We are now paying career award applications to a score of 15. I know this will bring cold comfort to too many of you. And, the shock of learning that we are paying those career award applications with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease to a score above 30 leaves a sharp sting for those whose worthy aims do not address that priority.
We announced interim paylines on our funding policy site the other day. When you read that we are funding to the 5th percentile for research grants, and to a score of 14 on career awards and only paying NIA-reviewed applications that achieved scores of 10 or 11 you must wonder at our apparent miserliness. Why not release more awards now?
Earlier this month, I spent a week with NIA’s 2014 Butler-Williams Scholars Program (formerly the NIA Summer Institute on Aging Research). These early career researchers from diverse backgrounds come to Bethesda from all over the country. They learn about the best of our science—aging biology, behavioral and social research, neuroscience, geriatrics and clinical gerontology, and health disparities. Perhaps even more importantly, they learn about grantsmanship, share challenges, and make new connections. It’s something that the NIA has been doing for decades: bringing bright, promising scientists to residential programs to grow their skills and encourage them to stay the course. What an honor it was to meet this year’s class. And what fun!
Half the reason for writing this time is to allow you a forum on our site to comment on what the new NIH resubmission policy means for the NIA community. But the other half of the reason is to explain what it might mean for us at NIA. As a refresher, the new resubmission policy means that after an unsuccessful A1 submission (or A0 submission) investigators may submit a similar application as a new (A0) application. NIH will not review the new submission for similarity to the prior application.
We have been here before. The continuing resolution provides some research funds—not a lot though. Like a ticking clock it winds down on January 15. And our backdrop is a familiar debate on Capitol Hill about appropriations. Maybe it will end with better NIA and NIH numbers than last year. Or maybe not. We posted our interim funding policy. Really there is only one option in setting paylines, or funding lines, for grants at this time. We must be conservative.
Junior investigators always face challenges. Those from diverse backgrounds face even more challenges. If you’re mentoring someone, or if you yourself are one of these junior investigators, you know this all too well. The NIH and the NIA are working very hard on this issue. Here are some actions you can take to find supportive communities—and available funding opportunities.
We just wrapped up the fiscal year. The quick summary? We scraped through. For research project grants like R01s, we held our payline (or funding line) to the same level as the prior two years. This is what we promised in the funding policy back in May, and I’m really happy to report that we kept that commitment.
Maybe you are a graduate student, a postdoc, or a new junior faculty member. You have carefully crafted a fellowship application or a career development application. Now, you sit on pins and needles hoping to hear that reviewers love what you propose and that the NIA will make an award. But wait! I wish that happy conjunction (reviewers love it, the NIA funds it) were always true. But in these times, it can happen that reviewers love it, but the NIA does not have the money to fund it. For fellowship and career development awards the unhappy conjunction (too much reviewer love for the money) also makes funding decisions particularly tricky.