In the course of my recent analyses, I generated a data base including 84739 competing (new and competing renewal) R01 grants awarded by NIH from FY2001 to FY2014. These grants were awarded to approximately 1300 institutions although approximately half of these institutions were awarded 3 or fewer R01s over this period. The total number of unique principal investigators is approximately 44200. The distribution of the number of grants and the associated number of principal investigators for institutions with 10 or more R01s over this period is shown below:

The two curves are approximately parallel, indicating a relatively constant ratio of competing R01 grant awards over this period per principal investigator. Overall, this average is 1.91.

The distribution of the number of principal investigators versus the number of competing R01 grants awards from FY2001 to FY2014 is shown below:

The number of awards ranges from 1 (since only investigators with at least 1 R01 award are including in the analysis) to 16. This curve appears to be exponential as is supported by the plot of the natural log of the number of principal investigators versus the number of competing grants shown below:

This plot is quite linear with a slope of -0.675 (corresponding to the exponent in the initial curve).

This distribution of ratio of competing R01 grants per principal investigator across 150 institutions with a relatively large number of awards is shown below:

The 25 institutions with the highest value of this parameter are listed below:

JOSLIN DIABETES CENTER | 3.37 |

SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE | 2.96 |

WISTAR INSTITUTE | 2.95 |

ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY | 2.92 |

LA JOLLA INST FOR ALLERGY & IMMUNOLGY | 2.83 |

SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES | 2.81 |

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY | 2.69 |

HARVARD UNIVERSITY (MEDICAL SCHOOL) | 2.61 |

SANFORD-BURNHAM MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTIT | 2.60 |

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY | 2.59 |

DANA-FARBER CANCER INST | 2.53 |

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY | 2.52 |

STANFORD UNIVERSITY | 2.52 |

JACKSON LABORATORY | 2.51 |

HENRY M. JACKSON FDN FOR THE ADV MIL/MED | 2.51 |

BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY | 2.36 |

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA | 2.33 |

COLUMBIA UNIV NEW YORK MORNINGSIDE | 2.32 |

J. DAVID GLADSTONE INSTITUTES | 2.32 |

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO | 2.31 |

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY | 2.29 |

UNIV OF MASSACHUSETTS MED SCH WORCESTER | 2.29 |

FRED HUTCHINSON CAN RES CTR | 2.29 |

YALE UNIVERSITY | 2.26 |

WEILL MEDICAL COLL OF CORNELL UNIV | 2.25 |

This list includes groups of institutions with very different "business models". Some operate largely on "soft money" where principal investigators are expected to bring in most of their salaries (as well as research support) from extramural sources. Others are largely basic science-focused institutions with significant institutional support through teaching and other missions.

How do the curves of the number of principal investigators versus the number of R01 grants look for these institutions?

The curves for Joslin Diabetes Center are shown below:

These curves are relatively noisy since it is based on only 27 principal investigators. With this caveat, the fit reveals an exponent of -0.209, smaller by more than a factor of three than the overall NIH-wide parameter. This reveals that a larger percentage of principal investigators have a greater number of R01s over this period of time.

The curves for Scripps Research Institute, Rockefeller University, and MIT are shown below:

Comparison of these graphs reveals that each distribution is approximately exponential although some variations are present. The calculated exponents are -0.367 for Scripps Research Institute, -0.381 for Rockefeller University, and -0.435 for MIT. These track the ratios of the total number ofÂ competing R01s to principal investigators.

As a final point of comparison, the graphs for Massachusetts General Hospital which has a ratio of competing R01s to principal investigators of 2.01, slightly above the NIH-wide value.

Again, an approximately exponential distribution is observed with a coefficient of -0.578, relatively close to the NIH-wide value.

This analysis reveals that the distribution of the number of competing R01 grants received by investigators over the period from FY2001 to FY2014 is remarkably constant across a range of institutions. The exponential distributions indicate that the experiences of principal investigators vary widely across each institution with a small number of investigators highly successful in obtaining R01 funding and a larger number of investigators obtaining smaller numbers of competing R01 awards over this 14 year period.

If I am reading this correctly it restates Rockey's post showing that the vast majority of PIs have 1-2 grants and anything over 3 is really rare. This feeds back into the idea that some people have that the RealProblem is the 5 grant money bags and if you cut them back there would be copious money for all. This analysis warns, again, that there just aren't enough of the money bags types with excessive numbers of grants to make a dent in the general payline.

I'm unclear on how you are measuring the number of grants per investigator. is it at any one time? total across the 14 year interval? seems like there would be some variation within any PI across an interval like this.

I am counting the number of COMPETING award for the entire interval. Suppose that an investigator received competing R01s in 2001, 2005, two in 2008, 2011, 2013, and two more in 2014, this would be counted as 8 grants for the purpose of this analysis. Similarly, if an investigator was awarded an R01 grant in 2003 and no others, this would be counted as 1 grant.