More on the Top 20


Last month, I blogged about the number of investigators having multiple awards, with a focus on relatively well-funded investigators (the top 20 percent in total funding, or “Top 20”). We got lots of great questions and comments, but a number of commenters weren’t convinced we busted the myth. For example,

“I don’t know how relevant it is to lump R01s in with R21s and R03s (at the smaller end) and big P and U grants (at the higher end). How do all these different types of grants correlate, and how do the actual DOLLARS per investigator map out to different grant types?”

So I would like to share some more information on the sources of support for the Top 20 and help answer at least part of the question. The figure below shows the 11 most frequently used research project grants used to support these investigators. 

graph showing the Top 20 broken out by activity codes: R01, U01, P01, R21, R37, U19, DP1, R56, R33, DP2

Within the Top 20, those investigators having a single award (about 20 percent of the total) are relatively unlikely to have an R01 award and more likely to have one of the large multi-project grants (U01s, P01s, and U19s). The distribution of grant activities among those Top 20 investigators who have multiple awards is more similar to the overall NIH distribution of these activities. There is a higher frequency of some of the smaller grant mechanisms (R21s and R03s) among investigators not in the Top 20, as you might expect. 

I’ll continue to post additional analyses like this one as we work to better understand patterns of NIH support and the pool of investigators we support.


  1. As I look at the list of top funded investigaotors, it appears many of them are Deans, administrators, etc, who are PIs of huge CTSA-type grants, and the funding from these grants really goes to a large number of people and projects; thus, these grantees are not really like PIs of RO1s, or even PPG-type grants. Indeed, many of these types of “top funded PIs” do not even do research, per se. It would be interesting if these type “PIs” could be carved out, and then look at what fraction of funds go to the top 20% of other types of grantees. M Knowles

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