One topic of frequent interest to NIH leadership is how R01-equivalent awards compare to other research grant awards. The R01 is the standard mainstay of NIH’s research portfolio, and the oldest grant mechanism in use by NIH. As those familiar with the blog and RePORT know, we usually look at R01s in conjunction with other awards providing similar support analogous to an R01, which includes R37s or MERIT program awards. Of the R01-equivalent pool however, R01s make up the overwhelming bulk of these grants so while we call them R01-equivalents for accuracy-in-reporting reasons, it is highly appropriate to consider R01-equivalent data as representative of R01 trends.
Over the past years we’ve been looking at trends in R01-equivalents compared to trends in awards through the R21 activity code. R21s are exploratory/developmental grants which encourage developmental research, without requiring preliminary data and support early and conceptual stages of project development. After the R01s, R21s are the second most-awarded NIH grant, and R21s receive the second largest percentage of all NIH research project grant dollars. Let’s look at some data on R01-equivalents versus R21s from the NIH Data Book on RePORT:
|Number of R01-equivalent grant applications:||29,627||28,044||27,502|
|Number of R01-equivalent awards:||5,437||4,902||5,163|
|Success rates for R01-equivalent applications:||18%||17%||19%|
|Total amount of funding that went to competing R01-equivalent awards:||$2,335,391,619||$2,072,911,352||$2,290,939,281|
|Total amount of NIH funding that went to R01-equivalents (competing and non-competing):||$11,021,860,936||$10,174,867,296||$10,359,458,392|
|Number of R21 grant applications:||13,743||13,229||14,331|
|Number of R21 awards:||1,932||1,771||2,013|
|Success rates for R21 applications:||14%||13%||14%|
|Total amount of funding that went to competing R21 awards:||$422,632,904||$382,713,272||$433,814,063|
|Total amount of NIH funding that went to R21s (competing and non-competing):||$774,963,587||$763,384,905||$807,267,070|
In FY2014, the number of R21 applications and awards continues to grow and increased to its highest ever since 1998, unlike the pattern for R01-equivalents. While there is no coordinated initiative to encourage scientists to apply to the R21 program, it can be useful for early-stage project development, when the scope of the project is more suited to a shorter, more exploratory award that does not require preliminary data.
We also looked at what proportion of Research Project Grants were R21s in fiscal years 2012 through 2014, and see that this remained fairly stable, at 21.4, 21.3, and 21.8% for FYs ’12, ’13, and ’14 respectively.
The data presented above may help you in deciding which mechanism of support you should consider when applying to NIH. One urban myth has been that R21s have a higher success rate than R01 which is actually contrary to what the data show. Regardless of success rate, however, it is always good to try to match your application with program objectives and let your aims drive the activity code, so to speak. As always, reaching out to an NIH program director before you submit your application is your best bet if you need additional advice on which avenue of support you should seek.
Keep your eyes on the blog as we will continue presenting info and data on the R21 and other NIH programs.