NIH Announces Preliminary Plans for New Approach to Grant Funding

May 3, 2017
On May 2, NIH Principal Deputy Director, Larry Tabak, DDS, PhD, led a stakeholder conference call to introduce a grants policy change that will be implemented over the next few months called the Grant Support Index (GSI). The purpose of this change is to allow NIH to address concerns regarding the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise. While Dr. Tabak noted several key grants policy changes put in place in the wake of the 2012 report of the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, these changes have had only moderate success in addressing the balance of funding across career stages.
Citing analyses that show that 10 percent of investigators receive 40 percent of NIH funds as well as the diminishing returns on productivity from investigators with three or more R01 grants, Dr. Tabak introduced the GSI as a mechanism for balancing NIH funding across the research community.  The need for such a mechanism has been highlighted in several publications, including a 1985 paper by Bruce Alberts and more recently, FASEB’s 2015 report, Sustaining Discovery in the Biomedical and Biological Sciences. While NIH is still developing the specific parameters of the GSI and plans to actively engage the stakeholder community in this process, Dr. Tabak outlined several key components, listed below:
  • GSI will assign a point value based on grant complexity or size
  • Investigators will not be defunded if they hit the GSI cap; NIH anticipates rolling out the policy so that a new grant submission would trigger a process in which the applicant would have to provide a plan for how to balance their NIH funding portfolio
  • GSI would automatically be calculated by ERA, minimizing administrative burdens
  • NIH anticipates that the “cap” score will be 21, but they are still working on the scale and specific point values for grant types/roles
  • The cap is anticipated to affect only 6 percent of NIH funded investigators but will free up approximately $500M - $650M (1,500-1,600 new awards)
  • Details of the implementation plan to be informed by stakeholders, including all IC Councils (all will discuss this during May meetings) and requests for input from community
A recording of the teleconference is attached. Statements from NIH Director, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and NIH Director of Extramural Research, Michael Lauer, MD, are provided in the links below.
Director’s Statement:
Open Mike blog: