The Number of NIH PIs 1985-2014: The Effect of Multiple PIs

May 28 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I recently posted a somewhat startling curve showing the total number of NIH contact PIs for all mechanisms in the NIH RePORT database. This showed a drop in the total number of PIs from FY2010 to the present.

As I lay awake thinking about this curve and what might mean, I thought it might change somewhat if I included all PIs instead of just Contact PIs. Recall that the NIH multiple PI policy only went into effect in around 2005.

I was able to examine this point relatively quickly. The results are shown below:

NIH PI Plot wNonContact


This shows that the inclusion of all PIs decreases the magnitude of the drop since FY2010.

Some other interesting statistics about non-Contact PIs are:

Total Contact PIs:  216,521

Total PIs listed as other than Contact PI:  11,504

PIs who have never been Contact PI:  2,873


10 responses so far

  • […] recently posted data on the number of unique NIH PIs for all mechanisms listed in the NIH RePORT […]

  • DJMH says:

    So is the right interpretation that more PIs are subsisting by being co-PIs on someone else's grant than they used to?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Multi-PI should not be conflated with our prior conception of co-PI in my view.

    It may sometimes reflect that but it also very often is a mechanism to give fullr credit to a fully deserving PI.

    I would object to people looking at the "never Contact" multi-PI as if they were inevitably some sort of undeserving hanger-on.

    Question for the peanut gallery: Do you mentally think of the Contact-PI as the "real" PI and everyone else as a mere collaborating investigator?

  • lurker says:

    How do PI's under P01's and U54's get quantified in this mix? There, you have both contact and non-contact PIs?

  • drugmonkey says:

    PIs of components should be listed like any regular old PI for a standalone R, no?

  • Established PI says:

    @DM No, I think of all PIs as equal; contact PI agrees to do more grunt work.

    @DH this looks a little more reasonable (but still disturbing). However, that 2003 data point still bothers me - what could possible be going on there? I looked at number of submissions and success rates over at the NIH web site and the sharp drop you see just doesn't seem consistent with any of those trends.

    I'm looking forward to further analysis to figure out whether the cull is across the board or whether there is a disproportionate effect on particular groups. As always, thanks for doing this.

    • datahound says:

      The 2003 data probably reflect a change in accounting practices at NIH. As you can see in the R01 data I posted, there does not seem to be anything strange there.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I look at a point like 2003 on a trend line like that and think "probably some sort of screwup in the dataset". don't you?

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Didn't congress pass the budget super late that year? Could it just be that more were pushed to 2004 as a result of a late budget?

  • Philapodia says:

    Component PIs on U54s are listed as regular PIs in Reporter.

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