Mid-career Investigators and Shifting Demographics of NIH Grant Recipients

While NIH policies focus on early stage investigators, we also recognize that it is in our interest to make sure that we continue to support outstanding scientists at all stages of their career. Many of us have heard mid-career investigators express concerns about difficulties staying funded. In a 2016 blog post we looked at data to answer the frequent question, “Is it more difficult to renew a grant than to get one in the first place?” We found that new investigators going for their first competitive renewal had lower success rates than established investigators. More recently, my colleagues in OER’s Statistical Analysis and Reporting Branch and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute approached the concerns of mid-career investigators in a different way – by looking at the association of funding with age. Today I’d like to highlight some of the NIH-wide findings, recently published in the PLOS ONE article, “Shifting Demographics among Research Project Grant Awardees at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)”. Using age as a proxy for career stage, the authors analyzed funding outcomes for three groups …. Continue reading

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Meet NIH & HHS in New Orleans for the NIH Regional Seminar, May 3-5!

Do you remember walking into the person’s office down the hall from you when you needed to ask a question, instead of “popping” them an email, instant message, or text? There’s no disputing that the digital age definitely has its advantages – making information sharing faster, cheaper, and more convenient, and allowing us to communicate locally and abroad in seconds. But in this fast paced world of instant communication – the internet, email, and all of our social media choices – sometimes we forget how valuable face-to-face interactions can be. That is exactly one of the reasons I love the NIH Regional Seminars on Grant Funding and Program Administration. The seminars give me the opportunity to join over 60 of my fellow NIH and HHS faculty in sharing our knowledge and perspectives to …. Continue reading

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Following up on the Research Commitment Index as a Tool to Describe Grant Support

Many thanks for your terrific questions and comments to last month’s post, Research Commitment Index: A New Tool for Describing Grant Support. I’d like to use this opportunity to address a couple of key points brought up by a number of commenters; in later blogs, we’ll focus on other suggestions.

The two points I’d like to address here are: 1) why use log-transformed values when plotting output (annual weighted relative citation ratio, or annual RCR) against input (annual research commitment index, or annual RCI), and 2) what is meant by diminishing returns. …. Continue reading

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FY2016 By The Numbers

Over the past few days, we released our annual web reports, success rates and NIH Data Book with updated numbers for fiscal year 2016. Overall, we see steady increases. In addition to looking back over the numbers we typically highlight in this post, we want to point out several new research project grant (RPG)-specific activity codes used to support extramural research. FY 2016 saw the launch of some new …. Continue reading

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Research Commitment Index: A New Tool for Describing Grant Support

On this blog we previously discussed ways to measure the value returned from research funding. Several of my colleagues and I, led by NIGMS director Jon Lorsch – chair of an NIH Working Group on Policies for Efficient and Stable Funding – conceived of a “Research Commitment Index,” or “RCI.” We focus on the grant activity code (R01, R21, P01, etc) and ask ourselves about the kind of personal commitment it entails for the investigator(s). We start with the most common type of award, the R01, and assign it an RCI value of 7 points. And then, in consultation with our NIH colleagues, we assigned RCI values to other activity codes: fewer points for R03 and R21 grants, more points P01 grants. Continue reading

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Status of Our Initiatives to Strengthen Clinical Trials

In September Dr. Carrie Wolinetz and I blogged about our policy reforms to build a more robust clinical trials enterprise through greater stewardship and transparency at each phase of the clinical trial journey from conception to sharing of results. We discussed how these efforts promise to improve the quality and efficiency of clinical trials, translating into more innovative and robust clinical trial design, and accelerated discoveries that will advance human health.

Over the past months we have continued to partner with the community to work through the implementation of these new policies, developing responses to frequently asked questions and even reconsidering the timing of our single IRB policy to give our grantees time to work through how to operationalize the change. …. Continue reading

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One Year (or so) of “Open Mike”

As the year 2016 ends, my first full year in my new role here at NIH, I’d like to reflect on some of the topics covered here on Open Mike. Thanks to our NIH Regional Seminars, I have had the pleasure of hearing feedback from some of you in person, and I am also greatly appreciative of our virtual interactions, through the thoughtful comments posted by blog readers in this space. Our blog opened on October 19, 2015, when I noted that NIH is an extraordinary success story; even skeptics identify NIH as a government program that works. But at the same time, I also noted that all is not well with the biomedical research enterprise. In many respects, the 50+ blogs that followed have dug deeper into our anxieties and challenges. The sidebar highlights five major themes arising over the past year or so, and blogs related to those categories. To get a sense of community interest, we have also compiled some reader statistics. Further below, Table 1 shows which blogs, as of December 27, received the most page views, and Table 2 shows which blogs received the most comments. These themes, your viewership, and your comments …. Continue reading

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Characteristics and Outcomes of R01 Competing Renewal Applications (“Type 2s”)

An investigator’s long-term success depends not only on securing funding, but on maintaining a stable funding stream. One way to assure continued funding is to submit a competing renewal application. However, as we noted earlier this year, while new investigators were almost as successful as experienced investigators in obtaining new (type 1) R01s, the difference between new investigator and experienced investigator success rates widens when looking at competing renewals (type 2s), and success rates of new investigators’ first renewals were lower than those of experienced investigators. In addition, we know that since the end of NIH’s budget doubling in 2003, success rates for competing renewals of research project grants overall have decreased. To further understand trends in success rate for R01 competing renewals (“type 2s”) I’d like to share some additional analyses where we look at characteristics of type 2 R01 applications, and the association of their criterion scores with overall impact score and funding outcomes. Continue reading

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