Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter ~ February 2012
NIH Rethinks Multiple-Grant Review Policy
With the announcement of President Obama’s flat budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week, the agency says it will now review proposals from researchers with more than $1.5 million in grants with extra scrutiny. The current grant success rate is at a historic low of 18%, and the NIH is hyper aware of the need to fund early career researchers who may be looking for their first grant in this difficult budgetary climate.
In 2008, two NIH advisory panels recommended that PIs spend at least 20% of their time on any given grant, therefore capping the number of grants each researcher has concurrently to five. However, many were critical of this recommendation and the 20% time allocation was not adopted by the agency. The grant cap recommendation also fell under scrutiny, as many are steadfast in their belief that intellectual merit is the only measure by which grants should be evaluated. To strike a balance between rigorous review and fairness, NIH has decided to put any grant proposal from a researcher with more than $1.5 million through an additional layer of review from external advisors.
Although many are shocked that the agency is moving in this direction, the presence of some millionaire biomedical “superstars” may raise eyebrows among others. The “seven lucky seven” are seven NIH-supported PIs each holding seven concurrent grants from the agency, totaling anywhere between two and seven million dollars. Incidentally, six of the lucky seven happen to be men.