NIH Under Science’s Microscope

This week in Science, you might appreciate brief examination of the NIH budgets past & present and the overwhelmed peer review system.

One key tidbit includes the rather dramatic jump in awards for A2 (third & final) R01 submissions owing to the dismal chances of success the first time in: “Across NIH, the success rate (the number of funded grants divided by applications) in 2006 jumped from 8% for first-time R01 applications to 28% for second submissions and to 47% for third attempts. In 1998, in contrast, the difference between first and third application success rates was smaller: 21% and 41%.”

That 8% first-time submission success rate breaks down to 7% for established PIs and 9% for new investigators.

And of course, the results are predictable: “NIH officials say they’re hearing from many scientists who … can’t keep their labs running. “I get phone calls from people saying, ‘I’m letting my people go, what do I do now?’ ” says Michael Oberdorfer, a program director at the National Eye Institute. ‘I feel like I’m doing a lot of social work.'”

Of course, when the budget was doubling, research institutions celebrated by planning new buildings and went shopping for investigators to fill them. So not suprisingly … “In 1998, fewer than 20,000 scientists sought research grants from the agency; in 2006, that number was more than 33,000, and according to NIH forecasts, the number of applicants is expected to top 35,000 in 2007. The number of applications has grown at an even faster clip, as scientists, concerned about their chance of getting funded, are submitting proposals more frequently.” Sounds like something we’ve discussed before

In other cheery news, “77% of the research budget [is] tied up in ongoing projects, including grants that last several years” … so not a lot of leeway for taking on new projects. So don’t discover anything paradigm-shifting just yet!

1 Comment »

  1. atipatel said

    informative site with good links

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