It has dawned on me that the recent limitation of NIH grant applications to a single revision round (previously it was two) may have some implications for competing continuation applications. These are currently termed "renewals" and as NIAID advises:
To reestablish funding, you have two choices. You can renew your current grant, called a renewal, or submit a "new" application.
Your situation and the science dictate which route is most advantageous.
Hmm, no big deal, right? As long as the money is the same and your lab is doing whatever you wanted to do in the first place who cares if it is a new grant or competing renewal?
Trouble is, people care. It is an explicit tenure criterion at some places (and an explicit or implicit promotional criterion past tenure) that renewing the NIH award is a GoodThing and Better than merely keeping an equal amount of funding flowing for the same approximate research domain.
This is utterly stupid in my view but such is life. The question is whether changes in the way NIH is doing business significantly alters the prospects for landing competing continuation applications.
People of my approximate scientific generation have been complaining from about the early-mid naughties onward that the defacto need to calculate for multiple grant revisions meant that we were disadvantaged in the expectation for renewal. I don't know that I ever worked up any data before though.
Now, however, as we are grappling with the limitation to just a single revision of an application it seem logical to me that this might affect competing renewal success.
I selected a mere two NIH Institutes and went RePORTERing: I searched for the wildcard string of "2R01%" by fiscal year. The population of funded Type 2 (competing continuation) grants in each fiscal year is right around 100 in my selected search. Obviously this is a limited picture, feel free to check on your own favorite ICs- drop a note in the comments if you do, eh?
There seems to have been an uptick in the funding of the initial version of Type 2 applications...but this might be related to ARRA / stimulus funding. Since the grandfathering of applications originally submitted before January 25, 2009 is slowly expiring and the ones on the books for 2010 were submitted some time ago, we're still very much in transition. I am hearing, however, the early stage muttering from PIs who are terrified they are not going to be able to renew their grant. Are you all hearing any concerns out there? Above and beyond the usual, I mean. Focused on the continuation, or lack thereof?
I'm of mixed opinion on whether it would be a good or bad thing if it is becoming increasingly more difficult to renew a project. Renewals lean even more toward the kind of programmatic funding that the NIH system is formally (not in reality but formally) opposed to in preference for project-based funding. I probably embody the uneasy tension between these approaches myself.
One thing I do know though is that if the situation IS changing it is important to identify this as clearly as possible. So that Promotions and Tenure committees can adapt with the times. 'cause they are so good at that, you know.