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NIA funding line policy for 2017: First draft

Robin BARR [Former NIA Staff],
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA).

The entire U.S. government, including NIA, is currently operating under an extension of a continuing resolution (CR) that will end on April 28…unless it is extended again, that is. A continuing resolution extends the previous year’s appropriations act, and the appropriations language within it, into the next fiscal year. It is usually minimally altered from the terms in the prior year. In other words, at this point in FY 2017, we’re operating with virtually the same budget we had in FY 2016.

Rather than wait in a state of suspended animation until we know our budget for this fiscal year, we have developed a pay line by projecting over the full year the funding that we now have under the current CR. This projection generates a general pay line that looks very similar to the line that we ended with last year. (In fact, we have managed the 11th percentile line in four of the last five years. I’m not going to say that this is becoming normal, but it’s something close to that.) New and early-stage investigators have 3- and 5-point advantages, respectively, in the pay line, corresponding to the 14th and 16th percentiles. Expensive applications—those requesting $500K and over—have pay lines three points poorer than the general pay line. All of these pay lines could change when we eventually learn what our final appropriation will be for FY17.

NIA-reviewed applications

We do not assign percentiles to applications reviewed by NIA. So, like the lines for training grants, career awards and fellowships, the funding lines for NIA-reviewed research grant applications are expressed as impact ratings (otherwise known as priority scores), rather than percentiles. Assiduous blog readers will know that program project applications, unlike other NIA-reviewed applications, are reviewed in two stages. The scores from the two-stage review are considerably more scattered than those from single-stage reviews. That explains why our general pay line for program projects, now at 28, is higher than our pay line for other NIA-reviewed research grant applications, now at 22.

Alzheimer’s disease research

I’ve written four paragraphs without mentioning Alzheimer’s disease. How remiss of me! You will discover more generous pay lines for research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s disease related dementias (ADRD) across most of our mechanisms. The lines are not as generous as last year’s lines, and—unlike last year—we are making administrative cuts in Alzheimer’s and related dementias research awards. Why is this necessary? Because we’ve had two years now to expand the Alzheimer’s and related dementias program and we have many more initiatives and applications this year than we did last year. On top of that, applications for many of the initiatives have either not yet been received, or, if received, have not yet been reviewed.

There’s also the matter of our uncertain final budget: There’s some chance that we will receive additional funds for AD and ADRD research this year, and some chance that we will not receive additional funds.

With that fog obscuring our clear view of the future, then, we are showing caution in the Alzheimer’s allocations at this time.

At least we are in double digits even as we wait out the long continuing resolution. I hope this information provides you some reassurance that we continue to have a funding stream, we continue to pay grant awards, and we continue to seek your applications on a wide range of age-related research.

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