NIH Mechanism to cap the number of awards per investigator
Summary by Lewis Burke, LLC
On May 2, Larry Tabak, Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), held a conference call for NIH stakeholders to announce a new grants policy for the agency. NIH will now use a measure called the Grant Support Index (GSI) to effectively limit the total grant support provided to individual principal investigators. The stated intent of the new policy is to redistribute NIH funding to afford mid-career investigators a better opportunity to receive grants, particularly R01s. While the agency is still working out the details, the general idea is that specific NIH grant mechanisms like the R01 would be assigned a GSI value of 7 and investigators will be capped at 21 points. Investigators then applying for grants beyond that cap would have to justify how they were going to reconcile that with their existing funding. NIH is considering implementing this new policy for applications submitted in September 2017 and awarded in May-June 2018.
Although it was clear that NIH has determined that NIH’s signature research grant, the R01, will have a GSI value of 7, Dr. Tabak stressed that NIH hasn’t yet determined the GSI point values for other grant mechanisms (e.g. capacity building or exploratory grants like the R03, R15, and R21; program project grants like P01, P30, P50; training grants; or large awards such as U awards and Clinical and Translational Science Awards). In addition, Dr. Tabak indicated that NIH will phase in the GSI and that the agency will not defund any existing grants.
It is important to note that NIH is within its authority to make this grants policy change. Much on how the GSI will be operationalized remains to be determined. Over the next several weeks, NIH institute and center advisory councils will be meeting and the agency is seeking feedback from the councils and the stakeholder community on this new policy.
Please note that Lewis-Burke has not heard of other agencies considering whether to adopt this approach to grant funding. Lewis-Burke will continue to monitor developments related to NIH’s new policy and will share new information as it becomes available.