NIH Pilot of the $1.5 Million Special Review


There has been considerable discussion on Sally Rockey’s Rock Talk blog and elsewhere about NIH’s pilot advisory council review of applications from investigators who have received more than $1.5 million in NIH research project grant support.

As you may know, NIGMS has a longstanding policy of advisory council review of well-funded laboratories, but it differs from the NIH policy in several respects. At its May meeting, the NIGMS Advisory Council voted to continue our existing policy, which sets the threshold for special review at $750,000 in direct costs for all support.

The chart below outlines some of the differences between the NIH and NIGMS policies.

Funding source NIH only NIH and non-NIH
Threshold $1.5M total costs on existing grants $750K direct costs including the pending application
Exclusions RFAs, P01s, some multi-PI awards Resource awards

9 Replies to “NIH Pilot of the $1.5 Million Special Review”

  1. An important difference you failed to point out is that the NIH policy is only triggered when the PI whose grant is under consideration *already* has existing annual funding that hits the threshold. In the case of NIGMS, special review is triggered when existing funding plus the grant under consideration hits the threshold.

  2. How is the NIGMS policy implemented on multi-PI grants? The $1.5M NIH policy addresses this clearly, but there is no mention of multi-PI awards in the GM policy statement.

  3. Multi-PI projects are not excluded from our policy. When a pending application from multiple investigators includes a PI who exceeds the $750K threshold, staff members evaluate the situation carefully. If the amount of support cannot be directly attributed to the PI, an appropriate fraction of the budget is used based on the number of PIs.

    If an investigator is part of a multi-PI funded grant and has another pending application, his/her part of the direct-cost budget is included when staff determine if the $750K threshold has been reached.

  4. What constitutes a “Resource Award”? Does the exclusion for resource awards apply for existing awards or only for the pending application?

    Regarding multi-PI projects, you said “an appropriate fraction of the budget is used based on the number of PIs”. Is this fraction based on the relative effort contributions of the individual PIs?

    1. A resource award is a grant used to enhance research infrastructure for biomedical research. These are not considered research project grants, so they would not count toward the threshold, regardless of whether it is a pending or funded application.

      Often, the amount of funding for the multi-PI projects can be attributed to each investigator. In that case, that is the amount used to add up the research funding to his/her lab. For some projects, the exact amounts cannot be teased out easily. Here, we would consider the direct costs to the institution divided by the number of participating investigators to determine the attributable amount.

  5. Maybe this is obvious to others, but when you reference the $750K as the threshold for special review, is this $750,000 awarded direct costs in each year, or $750K in reimbursement of costs?

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