Extramural Investments in Research: FY 2019 By the Numbers


In times of stress and uncertainty, such as what we are all experiencing now, seeing something different may be welcome.  With that in mind, we are taking a few moments to continue our annual tradition spotlighting NIH’s research investments, grant funding, and success rates from the previous fiscal year (FY). You can read these posts from FY 2018, FY 2017, and FY 2016 as well as information on the NIH Data Book for more.

NIH’s total budget in FY 2019 was $39.2 billion (see page 76 of the FY 2021 Congressional Justification overview for more). Of that appropriation, $29.466 billion was awarded to 55,012 new and renewed meritorious extramural grants (excludes  research and development contracts). This investment was up $2.354 billion from FY 2018 (8.68% increase), with 2,369 more grants funded (4.50% increase). 2,738 organizations received these awards—ranging from academic universities, hospitals, small businesses, and others—throughout the U.S. and internationally. 

Table 1 – All Extramural Research (competing and non-competing, excluding contracts)

  2016 2017 2018* 2019*** 2019 % Change from 2018
Number of Awards 48,906 50,103 52,643 55,012 4.50%
Total Amount (in millions) $23,541 $25,013 $27,112 $29,466 8.68%

NIH made a total of 11,035 competing Research Project Grant (RPG) awards in FY 2019. Though 36 fewer awards were made compared to FY 2018, spending on RPGs reached $21.589 billion, rising $1.719 billion over the previous year (8.65% increase), with the average size per award increasing by $18,440 (3.45% increase).

We received 54,903 competing RPG applications in FY 2019, and when accounting for the 11,035 that were funded, this led to a 20.1 percent success rate. Some of these awards helped support several multi-year, high-profile initiatives which began in FY 2019, such as establishing a network to improve opioid treatment in criminal justice settings (see other information on the HEAL Initiative here), bolstering funding for implementation research in areas with high HIV burden, as well as generating and maintaining a comprehensive reference sequence of the human genome.

Table 2 – Research Project Grants (RPG)

  2016 2017 2018* 2019*** 2019 % Change from 2018
Number of research project grant (RPG) applications: 54,220 54,005 54,834 54,903 0.13%
Number of new or renewal (competing) RPG awards: 10,372 10,123 11,071 11,035 -0.33%
Success rate of RPG applications: 19.1% 18.7% 20.2% 20.1%   -0.50%
Average size of RPGs: $499,221 $520,429 $535,239 $553,679 3.45%
Total amount of NIH funding that went to RPGs (both competing and non-competing): (in millions) $17,138 $18,321 $19,870 $21,589 8.65%

Let’s now focus on R01-equivalent grants (see definition), which make up the majority of RPGs. The application success rate was 21.0 percent (35,085 applications submitted with 7,366 awards). The average grant size and overall total spending for R01-equivalents increased in FY 2019, compared to the previous year, to $548,390, (2.64% increase) and $16.435 billion (6.92% increase), respectively.

Table 3 – R01-equivalent Grants

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2019 % Change from 2018
Number of R01-equivalent grant applications: 30,106 31,221  *31,874
Number of new or renewal (competing) R01-equivalent awards: 6,010 6,041   *6,494
Success rates for R01-equivalent applications: 19.96% 19.30%   *20.4%
Average size of R01-equivalent awards: $458,287 $482,395  *$502,880
Total amount of NIH funding that went to R01-equivalents (both competing and non-competing): (in millions) $11,077 $11,960   *$13,100

*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.

***For FY 2019, R01-equivalent grants are defined as activity codes DP1, DP2, DP5, R01, R37, R56, RF1, RL1, U01 and R35 from select National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Human Genome Research Institute program announcements (GM16-003, GM17-004, PAR17-094, PAR17-190, or HG18-006).


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  2. Thank you , Mike

    One suggestion..in reporting RPG size (amount) I would suggest giving Median amounts, not just means.. the mean is very unstable re extremes where a few big ones inflate it.. it appears the mean is above the 500K limit , which is huge, but probably obscures fact that most RPG are modest in size. Median would help present a more realistic picture.

  3. Interesting data and at least the 2018 to 2019 drop in award numbers for the RPG and “R01-equivalent” new/competing is not worse (nothing like the current times to be aware that matters could be yet worse!). It would be even more helpful to have an update or edit in which a straight “R01” (rather than R01-equivalent) numbers and trends are added. [of course, the long-advocated “non-RFA R01-only” data and /or established versus “new” R01-only data – to apply to the huddled masses of people past the first cycle of support is probably just a pipe dream, or a raisin in the sun.

    1. Apologies for the inconvenience. Confirming that NIH RePORT is temporarily unavailable for critical maintenance, and we don’t have an ETA yet for when it will be available. We will keep you posted. In the meantime, NIH RePORTER is still available directly at https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm. If you are trying to access specific content within RePORT, let us know if we can assist by emailing you a specific report directly.

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