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What we're doing while we wait...

Dr. Robin Barr
Robin BARR,
Director, DEA,
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)
.

As many of you know, if you’ve been reading this blog, both the Senate and House appropriations committees separately have passed bills calling for large increases in funds to support research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In fact, we’ve used that advance information to prepare to receive these funds, should they come our way in final legislation. That’s why we’re in the process of publishing many funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that will take advantage of these funds, and other funds we will have, once we know our final budget.

The budget hasn’t been passed yet and the fiscal year 2017 clock has been ticking for six weeks now. What are we doing to fill that time? Taking a long vacation comes to mind—although that might weaken public trust in us a little! Instead, we are preparing, and are about to make, awards.

Early pay lines for awards

Given the substantial uncertainty in our FY17 appropriation, we have settled on a very conservative 7th percentile early pay line for most R01 submissions (and the 4th percentile for applications requesting $500,000 and over). We have a little bump for early-stage investigators and a smaller bump for other new investigators. These awards will be heading out our door soon.

We also are paying some small business applications that we couldn’t pay at the end of FY 2016. We’re holding that line at 35 for the moment, against a very conservative scenario again.

Because we paid some career award applications early at the end of last fiscal year, instead of during this new fiscal year, and because we paid a round of fellowships at the end of the year, we are not paying additional career award or fellowship applications right now. I know that is frustrating for some of you. These lines are relatively small and even minor variations in our budget can have a large impact on them. That is why we are extra cautious with them.

Pay lines for Alzheimer’s awards

But, you ask: What about extended pay lines for Alzheimer’s research? The answer: We are watching and waiting for the moment. Even on a worst-case scenario, we do have additional funds for Alzheimer’s research this year. At the same time, we have many choices where to put that money—especially with all these new FOAs that we’re publishing. Undoubtedly, our final budget will influence our choices of extending the pay line, eliminating administrative cuts, paying applications from last year’s FOAs, or paying them from the new ones now being published. That’s why we are watching and waiting.

We know that the community also senses this air of suspended animation while we wait for a final budget deal in Congress. I can imagine that you have strong opinions, too, on how we should allocate current funds. Do not be shy about commenting below! For once, though, I hope this blog is out of date almost before it is published and that we soon know our final funding. If that happens, I will forgive you for not commenting!

Funding Opportunities Pay Lines