We have been here before. The continuing resolution provides some research funds—not a lot though. Like a ticking clock it winds down on January 15. And our backdrop is a familiar debate on Capitol Hill about appropriations. Maybe it will end with better NIA and NIH numbers than last year. Or maybe not.
The interim payline is very conservative.
What is a continuing resolution?
A continuing resolution is a temporary budget used by Congress to fund NIH and other government operations. It’s used when the annual budget has not been passed by Congress and signed into law by the President before the new fiscal year starts.
What is NIA's fiscal year?
The NIA fiscal year, like that of the rest of the federal government, runs October 1 through September 30.
We posted our interim funding policy. Really there is only one option in setting paylines, or funding lines, for grants at this time. We must be conservative. Imagine the outcry if our budget tightens later in the year and suddenly we have to shrink our funding line, or even pull back from awards, applications that we had committed to pay! We need to avoid that nightmare. That’s why we are conservative.
What conservative means for now…
So, for the moment, NIA is paying research grant applications reviewed at the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) to the 7th percentile. (Keep in mind that lower scores are better, so this means we are paying applications at the 7th percentile and below.) We paid some of these applications prior to the end of the fiscal year. This action completes the set. This is a TEMPORARY payline. Hopefully we will be able to pay more applications once Congress enacts a budget or continuing resolution that covers the entire fiscal year.
The interim payline for applications reviewed at the NIA is a score of 11.
Why the difference between CSR-reviewed and NIA-reviewed applications?
Please read my previous blog post on this topic.
For program projects and other applications reviewed at NIA the interim payline is a score of 11. Here again, lower scores are better, so applications with a score of 11 or below will soon be paid. And again, this is a TEMPORARY payline.
I hope that we will be able to raise these lines once NIA knows its full year appropriation. We were able to do that last year even with a sequestered final budget.
What is the sequester?
Sequestration is automatic budget cuts implemented across the federal government. It removes a substantial amount of money from the NIA and NIH budgets each year.
An exception for career development awards. The interim payline is a score of 20.
About the only payline that is more favorable for applicants is that for NIA career development awards. These represent a small part of our overall budget and the volume of applications that we are seeing, as well as the quality, signal the tough circumstances that junior faculty and postdoctoral trainees face at this time. The force of the argument to provide a little more immediate relief to this group is overwhelming. We have paid the October round of career development awards to a score of 20—the same payline that we achieved in fiscal year 2013.
What if you’re close to the payline, but just on the wrong side of the cutoff?
I know personally several investigators with CSR-reviewed applications at the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th percentiles and early stage investigators with applications up to another five points beyond that range. I have heard firsthand how frustrated you are about not knowing whether the application will be paid, whether you should resubmit, whether you should reshape the application into an R21, or an R03, et cetera. We feel frustrated about this situation, too! Being in limbo is terrible. I know that you will be discussing these concerns with program officers, as you should.
All I can say to you and to our program officers is that your applications deserve to be paid! We know it; reviewers have already indicated that the quality of the work you propose is exceptional. But, for now, none of us at the NIA can give you a firm determination of whether you will be funded. You can ask, but we can’t tell, because we don’t know. I wish it were otherwise.
More questions or comments?
I’d like to hear from you. There’s a comment form below. However, if you have questions specific to your application, your program officer may be the best point of contact.