FY2013 By The Numbers: Research Applications, Funding, and Awards


I’m pleased to announce that the NIH Data Book has been updated with statistics of fiscal year 2013 grant funding. There is much to look at throughout the Data Book so I encourage each of you to do so, but let me just highlight some notable trends.

Application success rates, as I blogged about in December, declined in 2013 to a historic low. In fact, most of the numbers you are going to see throughout the Data Book went down because of the reduction of NIH’s budget due to the sequestration which lowered NIH appropriations by more than 5% or $1.55 billion below the previous fiscal year. So these smaller numbers, such as fewer new awards and lower application success rates, are not surprising.However, we also saw a small decline in incoming applications, the first since before the Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 which bolstered NIH application submissions for a number of years even after ARRA funding ended. Considering applications for FY 2013 funds come in during the previous fiscal year, this reduction in applications cannot be explained by sequestration, and may demonstrate the beginning of a trend, though it is too early to tell. Also, for the first time in recent memory, the average size of awards has gone down. This is likely because we had to accommodate the reduced appropriation and cut all continuing awards by a significant amount, not because we shifted to funding more smaller mechanisms such as the R21s, as these remained at the same proportion of total awards.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

2012 2013
The overall success rate for competing research project grants (RPGs) declined. 17.6% 16.8%
The average size* of RPGs decreased. $454,588 $441,404
The average size* of RPGs in constant (1999) dollars is the lowest ever since 1999. $290,869 $277,653
In 2013, there was an decrease in the total amount of funding that went to RPGs. ** $15,923,746,065 $14,917,675,859
NIH received fewer R01-equivalent grant applications. + 29626 28044
Success rates for R01-equivalent applications decreased. 18.4% 17.5%
The average size* of R01-equivalent awards decreased. $419,321 $405,874
The number of R01-equivalent awards decreased. 5436 4902
R01-equivalents made up a slightly smaller percentage of the total number of RPG awards. 60.2% 59.0%
NIH received fewer R21 grant applications. 13,743 13,229
Success rates for the R21 decreased. 14.1% 13.4%
The number of R21 awards decreased 1,932 1,771
R21s made up the same percentage of the total number of RPG awards. 21.4% 21.3%
The total number of research grant applications received by NIH decreased. 63,524 61,013

*Average sizes are based on competing and non-competing awards from all funding sources.

**Amount of funding is the total competing and non-competing amount for each fiscal year, and not for the life of the project. Includes awards made with Direct Budget Authority, Superfund Budget Authority, and Reimbursable funds.

+ R01-equivalents include R01s and R37s. 98% of R01-equivalent awards are R01s.

These are just some of the updated data available in the NIH Data Book. For example, you can look at the awards by gender and see that about 30% of NIH-funded research grants are held by female PIs and that this has not changed substantially in the past few years. I’ve seen some questions as to how success rates are calculated, so I’d like to remind you that the success rate calculation is also described on RePORT, on the Success Rates page, where you can find even more in-depth information on success rates by institute, activity code, etc. Also, if you remember I’ve posted blogs on how success rates, pay line and percentiles differ, so you may want to go back to the most recent post about this for a refresher.

As FY2014 unfolds, we are optimistic that the budget situation will improve and that we will be able to restore the number of awards at least to a level above FY2013, and to support a higher proportion of the excellent applications we receive.


  1. Dr. Rockey,

    After looking at the numbers you have provided here something struck me as odd. The NIH FY2013 budget after the sequester cuts was ~$29.15 Billion, while funding for all RPGs was at ~$14.9 billion. I know that the intramural funding is generally around 10% of total NIH budget, so lets figure that was about $3 billion. Does this would mean that ~$11 Billion (or about 40% of the total NIH budget) was spent on a combination of F, T, K, P, and U grants as well as overhead? If this is correct, could you give us the amount of money that the NIH spent on F/T/K grants (training, career dev) as well as the amount the NIH spent on overhead in FY2013? For most non-profit organizations 10-15% of funding goes to overhead, I know that the NIH is a different cup of tea because it is a government agency, but I was just wondering how much of the NIH budget goes to overhead.

      1. Hi
        regarding R01s; what number of applications qualifying as Early Stage, or New Investigators were received, and what proportion of these applications was successful?

        Regarding indirect costs on extramural research; this does not appear listed as a line item in the Mechanism Table linked above. Can this be clarified please?

    1. As a Ph.D. student, strive to excel with what you’re doing and remember that the current prolonged crisis – along with the demographics of the baby boom – will combine to create a large demand for new faculty. It’s more that, as an established researcher, it is hyper-demoralizing that after subtracting out the number of competing R01-equivalent awards that go to new / early-stage investigators (who only get that break once in a career), there are only 2/3 as many R01-equivalent grants awarded as 10 yr ago. Meanwhile, the past 10 yr have seen about 15,000 once-in-a-lifetime new investigator R01-equivalent grants awarded, so a much bigger pool of fish are chasing a heckuva lot less food. However, that is not sustainable so by the time you’ve finished a Ph.D. and good post-doctoral training (should you choose that route), universities are going to need good researchers who will have a new chance.

  2. When you report the size of grants, is that annual or total award, and is it direct only or total direct and indirect? I’m assuming annual direct costs based on the average R01 number, but perhaps it’s total award and people really are having a lot of very small R01s funded.

  3. It would also be useful to know how much indirect costs have changed over the years: if they have increased, then the average size of RPGs in constant (1999) dollars is even lower for each investigator (who does not “see” the indirect costs for daily lab research).

  4. The success rates for R01s specifically are lower than “R01-equivalent” applications. These percentages are lower still for new R01 applications (for example, when competing renewals are considered separately).

    I found these discouraging numbers at http://report.nih.gov/DisplayRePORT.aspx?rid=565. As an example, the 2013 success rate for a new R01 application through NIAID was 12.3%. Through NCI it was 13.0%. We will indeed lose an entire generation of young scientists.

    1. But note – a “new application” can be from an established investigator. It really is important that NIH release the numbers of grants awarded to “NEW” investigators.

      1. You can find data on new NIH investigators in the NIH Data Book. Go to the “NIH-Funded Workforce” section, then to “New NIH Investigators” for additional data on established and first-time investigators.

  5. Good information. Is there a reason why the number of RO-1 and R-21 submissions have declined? Are more and more people leaving science?
    I would also appreciate how the new health care initiatives have impacted the fringe benefit rates of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students paid by grants? In our institution, the fringe benefit rate has dramatically increased eating a major chunk of the grant money.

  6. Writing R01 Applications Consumes About 50% of the Total R01 Research Dollar !

    A full RO1 application can easily consume a month of a researcher’s time, not counting additional assistance from his administrative support group. Given that the success rate is only about one out of six, each RO1 awarded consumes the equivalent of about six months of a qualified researchers effort, a value, including indirect costs, which equals no less than $225,000.

    Thus, with an average R01 award being in the range of $450,000, fully half of the funds that NIH allots to its R01 research program goes to writing grant applications instead of to performing research.

    To me, this indicates that a new model for the NIH grant awarding process is long overdue. Although possibly an anathema to its historical position, it might be time for NIH to consider the use of white papers or some other means of pre-selecting research concepts so that only the most likely to win awards will require the preparation of a full submission.

  7. To look at these numbers another way, the NIH budget was cut by 5% or $1.5B but RPGs were cut from $15,923,746,065 to $14,917,675,859 or $1,006,169,206 or 6.7%. This breaks down as follows: A drop in the number of RPG awards from 35,029 to 33,796 (calculated from the total amount of RPG funding and the average award sizes) or 3.6% and a decrease in the average size of an RPG award from $454,588 to $441,404 or 3.0%. It appears that RPGs absorbed a disproportionate cut.

  8. How can Success Rate be at 18%-17.5%, when the institute I apply to 6% success rate? Does it mean there are institutes where success rate is 25-30%? Where?? I would very much like to know so I can apply to!

  9. Could CSR publish a graph of the total number of competing and noncompeting awards (and perhaps also the associated $$) made from 2009 to 2014? Because the information on the NIHReporter indicates that in 2014 nearly every institution has about half of the grants and dollars that it had in 2009. If this can be mostly ascribed to a reduction in the number of competing grants (20% of total funding- but bearing all of the sequester cuts), then the total number of competing awards should have dipped lowest in 2012-2013 and *now be slowly rising* since the sequester money was restored -and the grants turn over.
    Is this indeed the case? is there hope for the future?

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