As we continue to explore the question of how many researchers NIH funds, we have been observing a positive trend over the last few years where the number of unique scientists seeking support on NIH research project grants (RPGs) is stabilizing along with a commensurate rise in the corresponding NIH cumulative investigator rate. Now with fiscal year (FY) 2019 data available on the NIH Data Book, let’s see if this trend continued.
As described on our grants page, the R21 activity code “is intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of project development.” NIH seeks applications for “exploratory, novel studies that break new ground,” for “high-risk, high-reward studies,” and for projects that are distinct from those that would be funded by the traditional R01. R21 grants are short duration (project period for up to 2 years) and lower in budget than most R01s (combined budget over two years cannot exceed $275,000 in direct costs). NIH institutes and centers (ICs) approach the R21 mechanism in variable ways: 18 ICs accept investigator-initiated R21 applications in response to the parent R21 funding opportunity, while 7 ICs only accept R21 applications in response to specific funding opportunity announcements. As mentioned in a 2015 Rock Talk blog, we at NIH are interested in trends in R01s in comparison to other research project grants, so today I’d like to continue and expand on looking at R01 and R21 trends across NIH’s extramural research program. ….
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. ….