The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) recently launched new program the ‘Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award’ (MIRA) program including a variant for New and Early Stage Investigators. The initial results of this program have recently been released. The beginning of this announcement states (bold added):
“We received 320 applications in areas related to NIGMS’ mission, and they were reviewed by four special emphasis panels organized by the NIH Center for Scientific Review. We anticipate making 93 awards, which is more than we estimated in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA); the corresponding success rate is 29.1%.”
This language of this announcement struck me since I have heard from some early stage investigators that their applications had been administrative rejected.
Even though the fiscal year is not quite complete, I decided to request information about this program through FOIA. NIH replied promptly (within four weeks) with the requested information.
The bottom line is that is appears that 83 out of 403 applications that we submitted were administratively rejected. Of the remaining 320 applications, 93 have been or are expected to be funded.
One possible basis for administrative rejection is lack of eligibility as an early stage or new investigator. Another likely basis, given the language in the announcement noted above, is that the applications were deemed to be more appropriate for NIH Institutes or Centers than for NIGMS. This is a problem for Funding Opportunities that are specific to a single Institute or Center. Even though an application may be highly meritorious (although one does not know this since the application was not peer reviewed), it is rejected since it would normally be assigned to a different Institute or Center. With funding opportunities with broader institute participation (such as the parent R01 announcement), an application that does not fit into the areas of interest of one institute can be assigned to another, more appropriate, institute. Since this was an NIGMS-only announcement, that option was not available in this case.
Based on these data, the actual chance of having this type of MIRA application was funded was 93/403 = 23.1%.
Potential applicants should be very mindful of this comment in the announcement:
Research that involves a major change in scientific focus or that migrates away from the mission of NIGMS and/or into an area of major interest of one of the other NIH Institutes or Centers would warrant a discussion with NIGMS program staff.
Contact the listed program officer
Peter C. Preusch, Ph.D.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
to ensure that your chosen plan meets that criterion before you spend your time preparing a full application. Be very explicit about your concerns. Of course, this is good advice for any grant application.
There are more data in the FOIA response. Stay turned for more analysis.