In the context of recent discussions of NIH age group data, @dgermain21 pointed to some interesting data in a recent NIH report on physician scientists regarding NIH R01 Award Rates as a function of age group (as well as degree, race/ethnicity, and gender. These data are quite surprising as shown below:
These data are for all individuals in the analysis. I have omitted the curves for individuals 30 or less and 71+ since these data are relatively noisy, presumably to relatively small numbers of individuals in these groups.
The term Award Rate is defined by NIH as "the number of awards made in a fiscal year divided by the absolute number of applications where we don’t combine resubmissions (A1s) that come in during the same fiscal year." Thus, Award Rate is lower that Success Rate since the denominator is higher.
Of course, the surprising observation is that these rates are highest for the 31-40 age and declines monotonically so that it is lowest for the 61-70 age group. This is certainly counter to what I would have expected where I would have anticipated the opposite trend or perhaps a peak for the 51-60 age group. This observation begs an explanation.
Digging into the report, the Quantitative Analysis Methodology section indicates that
"The NIH awards and time period selected for inclusion in the system from IMPACII (the large internal NIH database) were:
- Research Project Grants for the following 25 activity codes between 1993 and 2012, Type 1 applications,..."
The term "Type 1" applications refers to new (as opposed to competing renewal) applications. This suggests that the above data may be only for these new applications. Competing renewal 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 importance of younger relative to older investigators. This may be an important contributor to these data, although I still find it surprising that the reported trends still apply to new R01 applications.
Interested readers should look at the report and help try to understand how to interpret these data.
I contacted the individuals responsible for the data in this report. The missing data (zeros for PIs between 61 and 70) have been filled in, the the NIH believes that the other data are correct as posted. Thus, it appears that award rate for new (Type 1) R01s appears to decrease monotonically with increasing PI age and this was true for every year from 1999 to 2012.