Although Nature News Blog reported in October that the NIH was still reconsidering its elimination of A2 applications, today Sally Rockey posted data in support of the sunset policy and ended speculation that a second amended application might again be welcomed at CSR.
In addition to funding a higher proportion of A0 applications (compared with A1), “the average time to award from submission of A0 applications has been reduced from 93 weeks to 56 weeks.”
She also goes on to address the possibility of limited A2 submission for those A1s that scored just outside the payline (whatever that means …):
We looked at this issue using data from fiscal year (FY) 2011. If A1 applications with percentile scores below 25% were allowed to submit an A2 application in FY2011, it would have resulted in 764 unsolicited A2 R01 applications. 165 of the new applications were from new investigators. In addition, only a small minority of eligible applications (37 of 218 renewals) were from investigators trying to renew a previous new investigator award.
Assuming the most extreme case – that all 764 of these A2 applications would have been funded, NIH would have been able to fund 21% fewer A0 applications and 19% fewer A1 applications in FY2011 (figure 3). These displaced A0 and A1 applications would be highly likely to come back as A1s and A2s (as most displaced A1s would become eligible under the modified policy) and the average time to award would increase.
In the end, she notes,
Overall, these data indicate that the policy to sunset A2 applications continues to achieve the stated goals of enabling NIH to fund as much meritorious science as possible in as short a time period as possible. Any revision to the policy to allow additional resubmissions of all or a subset of A2 applications will displace equally meritorious A0 and A1 applications, and increase the time to award for many applications. For these reasons, we have decided to continue the policy in its current form.