improved Health Outcomes
  • Clinical Data De-Identification and Re-Identification
  • Mechanics of Sharing and Data Integration with the CTSA
  • Research Data Warehousing: Designing for Interoperability and Maximum Use

The workshop will culminate in the collaborative development of a white paper identifying the significant research questions that can be addressed through the MHS data warehouse and the actions necessary to move this research agenda forward.

View Agenda

Who Should Attend

Members of the Military Health Service (MHS) and the CTSA consortium are welcome to attend.

More Information

Register Now

Seating is limited on the NIH campus so participating via VideoCast is recommended.

For more information, contact James Whitlock (AFMS) or Dr. Jody Sachs (NCRR)

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April 15-16, 2011: Collaborating with CTSAs to Advance Pain Research Meeting

National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. Providing clinical and translational researchers with the training and tools they need to transform basic discoveries into improved human health.

NIH’s National Center for Research Resources and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Pain Researchers Interest Group will jointly sponsor a two-day meeting designed to encourage collaboration with the CTSA consortium to advance pain research, with an emphasis on pelvic and sickle cell pain.  

Friday, April 15, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 16, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Natcher Conference Center (Bldg. 45), Main Auditorium
National Institutes of Health
45 Center Drive
Bethesda, Md. 20892

This event will be held in conjunction with the Sixth Annual NIH Pain Consortium meeting.

Register by April 11, 2011, at

The final meeting agenda is now available and can be viewed through the link below. 

View Agenda

Basic, clinical and translational researchers are invited to this meeting designed to identify the issues and challenges surrounding the unique, unmet needs of pelvic pain (gastrointestinal, genital-urinary and gynecological) and sickle cell pain. Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about evidence-based research and treatments,
  • Collaboratively identify gaps in knowledge concerning these pain conditions, and
  • Compile a list of recommendations and action items.

Internationally-recognized pain researcher Gerald Gebhart, director of the Center for Pain Research at the University of Pittsburgh and the immediate past-president of the International Association for the Study of Pain, will provide an introduction to chronic pain syndromes along with sickle cell expert Carlton Dampier of the Emory University School of Medicine.

For more logistical information, contact Nicole Numbers at 301-650-8660 or NCRR’s Dr. Andrea Sawczuk is temporarily unavailable; in the interim, please contact Dan Rosenblum at for program information.

Individuals with disabilities who need Sign Language Interpreters and/or reasonable accommodation to participate in this event should contact Dr. Rosenblum and/or the Federal Relay at 800-877-8339. Requests should be made at least five days in advance of the event.

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