R01 Success Rates: New and Renewal Applications

Jul 08 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

In a recent post, I looked at the distributions of A0, A1, and A2 awards for new (Type 1) versus renewal (Type 2) R01 grants. I noted differences between trends for new and renewal awards over time and commenters Ryan and DrugMonkey noted possible reasons for these differences. As DrugMonkey said "Remember the structural issues here with Type 2s. There is a fixed number of possible Type 2s and an unlimited number of Type 1s that can come in for consideration. As each Type 2 flails out at the A1 (or previously A2) stage, it is gone forever from the pool of potential Type 2s."

NIH does release data regarding the number of applications for new versus renewal R01s (and many other mechanisms. The data for new R01 applications and awards for FY2003 to FY2013 are shown below:


These data show that the number of applications for new (Type 1) R01s grew with an initial burst immediately after the end of the doubling and then another stimulated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) implementation. The number of applications in FY2013 was 24% larger than that for FY2003. The number of awards declined relatively steadily over this period of time with a 26% drop from FY2003 to FY2013.

The situation is very different for renewal (Type 2) applications as shown below:


The number of applications for renewal (Type 2) applications grew from FY2003 to FY2006 and then declined relatively steadily through FY2013. There has been a 32% drop in the number of applications for Type 2 applications from the peak to FY2013. The number of renewal awards fell by 47% from FY2003 to FY2013.

The success rates for new and renewal R01 applications are compared below:

R01 Success Rates-2

The success rate curves parallel one another relatively closely. The success rate for renewal applications was 48.3% in FY2003 and it fell to 31.4% in FY2013, a drop of 35%. The success rate for new applications was 24.1% in FY2003 and fell to 14.3%, a drop of 40%. As DrugMonkey noted, the pool of projects eligible to be the subject of renewal applications limited.

10 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Do I spy a downward inflection in the Type2 apps trend that is coincident with the banning of A2s in 2009? 🙂

  • drugmonkey says:

    The difference in application trends for Type 1 and Type 2 is perhaps not surprising to me but, as usual with your charts, it is striking to see it graphed. This is very important for the discussions of "stabilizing" the work force, in my view.

    • datahound says:

      DM: I think you pretty much nailed this with your previous comment. I, personally, was surprised when I plotted the Type 2 data but, in retrospect, I probably should not have been. I agree that understanding these data is important to stabilization or sustainability discussions. Indeed, one could hypthesize that the distress felt by less established investigators started shortly after the doubling when success rates started to fall and this spread to more established investigators later when they or the peers started to see the number of Type 2 grants submitable and funded falling.

  • My guess is that with the unlimited submission rule, success rates for Type 1 and Type 2 applications will start to converge. This is based on my experience with study section psychology and sociology.

    • Datahound says:

      Interesting hypothesis. The ratio of Type 2 to Type 1 success rates ranged from 1.81 to 2.32 with no particular trend from FY2003 to FY2013. It was 2.20 in FY2013. However, the dynamics for the application pools are different. The number of Type 1 applications is likely to go up with the unlimited submission and some of the new applications may have not faired well when previously submitted. At the same time, the number of Type 2 applications is likely to continue to fall with retirements and Type 2 A2 applications becoming "new." My guess is that the success rate ratio will remain stable but the number of Type 2 awards will continue to fall.

      • I think the ratio will decline, as study sections no longer feel pressure to fund a long-standing Type 2 application when they now know that it can be "resubmitted" as a new Type 1. I have already observed this dynamic in play this last round.

  • Joe says:

    I hadn't realized the drops for R01s were that dramatic. We've lost roughly a quarter of the number of new R01s and a half of the renewals. There have been flat budgets and rather severe inflation of costs for years, but you always hear NIH saying that they are protecting the R01 and supporting basic research. I thought the applicant pool had just expanded too much, and we were only slightly declining in actual numbers of R01s funded. But that's not it. We really are living through a large reduction in biomedical science in the US.

    • Datahound says:

      The total investment corresponding to the data in this post for all new and competing R01s fell from $2.51 B in FY2003 to $2.02 B in FY2013. Note that this does not including continuing (non-competing) R01s. The total R01 investment for NIH was $9.76 B in FY2003 and $9.80 B in FY2013, that is, is have been essentially flat in numerical value. Over this period, the overall NIH appropriation grew from $26.74 B in FY2003 to $29.13 B. The BRDPI correction from 2003 to 2013 is 72.5% so there has been a drop of 27.5% in buying power with a flat numerical investment.

      There has been growth in other mechanisms including R21s and new mechanisms such as the Pioneer (DP1) and New Innovator (DP2) as I will discuss in a subsequent post.

  • […] applications (Type 2) applications come predominantly from more senior investigators and have substantially higher success rates than new applications. Thus, the restriction to Type 1 applications would be expected improve the […]

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