The Recovery from the Recovery Act

Apr 30 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

In response to my initial post, several commenters expressed surprise about the number of previously non-R mechanism funded investigators who joined the R-funded pool from FY2008 to FY2009 and then departed from FY2010 to FY2011. These transitions were presumed to be due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Many, both inside and outside of NIH, were concerned about the potential impacts on the ARRA funding on the biomedical research enterprise since the funds were intended to be spent over two years, perhaps a sensible concept in the context of an economic stimulus but not the optimal way to support real scientific progress. Options were developed to allow funding of some longer-term projects (such as traditional R01s), but most institutes and centers were reluctant to fund such awards since the out-years (past the two year period supported by ARRA funds) would have to be supported from regular appropriations (of unknown size), potentially greatly limiting the funds available for new and competing awards in FY2011 and beyond.

So, how did NIH handle the situation? NIH funded many supplements to existing grants, funded short-term mechanisms such as R03s and R21s, funded a large number of 2-year R01s (otherwise a rarity), and created new mechanisms including RC1s (“Challenge Grants”) and RC2s (“Grand Opportunity Grants”).

Using NIH RePORTER (which has a filter for ARRA-supported grants), I examined ARRA-funded grants awarded in FY2009 and FY2010 and compared the PIs with those from FY2008 from my previous analysis. The results for all R mechanisms for New (defined as not funded by some R mechanism in FY2008 but ARRA-funded in FY2009 or FY2010) and Existing (funded by some R mechanism in FY2008 and received ARRA funding) are shown below:

 

  R01 R21 R03 R15 RC1 RC2 All
New 692 681 274 189 404 155 2654
Existing 1097 493 91 8 490 225 2779

Supplements:  7420; of these, supplements to R01s:  5996

 

Overall, the total number of awards is nearly split with 2654 going to “New” PIs and 2779 going to “Existing” PIs. For R01s, 61% of the awards went to “Existing” PIs. However, for other mechanisms, including R21s, R03s, and particularly R15s (AREA grants), more awards went to PIs who had not been R-funded in FY2008.  In addition, over 7400 supplements were awarded including nearly 6000 to R01s. Almost all of these were to “Existing” PIs although a small number of supplements were made in FY2010 to grants first award in FY2009.

For the RC1 and RC2 awards (which were not included in my previous analysis), 55% (for RC1s) and 60% (for RC2s) were awarded to “Existing” R-funded PIs.

The total number of R01, R21, R03, and R15 awards to “New” PIs was 1836.   With the addition of some SBIR/STTR awards, the number is approximately 2000. This aligns reasonably well with the increase in the number of R-funded investigators from 5190 from FY2007 to FY2008 to 6533 from FY2008 to FY2009. Since most of these were 2-year awards and the budget was quite constrained again in FY2011, it is not surprising that many of these investigators left the R-funded pool in FY2011 (although I have not yet checked this directly).

The total number of R01, R21, R03, and R15 awards to “New” PIs was 1836.   With the addition of some SBIR/STTR awards, the number is approximately 2000. This aligns reasonably well with the increase in the number of R-funded investigators from 5190 from FY2007 to FY2008 to 6533 from FY2008 to FY2009. Since most of these were 2-year awards and the budget was quite constrained again in FY2011, it is not surprising that many of these investigators left the R-funded pool in FY2011 (although I have not yet checked this directly).

6 responses so far

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Your "new" category is obviously overestimating the number of actual new R-holders induced by ARRA, since some fraction of them had Rs that had terminated before 2008.

    • datahound says:

      CP: I tried to define "New" in the post in a new specific way (meaning only not R-funded in FY2008. I am sure very few of these were "New Investigators" using the traditional NIH definition.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    But isn't the latter what's relevant to the question how many genuinely new PIs were lured into the NIH R game by ARRA?

    • datahound says:

      That would be relevant for the question you pose. I was addressing a slightly different question, namely, how much of the ARRA resources went to "the usual suspects" (who presumably would already have an active grant) versus others. Identifying actual "New PIs" or "ESIs" would be difficult, but I should be able to look back further to identify folks where have not been funded for "n" prior years.

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