Transcription and Translation

More Stats on NIH Funding

… (or where did all the funding go???)

From The Scientific Activist, Mike the Mad Biologist (and Science Mag, where the article was published – I must have missed this). And now PZ Myers and Orac have commented as well.

Look at the drop in total first time RO1s and the drop in the rate of funding.

i-b1610dea27375015170b0c9415cc2231-NIHfunding.jpg

{Update} From the article:

We have collected data (6, 7) on the fate of “unamended” (unsolicited) R01 applications. The unamended R01 represents the original application and does not consider resubmissions. NIH classifies R01 applications into type-1 (new) and type-2 (renewals). Revision and resubmission of initially rejected type-1 applications improve the likelihood of eventual funding by a factor of approximately two (4, 8), with smaller increases for rejected type-2 grants. However, each revision of a rejected application delays by close to a year the time required before support can be approved and research initiated. For type-1 applicants, this is a slow, uncertain process that often leads to career reevaluation and change by otherwise successful professional contributors. For an ongoing and previously approved type-2 research activity, rejection casts major doubt on eventual continuation and frequently results in breaking up teams of highly trained personnel. Therefore, success rates for funding initial applications are of primary importance. It is encouraging that the review process itself may soon be accelerated.

Translation: it’s harder and harder to get a grant funded on the first try. I’ve heard much anecdotal evidence – but this time here are the numbers. This has much to do with the philosophy at the NIH – fund secure projects. But this is crazy. If your new or have a new idea, good freakin luck (maybe you’ll get your grant funded on the 5th try …) {end of update}

WTF???

The numbers speak for themselves … for more on this topic go and read commentaries by Robert Weinberg and Paul Nurse.

Comments

  1. #1 Decidenator
    September 13, 2006

    Why do the stats show only 2 years prior to W? That’s weak.

    And why are the numbers so different from the stats that NIH has on its website? http://grants.nih.gov/grants/award/research/avgr01fy6801.htm

  2. #2 DeskZombie
    September 13, 2006

    I’ve been wondering this as well. The following page has success rates by year, broken down by grant types:

    http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/award/success/Success_ByActivity.cfm

    While the same pattern emerges (a decrease in success rate since the early 2000s), the actual figures are quite different. I think that somehow, these authors have limited the data in this table to include only R01s that were unsolicited (not in response to an RFA) – that breakdown, I cannot find on the NIH Web site, so I don’t know how they figured that out.

    A note on the decrease: If you go back, there was also a low point in success rates the early 1990s as well. They have data available from 1970. It seems to me that to look at the data only from 1999 is a bit biased. Of course, we all like to “massage” the data to suit our purposes, whatever they may be.

  3. #3 apalazzo
    September 13, 2006

    I don’t think that this has to do with Bush. Under his government NIH funding has been flat – that is all his administration (and congress) is responsible for. As for the drop in the numbers of grants – this is unamended unsolicited (i.e. first time grants) and has to do with the machinations of the NIH (see Nurse and Weinberg’s commentaries). I’ll quote the article as to the meaning of the term unamended unsolicited.

  4. #4 Mike the Mad Biologist
    September 13, 2006

    Decidenator,

    the stats on the NIH website include non-competitive renewals. A multi-year grant is renewed every year pending the investigator’s progress report. Typically, the renewal of the grant isn’t in question, unless you really screwed up (although the expected funding can be cut, as Orac mentioned).

    Regarding the Clinton years, Nick covers that here.

  5. #5 Theodore Price
    September 13, 2006

    I read the article on Friday and couldn’t believe it. This is really an outrage. Leadership at NIH is poor, at best. To me that is what it comes down to. Just look at the stem cell debacle. They should have been out there squashing all the misinformation like so many ants. For young researchers getting grants funded early is the only hope for survival, especially when start-up funds are dwindling. I am very glad I am in a semi-applied field (pain neuroscience) where there are multiple foundations that appear to be prepared to pick up the slack. For those whose research is truly basic it is not always obvious that foundation funding is the way to go or that they will be interested in such projects. Life must look very bleak for that subset of talented young scientists right now.

    So, Alex, when you coming back to Canada??

  6. #6 PhysioProf
    September 13, 2006

    I have generated a PDF graph of the numbers of new (Type 1) R01 applications funded every fiscal year from 1972 to 2006 (as of this past May), broken down by initial submission, first resubmission, and second resubmission. I generated this graph based on data extracted from the public NIH CRISP database. I would be happy to e-mail it to someone who could post it. (I do not have easy access to a Web site where I could post it myself.)

  7. #7 apalazzo
    September 13, 2006

    Send it here (microtubules at hotmail dot com).

  8. #8 PhysioProf
    September 13, 2006

    Just sent.

  9. #9 Programeister
    September 14, 2006

    Alex,
    Remember, the statistics presented in the Science article everyone is referring to are just that…statistics. I haven’t examined the raw data used to derive those values nor parsed their exact meanings, but I can tell you that the situation for new investigators isn’t all gloom and doom. First, new investigators get a BIG break by the study section reviewers. The reviewers do not grade new investigators like them do their more seasoned colleagues. Second, most of the institutes (NCI for example) have higher paylines for new investigators (17%) compared to (12%) for established PIs. That said, recognize that it is tough right now, but sometimes you need to focus on the positive.

  10. #10 PhysioProf
    September 14, 2006

    “First, new investigators get a BIG break by the study section reviewers. The reviewers do not grade new investigators like them do their more seasoned colleagues.”

    This was not my experience with the three different R01s I submitted while still officially a “new investigator”. Nor has it been my experience while serving on study section.

    “Second, most of the institutes (NCI for example) have higher paylines for new investigators (17%) compared to (12%) for established PIs.”

    Yes, this is true. Most institutes also try to cut the duration and budget of new investigator R01s less than they do for experienced investigators.

  11. #11 Programeister
    September 15, 2006

    The comment by PhysioProf…”This was not my experience with the three different R01s I submitted while still officially a “new investigator”. Nor has it been my experience while serving on study section.”

    I should have qualified my statement about new investigators getting a break, big or small. I work in grants administration and advise a lot of new investigators on grantsmanship. I attend a lot of different study sections to monitor the progress of grants in my portfolio, so I’d like to think my statement is informed. In my experience, study section reviewer’s always temper their reviews on applications from new investigators. If the study section chair is responsible, this approach is made clear to all the reviewers. That said, being a new investigator won’t salvage a poorly written or scientifically flawed application.

  12. #12 PhysioProf
    September 15, 2006

    It sounds from your post like you are a program officer in one of the Institutes. If so, thank you for providing your perspective in this context.

    If you could indulge a question that I am sure is on the minds of many NIH applicants right now:

    The claim has been made that paylines for 2007 fiscal year are not likely to be worse than for 2006 in most institutes (assuming the final budget is what the President requested), both because there will be a decrease relative to 2006 in the amount of funds committed to non-competitive renewals and because the number of applications is expected not to increase over 2006. Would you care to comment on this analysis?

  13. #13 Programeister
    September 17, 2006

    PhysioProf writes, “The claim has been made that paylines for 2007 fiscal year are not likely to be worse than for 2006 ….care to comment on this analysis?

    I don’t like to venture into speculation. The only sure thing is that paylines won’t likely go up. I do know that we have been doing a fair number of early pays this past cycle–getting grants that would normally start in 2007 started with 2006 funds. Don’t ask how this is done. Since these grants won’t count against next years budget, next year’s payline may hold steady or at most, decrease only a tad. Wether this is all smoke and mirrors, I can’t say. I plan for worse but hope for the best.