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Declines in NIH R01 Research Grant Funding

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Science  10 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5899, pp. 189
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5899.189a

In association with the National Caucus of Basic Biomedical Science Chairs, we have tracked funding of R01 grants (13). We found an R01 decline, which slows progress in fundamental research and deters bright young people from entering science.

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In 2006, we reported (3) that between fiscal years (FY) 1999 and 2005, there was a sharp decline in the funding of unamended (i.e., as originally submitted) R01 applications. In the past 2 years, further declines have occurred for both new (Type-1) and renewal (Type-2) R01 applications (Table 1) (4, 5).

New data for FY2007 indicate a substantial drop in the number of R01 applications submitted. However, during FY2006 and FY2007, further decreases occurred in total number of unamended applications funded and in dollar allocations. The 7% success rate of new applications implies that only 1 of 14 unamended applications was funded. For specific NIH Institutes, such as the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, success rates were even lower: 5%, 5%, and 3%, respectively. For renewal applications, the decline means discontinuation of 75% of ongoing programs.

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Resubmission of amended applications—a slow, time-consuming process—increases likelihood of success (6) but protracts initiation of research. For ongoing projects (Type-2 applications), interruption of inprogress investigations often breaks up successful, experienced teams of investigators.

We also calculated annual allocations to the entire R01 program in relation to fluctuations in total NIH Research grant support (7). Since FY2000, R01 funding has suffered compared with overall funding, so that by FY2007 the deficiency reached almost $1.2 billion (Table 2). Rectification of this progressive decline in R01 funding would provide about 3200 additional research grants. Selective de-emphasis of R01 grants limits innovative discoveries for improving our nation's health.

References and Notes

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