Budget Outlook for Fiscal Year 2013 and Beyond

As a result of the sequestration, the NIGMS full-year appropriation for Fiscal Year 2013 was reduced by about 5% compared to Fiscal Year 2012. This reduction brings our operating budget to $2,291,294,437. Our financial management plan outlines the Institute’s fiscal policies, which are consistent with NIH’s policies:

Research Project Grants (RPGs)

  • Inflationary increases will be discontinued for all competing and noncompeting awards (both modular and nonmodular).
  • All noncompeting grants will be reduced by 3.5% from the Fiscal Year 2013 committed level. Commitments in Fiscal Year 2014 and beyond will remain unchanged.
  • Overall average costs for competing RPGs will be at approximately the Fiscal Year 2012 level. Inflationary increases for future-year commitments will be discontinued.
  • Fiscal Year 2013 noncompeting awards that have already been issued at a reduced level will be revised upward to reflect the 3.5% reduction.
  • New investigators on R01-equivalent awards will be supported at a success rate equivalent to that of established investigators submitting new (Type 1) R01-equivalent applications.

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards

  • The stipend levels established in Fiscal Year 2012 will be continued this fiscal year.

Centers and Other Mechanisms

  • Noncompeting awards will be reduced by 3.5% from the initial Fiscal Year 2013 committed level.

30 comments on “Budget Outlook for Fiscal Year 2013 and Beyond

  1. From the data posted in Figure 2 of the data generated by Dr. Deatherage at the link you give (http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Research/Pages/trends.aspx) the 2012 Success Rate is stated to be 25%. Thus the Success Rate given above of 18% is 7 percentage points lower or a drop of 28% (7/25)! This seems massive and out of proportion to the single digit changes mentioned. Also, Success Rates for the past five years are given at between 24% and 27% (values are 27, 27, 27, 24, 25) with an average of 26%(+/-1.4) so that the Year 2013 value of 18% is really out of range at -5.6 standard deviations. Is this really the case?

  2. A seven percentage point drop in success rates is huge! It says you are funding 758 RPG. How many were funded in 2012? If my math is correct and we assume that the number of applications is constant and that means the number of funded RPG will decrease from 1213 to 758. Is this correct?

    • In Fiscal Year 2012, NIGMS funded 968 competing RPGs, as compared to the 758 projected in Fiscal Year 2013.

    • As the Success Rate has dropped by 28%, the number of funded grants should also have dropped by 28% if the number of grants is the same. In fact 758*1.28 = 970, which is very close to the numbers given by Nancy Vess above. In any case, the research projects of 200 PIs who would have been funded in any of the last five years will not be funded and the research that was proposed can never be funded again by NIH. This is a huge loss to US health-related science.

      • Why can it “never be funded again”? Even if the PI can’t work out how to reconfigure the Aims enough to pass muster, after 37 months the exact same Aims could be re-submitted for consideration. This would be unwise after three years, but it is permitted.

  3. I agree that the success rate cut seems out of proportion. Personally, I think specifically penalizing investigators whose grant cycles happen to overlap with the sequester cuts is the wrong policy. If I understand correctly, other institutes such as NCI have made larger cuts to noncompeting awards allowing them to keep success rates for competing awards from dropping dramatically. I’m sure investigators who are noncompeting this year would disagree but this seems the most equitable approach. Perhaps NIGMS can comment on the rationale for targeting the cuts preferentially towards competing awards?

    • NIGMS typically reduces the budgets of grants when they are first awarded. This has enabled us to have a higher success rate than we would otherwise have. However, making additional significant cuts to the already-reduced noncompeting grants would seriously affect the ability of most of the grantees to accomplish the goals of their projects.

      • I am curious with such an overt and long lasting policy in place how you can be sure the PIs are not simply gaming you? Thus your “cuts” if anticipated in advance and padded into the proposal in the first place are not the same as cuts at another IC where the expectation might be for full budget allocation. Then the PI simply has to submit applications more frequently to NIGMS (or other ICs) thereby driving up your (or the NIH) denominator.

        It seems like this policy has serious potential for tail-chasing, does it not?

        • It is likely that applicants anticipate cuts. However, approximately 73% of NIGMS’ awarded R01 grants in Fiscal Year 2012 were submitted with modular budgets (a maximum request of $250,000 in direct costs), which suggests that the PIs are asking for what they truly need to accomplish the aims of their projects. You should also be aware that NIGMS staff carefully review every budget prior to award and make reductions on a case-by-case basis. Unless NIGMS reduces a budget by at least 25%, we do not permit grantees to remove aims that could be submitted as part of another grant application.

  4. There are many factors that affect the success rate. The number of applications received from one year to next is one factor. In Fiscal Year 2013, we received 4,112 applications for RPGs (research project grants), a slight increase from the previous year.

    In this year, the research project grant budget has been reduced by 5% but the majority of those funds (79%) are needed for ongoing commitments in Fiscal Year 2013. The remaining funds for competing grants, even held at the same overall average cost as funded in Fiscal Year 2012, will support 18% of the applications received in Fiscal Year 2013. So cutting the budget 5% and only cutting the majority of the grants 3.5% has a bigger impact on the remaining competing grants and the resulting success rate this year.

  5. As much as I don’t like it, the math actually makes sense. Let’s assume 3500 R01s are taking a 3.5% cut. At $350K direct and indirects, this means that GMS saves roughly $43 million. A 210 grant R01 loss with the same numbers saves GMS $73.5 million. This totals $116.5 million and is 90% of what GMS loses in the sequester.

    • But, Derek Abbott, many other ICs are throwing down 8% or even 10% across-the-board cuts (e.g., one module out of a full-mod budget). So GMS is indeed deciding to preserve existing grants at the expense of new award.

  6. I am wondering why a 3.5% cut to FY13 non-competing renewals was chosen instead of 5% which was the cut in the NIGMS budget due to the sequester? While I understand that NIGMS wants to preserve existing grants as much as possible, an additional 1.5% cut is pretty modest and unlikely to significantly affect productivity on existing grants. However, this additional 1.5% cut would increase the FY13 success rate from the proposed 18% to ~20% (based on my calculations). Maybe this doesn’t seem like much but it would fund ~75 additional grants from investigators who may or may not be able to resubmit their proposal given the current resubmission policy.

  7. I already received the FY13 noncompeting grant on 05/01 and it was reduced by 10%. When will it be revised upwards to a 3.5% cut and will NIH notify me about this change? Thank you.

    • NIGMS grants management staff members are in the process of revising the type 5 awards that were issued earlier this fiscal year. They hope to complete all of these revisions within the next 2 to 3 weeks. When a revision is made, you will be notified in the usual way, via a notice of grant award in the eRA Commons at https://commons.era.nih.gov.

  8. I am anxious to know when the final list of successful NIGMS CoBRE IDeA awards will likely be announced. Appreciate your reply. Thank you.

    • We are making awards now and although we have a list of awards currently selected to be paid, we won’t know exactly all of the COBRE Type I awards paid in FY 2013 until the end of the fiscal year [September 30].

  9. Several have already questioned the wisdom of cutting non-competing renewals less than the 5%, the result being that new / competing awards will be reduced in number by 25% this year. I am guessing that the number is as high as 25%, because fellowships and internal administration are (understandably) much more difficult to cut, and that the cut to the RPG budget has to be greater than the overall 5% sequester cut to NIGMS. Why then only 3.5%?

    I have vested interests, being in the unenviable position of likely being impacted however NIGMS were to implement the sequester cuts. I understand that shaving existing grants can at some point limit the ability to deliver on goals, but the 25% cut seems disproportionate and capricious. I also understand that there are no painless solutions, but I wonder whether the policy arose because it is simply easier to cut new grants than non-competing ones. There would be outrage if the current policy’s logic were extended to non-competing renewals, and the lowest priority 25% were terminated so that the top 75% could remain unscathed. Whether competing or non-competing, termination of funding is devastating to the scientific programs and to the scientists within affected laboratories. Those affected will have to develop new aims and could be set back years as a result of the accident of unfortunate timing.

    Clearly I am not the only one struck by the inequality and I’d ask others to join me in requesting deeper cuts to our own non-competing renewals. Perhaps the NIGMS staff can give us a stronger rationale for the policy, could consider re-evaluating the policy, or could assure those of us with strong unfunded proposals that they would automatically be considered next year if the success rates are projected to improve.

    • We expect the total research project grant (RPG) dollar line to be reduced by 5.1%, slightly less than the overall cut to the Institute’s total budget. Comparing Fiscal Year 2013 over Fiscal Year 2012, NIGMS will have to fund more RPG commitments, leaving a smaller proportion available for competing grants.

      Fellowships also face a 5% cut to the total dollar level. These grants, along with research management and support (for Institute administration), make up a small percentage of our budget (approximately 3.5% combined). Cutting these programs even further would have virtually no effect on the R01 success rate.

      As we progress through the year and a challenging budget climate, we will continually look for ways to mitigate the reduction to the success rate and the impact of funding a lower number of competing grants. Success rates vary from year to year, and applications with scores that might have been funded one year may not be fundable in another.

      • Dear Dr. Greenberg,
        Thank you for the considered reply which addresses most of the questions except perhaps the biggest. If the average NIGMS award is 4 years, the affect of reducing non-competing awards by 3.5% instead of 5.1% is to double the size of the cut (5.1% + 4.8%) on 2013 competing proposals. It is difficult to see that this is the best balance of painful options. Finally, these percentages are much lower than the 25% cut in new awards. You say that NIGMS will have to fund more RPG commitments. Does this mean that previously NIGMS made multiyear commitments at a success rate that assumed continued budget increases, and that this years applicants are taking the brunt of a needed correction? If so, it seems that there would be ample justification for asking prior awardees to take a greater share of the pain.

        • I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Chapman. I think most of us would take a hit to our budget so that renewal rates could be higher when we have our competitive renewals due. I think a poll of funded investigators would show this to be true, and I think NIGMS should consider this.

        • Congress appropriates budgets on an annual basis, and the funds are only available during that one fiscal year. Although we try to assess the impact of current-year expenditures on future-year commitments, we do not know our exact budget until Congress makes the next appropriation. In recent years, the budgets of our competing grants were significantly reduced in order to fund as many meritorious applications as possible each year and to achieve the best possible success rate, given existing funds. To ensure that grants in which we have already invested one or more years of funds have sufficient resources to continue their projects, we made the difficult decision to reduce the number of new and competing awards that we can support in this fiscal year. As is typically our practice, we based our initial projections on conservative assumptions. As we approach the end of the fiscal year, we hope our RPG success rate will be somewhat better than originally anticipated.

    • I agree. While it is true that there will be negative consequences to further cuts in existing grants (like my own), they pale in comparison to the damage done to the careers of established and young investigators by a gap of just 1 or 2 years of funding. I know of an A1 renewal application that scored at the 14th percentile that was just denied funding, and I understand that the current pay line has dropped to 12%. NIGMS needs to find a better way to balance the negative impact of the sequester.

  10. It seems that the success rate is about 1.5 to 2.0 times the percentile payline I would like someone to explain the rationale for talking in terms of success rates, rather than something that PIs and those who take a leadership role in advocating for science funding can directly relate to, percentile paylines. In my opinion it does no one any good to obscure the current severe funding situation in which we currently find ourselves.

    • Not all applications are percentiled, and NIH institutes don’t necessarily fund grants in a strict percentile order, so a percentile-based payline would not give an accurate picture of an institute’s funding situation. For these and a few other reasons, success rates are considered more useful in assessing the funding situation by an institute or by NIH as a whole in a given year. For more on success rates and paylines, see a blog post by Sally Rockey and a FAQs document on our Web site.

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