Archive for: August, 2014

Gender Differences in R00 Institutions

Aug 14 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Following my post noting the occurrence of differences between men and women K99 awardees in their likelihood of receiving an R01 grant NIH, through Sally Rockey's blog, noted that application rates may play a role:

"Of the 2007 cohort of K99 PIs, 86 percent of the men had applied for R01s by 2013, but only 69 percent of the women had applied."

This point has been taken up over at DrugMonkey.

Although such differences in application rates between genders are common in NIH statistics, I was surprised that the rates were this different since the K99 cohort from a single year is, presumably, relatively uniform in terms of career stage, accomplishment (having successfully competed through the same program), and so on.

In considering factors that could contribute to this difference, I thought of the nature of the institutions at which these individuals get their R00 awards (if they do transition). As one (certainly imperfect) measure of institutional characteristics, I used the FY2013 institutional ranking of NIH funding. For the FY2007 cohort, of the 108 men with R00 awards, the median ranking for their R00 institution is 37 and the mean is 81. In contrast, for the 62 women, the median is 57 and the mean is 113. For the FY2008 K99 cohort, the median for men is 44 and the mean is 71. For women, the median is 45 and the mean is 103.

For the purposes of further analysis, I divided institutions into 5 groups (NIH funding ranking 1-25, 6-50, 51-75, 76-100, and >100. The distributions for men and women for the two cohorts are shown below:

2007-2008-Rank plot

The distributions are relatively similar for the institutions near the top of NIH funding rankings. However, there are differences in the remainder of the distribution, most strikingly for institutions with NIH funding ranking >100. For men, 20-21% of the R00 awardees were at such institutions whereas 31-36% of the women were. This reveals that a larger percentage of women over men with K99 awards are beginning their independent careers at institutions that are relatively less research intensive, by opportunity or choice.

How does this relate to the likelihood of receiving an R01 award? The results for the FY2007 cohort are shown below:

2007 Funding Groups New Plot-2

For the investigators at institutions with rank 1-25, the percentages of investigators who have achieved R01 funding is comparable for men and women. However, this is not true for the other sets when a higher percentage of men than women have received R01 funding. For example, more than 20% of all women in this cohort are at institutions with NIH funding rankings >100 and have not received R01 funding compared with 7% of all men.

The corresponding plot for the FY2008 K99 cohort is shown below:

2008 Funding Group New Plot-2

Again, more than 20% of all women are at institutions with NIH funding rankings >100 and have not received R01 funding. In addition, for this cohort, the fraction of women at institutions with NIH funding rankings from 1-25 who have received R01 funding is substantially lower than that for men at the same set of institutions.

These data provide insights into some factors that may contribute to the disparities in R01 funding for women and men in the K99-R00 program. Of course, as one parses the program into smaller groups, the statistical power decreases. Nonetheless, these analyses should provide guidance to allow a better understanding of the role of different factors in NIH funding outcomes.

7 responses so far

A Pilot Study of Continued Funding after Holding a Single R21 Award

Aug 08 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

In a recent post, I highlighted the growth in the number of applications and, to a lesser extent, awards for R21s. At the end of the post, I noted that many individuals who held R21 awards in FY2013 had no other R-mechanism funding and noted that one could track outcomes for these individuals over time going back to an earlier year.

As a first step, I have examined a sample of approximately 800 investigators who received an R21 award in FY2009 and held no other NIH awards (including both R and all other mechanisms). I then examined the funding for these investigators in FY2013. Of the sample of 801 investigators, 576 investigators (72%) had no funding in FY2013.

FY2009 was a year in which NIH received additional funds through ARRA. Of the R21 awards in the sample, 367 were supported by ARRA and 434 were not. Of the ARRA-supported investigators, 277 (75%) had no support in FY2013. Of the non-ARRA-supported investigators, 299 (69%) had no support in FY2013. Of the investigators who were funded, it appears that slightly more than half have R01 funding.

This study is a preliminary study with a sample from a single year, but it provides a general sense of the outcomes after having a single R21 awards. Not that this sample includes investigators at a variety of career stages.

9 responses so far

Non-R01 Individual Investigator Mechanisms: The Growth of R21 Applications

Aug 04 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

In a previous post about R01s, I noted that the fraction of the NIH budget going to R01s decreased over the period from FY2003 to FY2013. This fact is of concern, of course, for a variety of reasons. But first, it is important to understand the observation as completely as we can. One set of factors that has contributed is the growth in the number of R21 awards, driven in large part by a huge increase in the number of R21 applications and the introduction of additional mechanisms.

For the R21 mechanism, the numbers of applications and awards NIH-wide for the period from FY2003 to FY2013 are shown below:

R21 Apps Awards plot

These data reveal that the number of applications increased more than 2.6-fold from 5283 in FY2003 to almost 14000 in FY2012. NIH responded to this "proposal pressure" by increasing the number of awards from 1255 in FY2003 to almost 2000 in FY2012. Nonetheless, the success rate for R21s has remained between 12.9 and 14.9 % over the past five years, generally 2 or more percentile points below the R01 success rate, even for new (as opposed to competing renewal) applications. Thus, the competition for R21 awards is more severe that it is for R01 awards, a fact which is not, in my experience, widely appreciated by the all in the community.

When I was Director of NIGMS, we decided to stop accepting unsolicited R21 applications. This decision was made for two reasons. First, we found the peer review process for R21s quite frustrating. NIGMS was trying to use the R21 mechanism to support "high risk-high potential reward" research, that is, new ideas for which a modest investment could provide a proof of principle that could be used to drive future inquiry. However, despite efforts by CSR and NIGMS staff to orient reviewers, we frequently received scores and summary statements that did not align e.g. 'This is a potentially important and impactful project, but there is no preliminary data' and a bad score or 'This is a solid proposal supported by much preliminary data' with a good score. Because of this, we often struggled to develop sensible paylists. NIH made this problem worse by using the R21 mechanism for many other purposes other than the "high risk-high potential reward" goal. This confused reviewers, applicants, and even NIH staff.

Second, we had misgivings about whether the duration of the R21 and the size of the award would, in general, support substantial research compared to taking the same funds and supporting a smaller number of R01-sized grants. This led to the EUREKA R01 awards, used by NIGMS and a few other institutes.

I do not know of any studies that bear of the success of R21 awards in promoting scientific discovery or in keeping investigators "in the game". One interesting observation is that, in FY2013, more than 2300 (62%) of the R21 awards were held by investigators who had no other R21 or R01 awards (competing or non-competing) in the same year. Looking back to earlier year, one could track subsequent results for such investigators if that would be of interest.

12 responses so far