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At long last—a budget!

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

The wait was long—but the news is good! If you’ve been following events on Capitol Hill, you already know this. NIH has received a $2 billion increase in budget for this fiscal year, reflecting much-appreciated bipartisan support for biomedical research. NIA’s own budget received a monster $400 million boost for Alzheimer’s-related research, and our budget for other research areas increased at the same percentage rate as the NIH budget. It took 30 years (from 1975 to 2005) for the annual NIA budget to reach $1 billion dollars. Now, with the number above $2 billion, the budget has doubled in just 12 years. This alone reflects the substantial public interest in our mission in an era where interest in science generally has lagged.

A continuing focus on Alzheimer’s disease

At NIA, that interest has focused primarily in research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and that is how our budget has been shaped in recent years. We continue to have unprecedented opportunity to help you to make a difference in our ability to prevent and to treat these devastating disorders, and to provide caregiving relief for the many affected.

These are increases on top of our general budget. It’s important to note that nothing has been taken away from our other scientific fields. And, as noted above, these fields also enjoy an increase for the second consecutive year, even though it’s significantly more modest than the increase for Alzheimer’s-related research.

What does this all mean for you? If this were a normal year—are there any normal years these days?—I would be telling you to hold your horses. After the President signs the budget, the numbers pass through several agencies on their way to us and then to you. That takes time. And that’s a problem this year: We have very little time. The fiscal year ends in under five months. So, we are taking immediate steps.

Immediate changes in some pay lines

We have just announced changes to several different funding lines. The big differences, of course, are for research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s-related dementias (ADRD). We have increased NIA’s regular pay line for AD/ADRD research from the 18th percentile to the 28th percentile. We are also restoring the administrative cuts that we made to these awards earlier in the year when our budget was uncertain.

I hope you’ll notice a couple of other changes, though. We’ve increased the general allocation training grant line to 22 and the general allocation career development award line to 19. These changes reflect a decision to put more emphasis on early-career development and on bringing investigators into aging research. You’ll be hearing more from us on this point going forward. The actions here are an initial statement.

Some of you may be wondering how we are going to be able to disburse these funds in the most scientifically sound way when we have so much to spend and so little time on the clock. Luckily, we did have some indication that an increase might be coming (see the prior blog on the flurry of Funding Opportunity Announcements over the fall and winter) and, we have a lot of plans in place that we are implementing quickly—including the just-announced changes to our funding lines. You will see future blogs and funding policy changes as we move forward. It is going to be quite a ride—while FY2018 looms in another fog of uncertainty.

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