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NIH Annual Snapshot – FY 2018 By the Numbers

We recently released our annual web reports and success rate data with updated numbers for fiscal year (FY) 2018. These web products represent annual snapshots of NIH research investments, which are highlighted in this post.

Before delving into the numbers, we want to draw your attention to the new and modernized NIH Data Book recently released. This easy to navigate tool enables users to access and interact with a wealth of data ranging from NIH funding, research grant types, success rates, and much more (see this NIH Open Mike post for more).

Now, let’s look at the numbers.  In FY 2018, NIH’s budget increased $2 billion over the previous year’s appropriations.  About 83 percent of the NIH budget supports extramural research. In FY2018, NIH issued 47,000 competing and non-competing research project grant (RPG) awards totaling about $26 billion.  Compared to extramural research expenditures in FY 2017, there were increases in number of competing applications, number of awards, success rates, and funding amount for both RPGs and R01-equivalent grants. The increases in funding supported an array of research areas across NIH, including activities focused around the BRAIN initiative, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer Moonshot, and the All of Us Program.

NIH extramural dollars supported research conducted at more than 2,700 organizations.  Across both competing and non-competing RPG awards, 950 organizations receive $19,869,684,598,  an 8.5 percent increase over FY 2017. The average size of awards for RPGs also increased by 2.8 percent from $520,429 to $535,239.

NIH received 54,834 competing research project grant applications in FY 2018, which was a 1.5 percent increase from 2017.  From those applications, we awarded 11,071 RPGs as of September 30, 2018, 9.4 percent more than last fiscal year.  Our RPG success rate went up as well from 18.7 percent in 2017 to 20.2 percent as of September 30.  Due to a significant amount of FY 2018 appropriations carrying over into FY 2019, there will be additional competing awards made with those funds in response to FY 2018 or FY 2019 applications.

R01-equivalent grant applications comprise the majority of RPGs. From the 34,584 competing applications received, 7,517 awards were made. Success rates for R01-equivalent grants went up from 19.3 percent in FY 2017 to 21.7 percent in 2018. In total, NIH awarded $15.4 billion towards competing and non-competing R01-equivalent grants in 2018. Of note, while the RPG definition remained the same from 2017, NIH expanded the R01-equivalent grant definition to include the DP1, DP2, DP5, R01, R37, R56, RF1, RL1, U01 and selected R35 activity codes. As a result, there are more applications, awards, and funding amounts for R01-equivalents compared to RPGs.

Looking at R01-equivalent grants using the FY 2017 R01-equivalent definition, NIH still reviewed more applications and funded more awards in FY 2018 than in FY 2017. Furthermore, NIH awarded $13.1 billion, $1.1 billion more than FY 2017, towards competing and non-competing R01-equivalent grants. The success rate was 20.4 percent in FY 2018, which was higher that in FY 2017.

The table below highlights these and some additional numbers from 2018 and past fiscal years as a comparison.

All Extramural Research (competing and non-competing, excluding contracts)   20162017     2018
Number of Awards 48,906 50,103 52,643
Total Amount (in million) $23,541 $25,013 $27,112
Research Project Grants      
Number of research project grant (RPG) applications: 54,220 54,005   54,834
Number of new or renewal (competing) RPG awards: 10,372 10,123   11,071
Success rate of RPG applications: 19.1% 18.7%   20.2%
Average size of RPGs: $499,221 $520,429   $535,239
Total amount of NIH funding that went to RPGs (both competing and non-competing): (in million)  $17,138 $18,321   $19,870

Number of R01-equivalent grant applications: 30,106 31,221 *31,874   **34,584
Number of new or renewal (competing) R01-equivalent awards: 6,010 6,041 *6,494 **7,517
Success rates for R01-equivalent applications: 19.96% 19.3%     *20.4%   ** 21.7%
Average size of R01-equivalent awards:   $458,287   $482,395 *$502,880 **$534,281
Total amount of NIH funding that went to R01-equivalents (both competing and non-competing): (in million) $11,077 $11,960 *$13,100   **$15,371

*Number or dollars are based on FY 2017’s R01-equivalent definition.

**The R01-equivalent definition has been expanded to include other activity codes such as the U01 Research Project–Cooperative Agreement, to support discrete, specified, circumscribed projects involving substantial efforts for research conducted by investigators.   The number or dollars are based on FY 2018’s R01-equivalent definition.

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4 thoughts on “NIH Annual Snapshot – FY 2018 By the Numbers

  1. Dear Mike,
    Attracting a new generation to academic science is our collective challenge, and the allure of working on projects initiated by others is unlikely to do it. My concern is that the funding for investigator-initiated projects is declining, and as a result, so does the fraction of trainees remaining interested in a career as a PI. The decision to “include the DP1, DP2, DP5, R01, R37, R56, RF1, RL1, U01” in your statistical analysis is unfortunate as it obscures the fraction of funding dedicate to investigator-initiated grants vs. the fraction dedicated to mechanisms initiated by the various institutes (e.g., UO1). It will be important to add a table reflecting the $$ amounts directed into each category, or at least separate the investigator initiated (RO1, R35, etc’) from the rest, so that we can track funding for investigator initiated awards across the NIH.

    • This comment raises an excellent point!
      I am not sure how the funding for ‘RO1-equivalent’ applications is listed at ~20%, when we all know that the NCI payline for RO1s is around 7-8 percentile.
      We need to see the REAL payline for investigator initiated RO applications, not some difficult to interpret caclulation that seems to artificially create a basket of projects lumped together with an unrealistic success rate.

      • Pay the man! (literally and figuratively). Another important point to consider is that there has been an increasing concentration of wealth in NIH funding similar to that in our society at large [Peifer M. The argument for diversifying the NIH grant portfolio. Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Nov 1;28(22):2935-2940]. For a proper evaluation of this issue, one needs to see the historical trends in the number of individual investigators with actual R01 research grants (not “R01-equivalents”) reported along with the other data, both in aggregate and by age cohort. I, for one, am very worried about the future of the entire biomedical research enterprise in the US when the average age for getting a first R01 is now in the mid 40s and when the actual paylines for R01 grants at some Institutes are below 10% (8% at NCI in 2019 []).

      • I fully agree with the earlier comments asking for data that differentiate the investigator initiated R01 from the remaining mechanisms. Thank you.

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