We know that a lot of applications are relevant to aging. Many applications accepted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the National Institute on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and other Institutes are relevant to aging. But, most of these applications cannot be assigned as primary to NIA.
NIA participates in initiatives that are supported by some, but not all, NIH Institutes. These initiatives include the Small Grant program (R03), the Exploratory/Developmental Award program (R21) and two predoctoral fellowship programs (F30 and F31). NCI, NHLBI, and NIAMS do not participate in these programs. When someone submits an application that would normally be assigned to one of those Institutes, it is diverted to NIA. So should NIA accept the application because, after all, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis are all relevant to aging? If NIA accepted all such applications, we would only be able to fund a tiny fraction of them. And, while much research related to cancer, heart disease, and arthritis is relevant to aging, we use a standard of “What’s aging got to do with it?” in our referral decisions. For example, if the focus is cancer, we ask what role aging is playing in the research questions asked on why or how the cancer is emerging or how it is treated. We evaluate applications focused on heart disease or arthritis similarly.