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NIH Announces a Pilot Program for Special Review of Research Applications from Principal Investigators with More than $1.5 Million Total Annual Support

Legislative Update
May 19, 2012

On May 18, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) posted a notice announcing its intent to pilot procedures for investigator-initiated grants and cooperative agreements from Program Directors (PDs) and Principal Investigators (PIs) who already receive in excess of $1.5 million per year in total costs to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators. This process will include special review by the NIH Institute and Center (I/C) Advisory Councils to receive appropriate feedback.

This process reflects an ongoing review by NIH of the grants management process, especially in light of flat and reduced funding which NIH has experienced in recent Fiscal Year (FY) funding cycles. In the Presidentís proposed FY2013 annual budget, special council review for PIs with more than $1.5 million in support is just one of several grants management process changes recommended, which also include:

  • Reducing the cost of non-competing RPGs by one percent below the FY2012 level
  • Negotiating budgets of competing RPGs to avoid growth in the average award size
  • Eliminating inflationary increases in out-year budgets of both competing and non-competing RPGs
  • Maintaining the salary cap at Executive Level II ($179,700) as in FY2012. [Note that through the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), NAEVR and ARVO support advocacy activities requesting a return to Executive Level I funding].
The Presidentís proposal would level-fund the NIH. Despite flat-funding, NIH proposes an increase in the number of new and competing Research Project Grants (RPGs) to 9,415, an increase of 672 above FY2012-partially as a result of large turnover of grants in FY2013, freeing up funding, and also due to the changes in grants management noted above.

Neither chamber of Congress has yet to mark up an FY2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending bill (which includes NIH funding), although the Senate is expected to do so in early June and the House in early July.