NIAID and NIDDK are fond of the R56

Oct 25 2012 Published by under NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics, NIH Careerism

The R56/Bridge mechanism of the NIH is called the High Priority, Short-Term award

will fund, for one or two years, high-priority new or competing renewal R01 applications with priority scores or percentiles that fall just outside the funding limits of participating NIH Institutes and Centers (IC). Investigators may not apply for R56 grants.

Sounds good right? It gets better:

The R56 award will help early career stage scientists trying to establish research careers as well as experienced scientists who can benefit from interim funding while they revise their applications.

Woo-hoo! Sign me UPPE!!!!

Except, sigh, they don't fund very many of these. Or at least my ICs of interest never seem to be that interested in giving me a hand while I revise my awesome applications. And in fact I seem to see these things quite often awarded to year -2xA1 projects and fairly infrequently awarded to noobs. But that's kind of subjective....

I took a search REPORTER for R56 awards since July 1. And sorted by the IC.

WOWSA. First thing I noticed is that my ICs of closest interest aren't handing (m)any of these out right now. So, sucks for me. But at least I don't have to whinge about fairness.

NIAID and NIDDK however clearly LOVE these things. Just LOVE the R56. I count 88 of the 1R56 awards out of 136 from NIAID and an additional 30 from NIDDK. The next biggest players are NIDCR with 5 and NIMH with 4, not even close.

I noticed something else interesting. 72 of 136 are for A1 versions of the proposal.

NIAID seems to be the ONLY IC to fund R56s for competing continuations, picking up 17 of them. Some for original submissions sure, but some for A1 revision.

I emphasize. The A1 version of applications are being awarded R56s. Which can't be revised. And can't be resubmitted except in clearly-different guise. Yet the announcement clearly says the R56 is for preparing a revision of a just-miss, meritorious proposal.

So what in the hell are these being awarded for? One might ask.

Now I didn't delve down into trying to determine who was a new investigator versus and established investigator. Mostly I was hoping to complain about my favorite ICs where I could sort based on name recognition with this little exercise. But perhaps some NIAID mavens could review the list for us.

Here's what I want to know. To what extent are these being used to give a break to genuine noobs and to what extent are they being extracted out of POs by long term investigators who haven't managed to get a fundable score. To what extent are they letting Professor Bluehair keep her extra postdoc or technician around but completely missing the point that Assistant Professor Noob would like to get her first one of those, thanks.

To what extent are they propping up labs of PIs nearing the common (nonscience) retirement age and to what extent are they failing to sustain momentum for people more in my age bracket who have a fair bit of productive science ahead?

26 responses so far

  • Dave Bridges says:

    whatever the purpose, since these seem extra arbitrary wouldn't we agree it would be better if that money moved back into the R01 pool

  • DrugMonkey says:

    If there is no chance of R56 help coming my way then hell yes, back in the pool!

  • whimple says:

    Person I know got an R56 from NIAID as her first major NIH award, got through tenure review on that basis and managed to pull a funded R01 the year following.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    That is what I'd deem a proper use, whimple. Glad to hear of it. Is it typical or the exception though?

  • Dave says:

    I had a quick look on Reporter and noticed that a few R00 (K99) holders have received these as a stop-gap as their R01s were unsuccessful. As a side note, it seems that very few R00's at NIDDK are converting to R01's so I guess this could be a useful mechanism for them.

  • Dave Bridges says:

    Quick scan of recent awards shows that of 202 recently awarded R56, 97 are A1 revisions (1 was a S1). Looking at the top few listed, a lot have additional support (one or more R01s).

    The A1 revisions are of note, since as DM said, these cannot be resubmitted in their current form.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    One can only view the A1 saves as the program funding side of the coin. They've decided they want this person in the fold and so they give them a year to get something else funded. Or, you know, an admission the "substantially different proposal" is just a charade

  • qaz says:

    " Or, you know, an admission the "substantially different proposal" is just a charade"

    Not necessarily. Remember that "substantially different proposal" includes different aims/techniques/etc. not just different overall goals. So you could still be studying bunny hopping, but this time you're going to use optogenetics to determine if the nucleus hoppingus is actually causally involved rather than whatever old-school technique you proposed in the previous grant. Maybe you need the R56 to get the new technique up and running.

    In any case, saying you were going to do optogenetics to change the nucleus hoppingus is definitely a "substantially different proposal" than that you were going to correlate the size of the nucleus hoppingus with the height the animal could jump. Yet you are still sticking to your overall research plan of studying bunny hopping.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Dude! Have you installed spyware on my laptop!!???!???

  • qaz says:

    Dude! It's the obvious next experiment.

    (I don't know why everyone doesn't think we all know what each other is working on "secretly" in each other's labs.)

  • Joe says:

    Glancing over the R56s in NIAID, I recognize about 10% of the names as established investigators I know about. The ones I checked also had other awards. I'm not sure how helpful that is as there would be plenty of people I would not know about.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    I was on a study section where we an investigator had a R56 after missing out on their A1 renewal. They were able to put in another competitng renewal based on the R56 being essentially a new grant - thus there was a de facto A2. I don't know if this is policy or not.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It was a competing continuation of the *original* project, i.e., with -06, -11, etc numbering? With substantially the same Aims as the A1 that was not funded?

  • Physician Scientist says:

    yes. same grant, extension - now funded under the original R01 number. I think at NIAID, R56 mechanisms get you an A2, but I'm not sure.

  • physioprof says:

    I assume that they are simply applying for a competing renewal of the R56 itself. So if you get awarded a 2R56-blahblah-07A1, then you apply for 2R01-blahblah-08.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    I think that's true. By reclassifying it as an R56, they are allowing a competitive renewal and then making it an R01 under the same number with the years at the end. Clever way around the one resubmission rule.

  • physioprof says:

    It's not necessarily a way around the rule. The applicant has to submit a new competing renewal application and justify it in part on the basis of productivity during the R56 period in relation to the Specific Aims of the R56. We have no evidence whatsoever whether CSR applies the usual standard for "same application" to the competing renewal and compares it to the application that got funded as an R56.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I was under the distinct impression that R56 were not renewable awards and therefore the idea of a competing continuation for them was moot. Perhaps I am wrong, certainly this language

    R56 funding will end after one or two years or when the applicant succeeds in obtaining a traditional research project grant.

    is not very informative.

  • mozman says:

    Bit of an old topic, but you're a bit mistaken here. At least for NIAID, the R56 award can also be Bridge Funding, for R01'a that just missed the payline and that are "programmatically -important" (whatever that means). Its explicitly called an R56-Bridge award.

    I think that's what most of the A1 awards are.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You are missing *my* point. A "Bridge" to *what*? The A1 didn't fund and R56 is no renewable and.....the applicant can't put in an A2

  • mozman says:

    It's to "Bridge" the lab's funding for a year to gve them a chance to get an award funded. Fr better or worse, NIAID has decided that it isn't good policy for an established lab to suddenly fold. R56 Bridge awards are only for a year

    You can argue abou the merits of this. I personally think that if a lab has had a good track record of funding and publications, and they were close to the payline, throwing them an exra yar of funding is justified.

    Not much different than a 4 point payline advantage for New Investigators.

  • whimple says:

    All funding is "bridge" funding; last I heard there were no permanently recurring awards. You get a year of your grant instead of nothing... sounds good to me. Part of why NIH is screwed is they make multi-year commitments and then can't adjust nimbly when budgets change (see also: sequestration). If anything, they should go with more R56's.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    It is a naked violation of project-based funding.

  • mozman says:

    Its not a violation of project-based funding; - its a different funding mechanism altogether. The purpose is explicitly to "provide one year of funding for investigators whose high-priority R01 applications score beyond the payline".

    You can argue whether this SHOULD be an available funding mechanism. I lean toward "good idea", but this is a point where reasonable people may disagree. Simply disagreeing with it, however, does not make it a violation.

    My disclosure: I have numerous funded NIH grants (both R01 and R21). I have had vastly more grants triaged or scored in the non-fundable range. I have never been awarded an R56.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Oh it is clearly a violation. The *excuse* for this mech is that it is a Bridge *for the reviewed project*. But given the new rules this cannot be so. So they are handing out program funding for projects which have not undergone initial peer review! A clear violation.

    Interestingly, POs are starting to refer to the R56s showered on competing continuations that fall short as "close out funds". This is not a coincidence.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    My disclosure is that you are damn tootin' I'd take one of those R56 deals in a heartbeat

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