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NIA budget update

Dr. Richard Hodes
Richard J. HODES,
Office of the Director (OD)

Last month, the NIA got good news about our budget for fiscal year 2014: $130 million more than last year. We are grateful for this increase. It means that this year there will be more funding than last for aging research, including a focus on Alzheimer’s disease.

The new funding in aging allows us a bit more flexibility, one immediate benefit being the ability to continue to support our biological resources that so many of you rely on for your research. As the President requested, Congress has directed much of the new money toward Alzheimer’s disease research, for which NIA is the lead institute within NIH. We appreciate that the budget legislation recognizes the importance of the disease and of our intensified efforts to fight it.

While we are still working out some details about how best to manage this increase, I wanted to share with you what we know now. As more information is available in the coming months, you’ll hear more in the way of specifics. We very much appreciate your patience.

How will the NIA manage these resources?

Though our planning is not complete, we will adhere to familiar principles:

1. Fund the best science.

As you know, we strive to fund both basic and clinical research projects with the greatest possible potential.  Let me thank the many of you who willingly serve as peer reviewers. We rely on you more than ever to help us to fund such strong science.

2. Balance competing and noncompeting funding.

Research project grants are usually awarded with the intention of funding for multiple years. Our funding is therefore divided between competing funds (support for new projects) and noncompeting funds (ongoing funding of continuing projects previously approved). A key priority is to balance these two kinds of funding. 

Many investigators will be particularly excited about the new support available for research on Alzheimer’s, which will increase funding in that area. This will support both new and competing research awards as well as continued funding of ongoing high priority research.  

3. Offer funding opportunities that support innovation.

It is likely that we will be issuing future funding opportunity announcements, inviting applications in particular research areas. Please stay tuned for these new opportunity announcements. (You can sign up to get a weekly email about every new NIH funding announcement.)

Also, look for our 2014 funding policy in the coming months. It will be more specific. When that’s available, it will be posted on the NIA funding policy page.

Why does this take so long?

Annual budget laws from Congress and the President provide extremely important information. Only when the budget amount for the full year is finalized can we plan funding and distribute grants for the remaining months of the fiscal year. The fiscal year, of course, runs October 1 through September 30, so we were operating for more than three months without knowing our budget for the year.

As we move forward, we are thankful that NIA’s new appropriation will help bring us some way back from the drastic cuts of last year’s sequestration. It is still sobering to note, however, that we remain far from recovering the buying power that we had several years ago. Over time, stagnant budgets affected by inflation have eroded our ability to fund meritorious research.

And, for future budget years, we don’t know any more than you do about how Congress and the President will appropriate funding. But I hope this post goes part of the way toward explaining how we try to keep the research ship on an even keel, as funding winds can shift from year to year. We welcome your thoughts or questions below.


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