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A full-year budget and funding lines

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

In his blog post of a couple of weeks ago, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes mentioned that we would soon be calculating the pay lines for the new fiscal year. I’m happy to announce that we’ve done the math and come up with our initial funding policy for FY 2019.

Still, it feels strange to be writing in early November to announce preliminary funding lines for the year. We really, really do have a full-year budget, for the first time in 22 years. We owe a debt to the shared spirit with which the budget was developed in Congress. The achievement of a full-year-budget makes a big difference in our being able to pay your deserving applications earlier this year than in recent years.

Initial funding lines for FY 2019

The two numbers to pay most attention to are 15 and 28. We are paying most percentiled, general allocation (not Alzheimer’s!) applications to the 15th percentile. We are paying most percentiled Alzheimer’s applications (Alzheimer’s and its related dementias) to the 28th percentile. As in previous years, we have modified the line for several kinds of applications:

  • For both the Alzheimer’s and general allocations, large applications ($500K or over) have a tighter funding line—by three points.
  • Early-stage investigator (ESI) and other new investigator (NI) R01 applications have more generous funding lines. That translates to a five-point advantage for ESI R01 applications and a three-point advantage for NI R01 applications.

As I indicated last year, none of these lines are absolute. We will pay most applications within these lines. We will likely pay a few applications beyond these lines. We pay attention to reviewer comments, as well as to particular priorities in our research mission.

We are paying general allocation program projects and other NIA-reviewed applications to a score of 20. We will pay Alzheimer’s applications in these lines to a score of 38. For Alzheimer’s set-aside applications we are paying to a score of 40. (These applications responded to any of a set of Alzheimer’s PARs that are listed on our funding line policy page)

And if all this has your head spinning—we have it in table form too.

Administrative cuts

One decision we took reluctantly is the size of the administrative cut in the general allocation line. Last year, we reduced the cut to 12 percent and anticipated a 12-percent cut this year, too. Instead in this initial allocation we are returning to an 18-percent cut. It is an average cut. Individual applications may be cut more or less than 18 percent.

In part, we are simply being conservative. We have held back a margin to allow for a surge of top-scoring applications in the final round of the year. (As I write, we have yet to receive all the applications for the final round.) The 18-percent cut allows a larger number of applications to be paid early than if we had made a 12-percent cut. Depending on what happens later in the year we may be able to reduce the cut to 12 percent.

Partly, though, we are seeing our general allocation applications doing better in review than in recent years. This means that within a given percentile range we are paying more awards now than in those years. And that costs more money. The inference I really do not want you to draw is that if you write sloppier applications, then we will have a more generous funding line! While true in principle, we would make no more awards that way. Write the strongest application you can. It is truly competitive out there!

Oh! And we are still working on the career development and fellowship funding lines. I will have news on these lines soon, I promise!


Submitted by Anonymous on November 14, 2018

Ugh! What a punch in the gut! The good news about increased NIH funding, followed by a huge decrease in paylines: 8-9 percentile points! Makes no sense. Depressing.

Submitted by Jo on November 29, 2018

After all the hype about increased pay lines... Now they seem more stringent than before, yet incredibly generous for a single condition, Alzheimer's disease.
That aside, I am a bit confused. As my R03 application (21st percentile, non-AD) went to September Council, I checked the FY 2018 pay lines repeatedly and I distinctly remember the general cutoff being 19%. I looked back now and it states "23%" (…). Was the pay line increased retroactively? And, since my grant went in before October 2018 would it be eligible for 2018 pay lines ?
Thank you,

Submitted by Robin Barr on November 29, 2018

In reply to by Jo

We raised last year’s funding line to the 23rd percentile late in the year. In terms of which applications fall within that line, the ones we considered go through the May 2018 Council. Applications assigned to the October 2018 Council are for funding consideration in FY 2019.

I recommend you contact your program officer to discuss your current application.

Submitted by Michael Jaasma on December 12, 2018

Dr. Barr, do you have any information on the 2019 pay lines for SBIRs?

Submitted by Robin Barr on December 12, 2018

The first round of Small Business research applications for FY 2019 is the upcoming January round. I hope to have news of our funding line for these applications early in the new year.

Submitted by Evelina Sterling on December 14, 2018

I received a 13th percentile for my recent R15 AREA grant submission focusing on chronic disease self-management. This seems to fit within the current payline so I'm optimistic. I was just wondering what the time line was for establishing the awards and when I should hear a final decision. In ERA Commons it just says pending. Thanks so much!

Submitted by René Etcheberrigaray on December 17, 2018

In reply to by Evelina Sterling

Your application underwent the second level of review by the National Advisory Council on Aging and is being considered for funding. For additional information on funding, please contact the Program Officer listed on the top left corner of the Summary Statement.

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