As you may know, the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2013 was released on Monday. The request for the NIH is $30.86B, the same overall level as fiscal year 2012. The full details of the NIH budget request are posted on the NIH Office of Budget website, but I want to highlight some topics I often discuss here, namely the number and management of research grants.
As described in the budget document, we estimate that these funds will support 9,415 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in fiscal year 2013, an increase of 672 above fiscal year 2012. In order to maximize resources in fiscal year 2013 for investigator-initiated grants, and to continue to focus on resources for young, first-time researchers, we propose to reduce non-competing RPGs by one percent from the fiscal year 2012 level, and to negotiate the budgets of competing RPGs to avoid growth in the average award size (estimate of -1 percent) from fiscal year 2012. Also, we will no longer build in the inflationary increases that were included for planning purposes in the out-years of competing and non-competing awards.
We will continue to follow current policies that allow new investigators to receive grants at rates equal to those of established investigators.
Finally, we will establish a process for additional scrutiny and review of awards to any principal investigator with existing grants of $1.5 million or more in total costs. The review will be conducted by an institute’s or center’s advisory council. This is similar to a policy NIGMS has had for many years, which will likely serve as good model for how we may implement this policy.
If some of the measures described above sound familiar, you may be thinking of the information we posted last October on ways of managing NIH resources. We asked for your comments on this information, either as responses on the blog (here and here) or directly to us by email. We received comments from 348 entities (individuals and institutions), with many people commenting multiple times on the blog. The vast majority of commenters were individuals, but we also heard from some institutions.
Some commenters thought we should keep the current system, but many others supported implementation of one or more of the options. Specifically, a number of commenters were in favor of the following options (in order of the support they received):
- Limit the number of awards per PI
- Limit the amount of funds per PI
- Limit salaries of PIs
- Reduce or limit size of awards
In addition, many commenters suggested options that were not described in the Ways of Managing Resources presentation. Some options that were mentioned include limiting indirect costs, limiting certain programs (for example, large project grants), and providing more resources to small labs and individuals by limiting grants to large labs.
So thank you for your thoughtful comments. As you can see, having a dialog with the community in as many venues as possible is essential as we continue to consider how to manage our resources to fund as much of the best science as possible in these challenging fiscal times.