End of year pickups

Sep 29 2015 Published by under NIH, NIH funding

It's one of those times of years to go a-RePORTERing, my friends. Select 9/1 or 9/15 in the Project Start Date field and put your favorite IC in the field for that.

As the NIH reaches the end of the federal fiscal year, they have to balance their budget. Meaning that in many cases they will pick up out-of-order grants to satisfy some goal or other. No doubt sometimes it is just making the dollars and cents add up by slotting in a few more R03 or R21 grants.

Maybe it is a chance for them to trigger on priorities that they have been letting simmer on the back burner or maybe it is a class of grants that has to wait until the end of the year for some reason. BigMechs seem to be funded during September in several of my favorite ICs.

I seem to notice SBIR/STTR grants (R41, R42, R43, R44 mechs) rolling out, which makes sense. The overall NIH has a certain percentage it has to meet in terms of SBIR awards and I assume this rolls downhill to the IC level. So this is part of the balancing of books for the final accounting.

The thing I was noticing this year is that the list of grant awards from my favorite ICs seems...interesting. To me anyway. And given when I tend to find interesting (i.e., the unusual) it would be no surprise if this was as feature not a bug. I.e, real.

Look at it this way. The unusual has the potential to be treated somewhat poorly by study sections or it wouldn't be an unusual application. If you subscribe to a view that study sections suffer from a certain conservatism (and I do subscribe) than it makes sense that the end of year pickups might be interesting due to them being unusual. Perhaps there are POs who likewise look at the list of near-misses and are attracted to the grant application that offers a little breath of fresh air. Perhaps it is because there are the odd RFA extras that can be squeezed under the budget line.

...or maybe I am extrapolating too far from very limited data.

13 responses so far

  • Philapodia says:

    A related question is: How is success defined for POs? Do they have a certain number of dollars to allocate in their areas that they have to spend, or are factors like the number of PIs funded or the "hotness" of their funding area taken into account? I would think factors like this would dictate how grants are picked-up outside the payline.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I imagine it is political and suffers all of the same issues that other areas of academia do. I bet some POs are more equal than others, some areas of science are more readily funded, etc. If your portfolio is producing copious huge press releases for the IC, I assume your status as a PO increases.

    I also assume there is some substantial background of equal opportunity against which this plays.

    I am also pretty sure that ICs vary substantially in process. Some are more top-down with a Director that Has Ideas.... And some probably are more democratic and let the pickups percolate up from below.

  • baltogirl says:

    What is interesting to me is that 99.9% of these September-awarded grants are year 1 grants. How is it possible that there are no renewals in this pile? I tried DA and DK and it was true for each institute. Did they fund the renewals earlier (not true for my grant!) or will they fund them later? Something is going on that I don't understand. Anyone know?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Something is going on that I don't understand. Anyone know?

    I assume you mean the noncompeting Type 5 codes?

    If so, this is because grants are submitted on cycle with the intervals of funding based off the first-possible funding date for that submission round. So Dec 1 (some will be Sep 1), Apr 1, Jul 1.

    Now if a grant gets picked up on Sep 30 but is "late" for one of the prior funding rounds, what they do is give you a short year that ends on the originally planned cycle- Mar 31, Jun 30, Nov 30. Therefore the subsequent intervals of funding will be back on normal schedule.

    Note that sometimes Grants Management will phase-shift your year by a month or so on the normal Cycles of funding on schedule. I've heard some talk about reducing their administrative burden from a GMA, which make a lot of sense. So sometimes your grant anniversary will be Mar 1, Jun 1, etc

    The point is that the majority of grants are not going to end up with a noncompeting renewal date of 9/1, even if they were originally picked up in the month of Sept with end-of-the-year funds..

  • baltogirl says:

    I am talking about competing renewals. At least some competing renewal grants that were reviewed in June (submitted in Feb/March) should be funded by October 1 (some are Dec 1). And yet there were no competing renewals there. Where did they go?

  • drugmonkey says:

    It applies, by extension to Type 2 as well because typically the anniversary just remains the same as the prior interval of funding, afaik.

    Backing up to new grants, where the interval is established, the vast majority that I am familiar with for Cycle I submissions would fund Dec 1 or later. There is a possible September 1 start for Cycle I if the IC has its Advisory Council meeting in August, but I'm not familiar with that happening in ICs that I follow most closely.

    It may be the case that the ones that you are following likewise do not meet in August.

  • So if the advisory council meeting was 15 Sept; what is the probability that you will review a notice of award by Sept 30th? or does it mean that the grant (if funded) will get its funding from next fiscal year and hence more wait?

  • drugmonkey says:

    That sounds like a Dec 1 start date. Which will be pushed back b/c of Congress, of course.

  • Susan says:

    Sofar I have noticed: one PO with whom I've worked has exclusively BSD names in his pickup list. The other, few if any.
    I saw a friend's grant picked up. Yay for friend!

  • jmz4 says:

    At the NIH I'm seeing a lot of R56s and R01's, and a smattering of R21s. And then, as DM says, 6 or so STTR grants. The thing that jumps out is that the R01 and the R21s (and the 2 K99s) are going to well-connected, bigger and more established labs, while the R56s seem to fit the "geographical diversity" ticket. I know R56's can't be renewed, but can they be re-issued following a resubmission on an R01 (i.e. can you receive two R56's in succession on the same R01)? Cause that would be a terrible way to string along labs.

    Also, one R41, which I didn't even know was a thing.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Susan- that is just plain sad.

  • jmz4 says:

    Sad cause he's not retiring or cause he can't get funding?

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