About half of the 22 NIH Institutes no longer post a funding line. Of course, we at NIA do so much better—we post multiple funding lines! We are transparent, though. I’ve heard it said around the halls of NIH that a funding line is a crutch for staff, an easy way to indicate to investigators that their application could not be paid.
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?
NIH announced a change in resubmission policy in April. This blog post covers a different feature of the April policy change: how investigators can make decisions about grant applications that are not funded the first time they are submitted for consideration. If you’re not familiar with the lingo, A0 is the first submission of an application, while A1 is a resubmission of that same application, after some deeply considered changes. With the policy change, investigators now have a real choice after an A0 grant application is not funded.
So, you just received an automated email that asks you to submit “just-in-time” information for your application. Does that mean NIA is going to pay it? I wish! Unfortunately, that just-in-time request brings false hope to too many. Here’s some explanation of the just-in-time messages and our data on who gets funded. It might help you consider the priority of responding to a just-in-time request for information, if your application to NIA has a percentile score of 21 or poorer.
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.
When the dust cleared on our budget this year, the NIA was blessed with a 12.5%, $130 million increase over fiscal year 2013’s sequester-dictated funding. As the NIH as a whole received a 3.4% increase, NIA’s 2014 funding reflects extraordinary recognition from Congress. In fiscal year 2013 (October 2012 to September 2013), we saw our worst success rate ever for research project grant applications—R01s, R21s, R03s, etc. NIA’s success rate was noticeably below the NIH average success rate, which was also among the lowest ever for NIH as a whole.
For the past few years, the NIA has been trying to increase the number of R21 grant applications and awards. The R21, of course, is an NIH-wide grant program “intended to encourage exploratory and developmental research projects by providing support for the early and conceptual stages…” You might wonder why we are so eager to support these awards. Well, it has to do with countering conservatism in the peer review of new science.
Buried within our NIA 2013 funding policy is the apparently shocking statement that our payline for NIA-reviewed research grant applications is 13. When the top score is 10 and the lowest possible score is 90, then a 13 is little short of perfect. We worry about this too. We know that we are leaving some truly outstanding work unpaid. How did this happen?