Sustaining NIH funding then and now: 58% as many Type 2 awards in FY2014

Feb 25 2015 Published by under Fixing the NIH, NIH, NIH Careerism

Datahound has a cool new analysis posted on the distribution of competing continuation R01/R37 awards (Type 2 in NIH grant parlance).

There is one thing that I noticed that makes for a nice simple soundbite to go along with your other explanations to the willfully blind old guard about how much harder the NIH grant game is at the moment.

Datahound reports that in FY 1995 there were 2653 Type 2 competing continuation R01/R37 awards funded by the NIH. In FY 2014 there were only 1532 Type 2 competing continuation R01/R37 grants awarded.

I make this out to be 58% of the 1995 total.

This is a huge reduction. I had no idea that this was the case. I mean sure, I predicted that there would be a big decline in Type 2 following the ban of A2 revisions*. And I would have predicted that the post-Doubling, Undoubling, Defunding dismality would have had an impact on Type 2 awards. And I complained for years that the increasing odds of A0 apps being sent into the traffic holding pattern itself put a kibosh on Type 2 because PIs simply couldn't assume a competing continuation would be funded in time to avoid a gap. Consequently PIs were strategically putting in closely related but "new" apps in say Year 3 of the original noncompeting interval.

But I think if I had been asked to speculate I would have estimated a much smaller reduction.

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*I can't wait until Datahound brackets this interval so we can see if this was the major effect or if the trend has developed more gradually since 1995.

9 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    Isn't it also true that there are more R01 awards being put out overall in 2014 than in 1995? (I looked for the data but couldn't find it.) So is that 42% drop actually larger proportionally?

  • drugmonkey says:

    The NIH databook lists 18,000 R01 in 1997, 27,399 in 2014.

    So yes, you are correct qaz. It is wasaaaaay worse than I ever would have predicted.

    This is especially important for P&T promotion guidelines that explicitly mention competing renewal of grants as tenure criteria.

  • chemstructbio says:

    If competing renewal of grants is a tenure criterion, and it's much harder now vs. then—perhaps upon successful renewal of grants the TT candidate should be bumped all the way to Full Professor!

  • datahound says:

    I was already working on this. I will have something posted later.

    Short answer: The drop began in 2004 and has continued (interrupted by the Recovery Act). It has been particularly dramatic in the last 4 years. The drop is driven primarily by a decrease in the number of applications with success rates stable (near 35%) since 2004.

  • qaz says:

    More than tenure, this speaks to the problem of continuation. The biggest problem in the NIH grant game is the fact that you can no longer trust that doing well on a good grant gets you renewed. That means you always have to have a cushion. That means alternating grants or living in boom and bust cycles.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Ah, so your short answer suggests PI strategy is the key factor. In this case though I think the tre "success rate" has to be considered in context of the missing Type 2 submissions, no?

  • Drugmonkey says:

    qaz- if you can continue a project under a different mechanism or different award number does it really matter? A change in the way this is accomplished is just tactics.

  • Kevin. says:

    I assume that most PIs used to ask for more money after passing that first renewal stage, and the high renewal success rates of the past probably helped to swell long-time awards.

    If each new award is new, or submitted off cycle to the first R01, it's difficult to justify asking for much more than $250K per year (which will be cut to hell anyway). Maybe this consolidation of projects they are proposing at NIGMS will return us to the one-big-grant days. But, as a PI in this environment, would you want to risk putting all of your renewal eggs into one basket?

  • […] in FY1995 to 1532 in FY2014. This led to both comments on the post and a post on this topic from Drugmonkey. Since I was also struck by this observation, I was already working on additional […]

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