Principles for Initial Funding Decisions in Fiscal Year 2014

On October 16, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the Federal Government through January 15, 2014, at Fiscal Year 2013 levels. This short-term budget allows us to begin funding some of the grant applications approved by our Advisory Council in September. However, because the funds we have available are only for a fraction of the fiscal year and we don’t know what the budget for the rest of the year will be, we need to be conservative in our funding decisions until a longer-term budget is approved.

Led by NIGMS Acting Deputy Director Judith Greenberg, the directors of the NIGMS scientific divisions developed principles to help us decide which of the many outstanding applications we are considering should receive funding now and which should be deferred for later start dates, if sufficient funds become available after January 15.

The fundamental question the division directors addressed was which categories of investigators would face the most serious jeopardy from a delay in funding. Based on the group’s careful deliberations, we will give priority to highly rated applications from investigators who have little or no current support from any source. Within this category, we will generally give priority to competing renewal applications over new applications, although in each case, we will take into account the particular circumstances of the investigator and her/his laboratory. For instance, an application from an early stage investigator who has been a tenure-track faculty member for 4 years, has exhausted all start-up funds and has no additional sources of funding would be considered a high priority.

We recognize that a delay in funding presents challenges for every investigator, but we hope you understand that our top priority in these difficult fiscal times must be to ensure the health of the overall biomedical research enterprise in the United States. Keeping productive and promising labs open is an essential element of this goal.

5 comments on “Principles for Initial Funding Decisions in Fiscal Year 2014

  1. Thank you very much for the info. At least it cleared some guessing from our part of how things are going to be dealt with, despite the not so good news! One example was mentioned about new investigators that receive startup money for a period of time. What about those who do not receive startup funds as it is the case at Tuskegee University? I personally received about 8 k as a startup fund and currently struggling to get alternative resources being a new investigator with excellent background in research. I hope cases like mine are taken into consideration when it comes to deciding who to fund first. Thanks again for the info.

    • Thanks for your question, Dr. Nashar. We will take into account the total funds available to an investigator. If a new investigator whose proposal was highly rated has no significant start-up funds or any other sources of support, that will be an important consideration as we prioritize our funding decisions.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Lorsch, for considering the priority of the 4th year unfunded ESI running out of startup. That is exactly describing me and likely many of my peers. This is my last year of ESI eligibility due simply to the increasing timeline for starting a lab and getting a grant, and not because of not trying to apply. I hope your leadership and statements here convince the establishment that fundamental changes must be executed (not just suggested) to the funding system in order to sustain the entire biomedical community and prevent it from collapsing.

  3. Does this also apply to SBIR/STTR funded projects? I have a Phase II that went to Council in September, and the Phase I has completed, putting the project in jeopardy.

    • Our budget for SBIR/STTR grants is, by law, a percentage of the NIGMS budget. Because we do not yet know the budget for all of the fiscal year, we will also be taking a conservative funding approach for SBIR/STTR grants. However, the principles described in the blog post for R01s will not be applied because distinct criteria are used for making funding decisions for SBIRs, including some that are mandated by law such as a company’s track record in moving projects from Phase I to Phase II. An investigator’s career stage and other grant support generally do not factor into decisions about SBIR applications.

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