The last month has been a nail-biter for research teams throughout the US. The political climate swayed from full out panic at the notion that there would be an across the board 20% cut to research to sudden elation that the budget would include a two billion dollar investment in NIH for 2018.

Spurred in part by scientists’ backlash and much anticipated public outreach efforts culminating in the March for Science, Congress was able to push through the increase. NIH leadership took some long overdue steps to reforming how funding is distributed by announcing it would be capping the number of R01 grants any PI could hold.

About 6% of the investigator pool now has more than this level of support, and early and midcareer investigators would benefit from freeing up the money going to those awards, which could support 1600 new grants.

The official email announcement is below, but readers are referred to an outstanding JAMA viewpoints piece from John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, a man who rocks a bow tie, suggesting a model of funding people over projects, capping funding for individuals and decreasing funding for PIs after the age of 70.

Read more here

On May 2, NIH announced its intention to cap individual PIs at three R01 awards using a metric “Grants Support Index (GSI)”. To obtain an audio file of the May 2 Stakeholder call, please contact nmb@od.nih.gov

NIH is still refining the GSI metric and is seeking input — particularly at the upcoming NIH Advisory Council meetings.  If institutions have members on the Council, they may wish to prepare their members to ask questions about the GSI.  

As you consider proving feedback on the GSI, please note Dr. Collins’ announcement and the “Open Mike” blog from Mike Lauer, Deputy Director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research. 

Below is a brief summary of the NIH actions announced on May 2 by the NIH relating to capping R01 Awards and the new GSI:

The May 2 Stakeholders call chaired by Larry Tabak announced NIH will be phasing in a program to cap individual PI R01s at three awards.  The cap, over time, will help provide additional support for young and mid-career investigators.  NIH is in the final phases of designing a metric “Grants Support Index” (GSI) to use to cap individual grant support to individual PIs. The intent is to use the metric to enhance the success of groups most at-risk throughout all stages of career development by re-allocating resources.

  • The GSI is based on the RPI which has been discussed in the “Open Mike” blog on the OER webpage
  • The GSI does not focus on funding levels, since different types of science have different costs
  • The GSI will utilize a point value based on type, complexity, size of grant(s)
  • If PIs score more than “21 points” on GSI – (equivalent of 3 single-PI R01 awards) the PI will be required to disclose how he or she will reduce their commitments if a new grant is awarded
  • NIH expects the GSI to impact only 6%-7% of NIH investigators but to free up ~1600 new awards for new investigators and improve stability of enterprise
  • NIH is not defunding any current grants – the new GSI measure will be phased-in
  • GSI will be calculated automatically by ERA so no additional administrative burden to PIs

NIH wants the metric to be further informed by the stakeholder community. The “Open Mike” blog posted on May 2 by Mike Lauer provides additional details regarding the composition of the GSI metric. Over the next two months, NIH Advisory Councils will be meeting and each receive a presentation on the GSI. The Councils will provide input to Dr. Tabak and Dr. Lauer.  The stakeholder community will be asked to provide input as well.  

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