• October 25, 2010

    In recent months, many of you have expressed increasing concern about the reduced pay line and success rates for aging research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). I recognize the impact that the situation is having on established researchers as well as on the development of younger scientists for the field. I also understand the implications for research at a time when the population is aging, and when studies addressing the problems of aging are critical to individuals and to society. We at NIA recognize and empathize with the struggle that our constrained funding creates for the research community, and feel that it is vital that we do everything we can to sustain the momentum of investigator-generated research in this successful and vibrant field, as we continue to make a difference in health and well-being in later life.

    NIA staff and I have had numerous contacts with individuals and organizations about this extraordinary problem. Because we cannot meet with everyone personally, I offer this open statement to explain the circumstances surrounding the current pay line and outline our intensive efforts to open up opportunities for aging research.

    In recent years, NIA has faced a collection of circumstances pressuring the Institute’s pay line and success rates. In common with other NIH institutes, we have seen our numbers of new and competing awards fall as biomedical inflation has surpassed limited increases in appropriations. At the same time, NIA has recently seen a rise in the number and average cost of applications submitted. While a welcome sign of increasing interest in aging research, the surge in applications has put additional pressure on our success rate and funding line. Increasing maturity of the field has significantly improved the performance of NIA-assigned applications in review, resulting in a higher proportion of applications with outstanding scores eligible for funding. That maturity, too, has resulted in more applications for clinical trials based on findings from basic and translational research. The interest in conducting many of these trials is high, as can be their expense, also contributing to reduced ability to fund new and competing awards.

    In the last few years, we have worked diligently and creatively to balance a number of funding priorities to make as many highly meritorious awards as possible. Since 2004, NIA has made competing awards at an average 18 percent below recommended costs. In 2007, the Institute limited costs of program project applications and in 2008 established new procedures, including use of an Advisory Panel of experts for clinical trials in geriatrics, to advise on the state of research and on public health need in order to help evaluate proposals for such clinical trials. More details on how and when the advice of this panel is sought are available elsewhere on this site.

    While we do not have our final FY 2011 appropriation, we expect continued austerity, and, consequently, a constrained success rate in 2011. Therefore, additional and important steps, begun this summer, are being implemented now. Among the new measures are: wider use across programs of an Advisory Panel for clinical trials, a new funding policy in FY 2011 that more tightly controls acceptance of requests for applications over $500,000 and limits the total competing dollars awarded to such large grants, the introduction of incentives encouraging investigators to use existing resources more efficiently and extensively, and an emphasis at NIA on partnerships with other organizations to further leverage resources. As these measures are implemented, we have begun to see a difference. For example, NIA recorded an average $30,000 drop in amounts requested on RO1 applications from January 2010 to January 2011 Council rounds. This change is likely the result, at least in part, of the announcement earlier this year of restrictions on large applications.

    Moving forward, the Institute also will be working closely with the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) to find ways to improve our success rate. At its September 2010 meeting, the Council proposed and passed a motion to conduct a review of the NIA extramural program to evaluate effects of the tight pay line on the field of aging research and to consider ways to improve it. Membership on the review team will include both current and former members of the Council and representation from all four major grant program areas at NIA.

    We are considering additional actions as circumstances require, which will be announced as appropriate on the NIA website or in the NIH Guide. The steps already undertaken and the strategies we devise together will function to improve the funding line and success rate in future years and to bring us back into line with those of other Institutes and Centers at NIH. All of these decisions will be taken in the context of continued support for outstanding research that addresses priorities of scientific opportunity and public health need. I assure you of my commitment to this effort and to the continuing vitality and success of research on aging.

    Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
    Director, National Institute on Aging
    National Institutes of Health


  • May 12, 2011

    For a description of NIA’s mission and priorities please see: NIA's listing of Priorities and Programs

    Budget Data: NIH (including NIA) received a full year continuing resolution budget for FY 2011 at approximately 1% below the FY 2010 level. A detailed mechanism table showing allocations through FY2010 is available at: NIA's FY 2010 Budget Mechanism Table


    Strategy: NIA’s effort to increase the number of competing awards made during this cycle of minimal to negative growth includes limiting the numbers of large applications accepted for review and the numbers awarded (a large application requests direct costs of $500,000 or more in any single year). NIA program divisions have been assigned a limited annual budget for accepting large applications. NIA continues to make competing RPG awards at an average reduction of 18% below the study-section recommended amount.


    Competing awards:

    RPG applications requesting less than $500,000 (direct costs) in all requested years: These applications will be paid through the 11th percentile with the following exceptions. Early Stage Investigator (ESI)-eligible R01 applications will be paid through the 16th percentile. Other new investigator eligible R01 applications will be paid through the 14th percentile.

    RPG applications requesting at least $500,000 (direct costs) in one or more years: These applications will be paid through the 8th percentile with the following exceptions. If an application is ESI-eligible these R01 applications will be paid through the 13th percentile. Other R01 new investigator applications will be paid through the 11th percentile.

    Non-Competing awards:

    NIA will follow NIH policy on noncompeting awards and post further information to this site when it becomes available.

    NIA is also continuing to review balances in noncompeting awards and adjusting or delaying award of the next noncompeting or competing year when appropriate.

    Non-RPG mechanisms:

    NIA is following NIH policy on remaining lines including centers, small business, training, scientific meetings, resource-related, and career development awards.

    NIA will review RPG balances in July and any update to the funding lines will be announced at that time.

    Note on Ranking of RPG applications reviewed at NIA:

    Although the bulk of RPG applications (other than those submitted in response to RFAs and a few PARs) are reviewed at CSR and given percentile ranks based on the panel in which they were reviewed, program project applications and some multi-site cooperative agreement and research grant (R01) applications are reviewed at NIA. Beginning May 2011, no percentile rank appears on the summary statement for these applications. Instead, for funding consideration, they are ranked against other NIA-reviewed RPG applications from the current and recent preceding rounds. This policy for ranking P01 and other non-RPG applications reviewed at NIA became effective for all FY 2011 and succeeding year applications.

  • August 3, 2011

    The NIA announces the reissuance of a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that provides dissertation awards in all areas of research within NIA’s strategic priorities to increase diversity of the scientific research workforce engaged in research on aging and aging-related health conditions. See more information »

  • August 9, 2011

    OppNet is a trans-NIH initiative to expand the agency's funding of basic behavioral and social sciences research (b-BSSR). For more information and a link to funding announcements, please visit the OppNet web site.

  • August 9, 2011

    The NIH Common Fund supports the Science of Behavior Change program to improve our understanding of human behavior change across a broad range of health-related behaviors.

  • August 9, 2011

    The NIH Common Fund supports a health economics program to stimulate research of value for Health Care Reform.

  • December 6, 2011

    Investigators interested in using the Health and Retirement Study genotype data can find further information on the HRS website. Genotype and limited phenotype data will be available via the dbGaP application process. If investigators are interested in linking the genotype data with other HRS measures not in dbGaP they will be able to apply for access from HRS directly. A National Academy of Sciences Expert meeting was held to discuss the use of HRS GWA data.

  • April 21, 2010

    Rapamycin joins the aging fray: maybe Ponce de Leon visited Rapa Nui, not Florida. Sierra, F., J. Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 65:577-579, 2010.

  • February 19, 2009

    Biology of Aging Summit Report. Sierra, F., J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 64:155-6, 2009.

    In September 2008, the Division of Aging Biology (DAB) of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) held a summit to assess the current state of research in the field of biogerontology and to attempt to delineate goals for the future. The 3-day meeting, held in Gaithersburg, Maryland, brought together a group of 40 well-respected scientists, from both within and outside the field, with sufficient expertise to address the global issues at hand. The main part of the meeting was a series of 15 sessions (with groups of three to four sessions in parallel), where rather than the usual presentation and discussion of data from individual speakers, free discussion of ideas was encouraged, partially driven by a set of questions chosen in advance by the session chairs and DAB. The subjects of discussion, as well as participants, were chosen by a steering committee chosen by DAB staff. The topics discussed are reflected in the accompanying articles in this issue of the Journals of Gerontology, which delineate the gaps and opportunities identified within various research areas, and summarize the collective conclusions reached by each of the discussion groups. As a way of introduction, it is relevant to indicate some (new) areas that came up repeatedly during the sessions and pervaded many of the discussions.



  • November 20, 2009

    The longevity dividend: why invest in basic aging research? Warner, H. and Sierra, F., Can J Aging. 28:391-398; (in French: 395-398), 2009.