In a comment to my recent post, Dave asked how the fraction of the NIH appropriation going to different areas of NIH activity could be easily quantified. The answer to this question is "yes and no." The key source about the NIH budget is called a "mechanism table". These are developed each year and are available from the NIH Budget Office (and from at least some IC websites). Below are NIH-wide mechanism tables for FY2003 and FY2013:
The mechanism table has the budget broken down into major categories including Research Grants, Research Centers, Other Research, Training Awards, Intramural Research, Research Management and Support (administrative costs for running NIH) and a number of other smaller categories. The distribution among these different categories for NIH as a whole for FY2013 is shown below:
The largest categories for FY2013 are Research Project Grants (51.0%), Intramural Research (11.1%), Contracts (10.0%), and Research Centers (9.3%).
These percentages were not vastly different in FY2003: Research Project Grants (51.4%), Intramural Research (9.6%), Contracts (8.6%), and Research Centers (9.1%). Thus, the fraction of the budget going to Research Project Grants dropped from 51.4 to 51.0% over this decade while Intramural Research grew from 9.6% to 11.1%. These data must be examined carefully before interpretation. For example, the growth in Intramural Research is due, in part, to an accounting change wherein the entire National Library of Medicine budget moved from a separate item to Intramural Research. The Intramural Research plus National Library of Medicine budget was 10.7% of the overall budget in FY2003.
Examination of the NIH-wide mechanism tables over time provides look at changes in NIH investment strategy in very broad strokes over time. In further posts, I will examine these changes, differences in mechanism tables between Institutes and Centers, and more breakdowns of the Research Project Grant pool.