The recent commentary by Alberts, Kirschner, Tilghman, and Varmus on Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws (which discussed using training mechanisms in preference to research mechanisms to support graduate students, among other topics) as well as a recent post by DrugMonkey on individual postdoctoral NRSA fellowships (F32s) reactivated my interest in analyzing data on the distribution of training (as opposed to research) funds across institutions.
Below is a plot of of the total T32 institutional training funds awarded to 195 institutions that received at least some T32 funding for FY2013 versus the total NIH funding for FY2013 for these institutions:
These two parameters are highly correlated (correlation coefficient 0.94). This correlation implies that institutional training grant funds are relatively concentrated with approximately 50 institutions accounting for about half of the total annual institutional grant investment. Some of these awards support predoctoral trainees, some postdoctoral trainees, and some a mixture. The distribution of the sizes of training grants as a function of the number of years for which they have been funded is shown below:
Many of the largest T32 awards are Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP, Combined MD/PhD) awards. These are highlighted on the plot for clarity.
Note that there is a trend with average award size increasing as a function of the increasing duration of the award as shown below:
This trend is driven in part by the large size and long duration of many MSTP awards but the trend is present even excluding the MSTP awards.
In addition to institutional training awards, NIH also funds individual postdoctoral (F32) and predoctoral (F31) awards. The distribution of postdoctoral F32 awards across institutions is shown below:
While there is again a strong correlation with the total institutional funding, it is less strong than that for T32 awards (correlation coefficient = 0.79 versus 0.94). There are outliers from the general trend which have a larger number of F32 awards than one would expect from the general trend.
Again, the correlation is less pronounced than it is for T32s (correlation coefficient 0.79) but with outliers below rather than above the trend line. Some of these outliers are two hospitals associated with Harvard Medical School which is an outlier above the trend line. The others may at institutions where the fraction of students applying for F31 support may be low although this is just a conjecture.
Interestingly, the number of NIH Institutes and Centers participating in the parent F31 award announcement in current fiscal year jumped to 23 from 13 at the time of the previous announcement. This may reflect NIH embracing the recommendation that more Ph.D. students being supported by fellowships rather than research grants.