Category: Director’s Messages

Application and Funding Trends in Fiscal Year 2021

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NIGMS maintains a diverse biomedical research portfolio, supporting a wide range of topics and investigators. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, NIGMS received a congressional appropriation of $2,991,417,000. As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, this budget increased by 3.4% to $3,092,373,000 for FY 2022. The majority of these funds support research project grants (RPGs) at research institutions throughout the country. In alignment with its commitment to transparency, NIGMS publishes data on annual trends in its grants portfolio. In this post, we first describe investigator-level trends for RPGs, then review the trends associated with competing RPGs, and lastly examine trends in the Institute’s Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program.

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Do MIRA Investigators Apply for More Grants From Other NIH Institutes and Centers Than R01 Investigators?

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NIGMS’ Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) provides investigators with flexibility and stability for their research programs. Investigators who receive MIRA support must dedicate 51% of their research effort toward the grant and are ineligible to apply for or receive other NIGMS research support (with some exceptions). One question frequently asked is whether the NIGMS funding restriction changes the likelihood that MIRA grantees will submit applications to other NIH institutes and centers (ICs). In this post, we compare data on post-award grant applications from NIGMS-funded investigators.

To compare application behavior between MIRA and R01-funded investigators, we created sets of both established (EI) and early stage (ESI) investigators supported by NIGMS R01s (called the comparator group) who have not received a MIRA. The EI comparators were matched according to race/ethnicity, gender, time since acquisition of first R01, and average annual NIGMS funding. For the ESI comparator group, we used all ESI NIGMS R01 awardees.

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MIRA Renewals: Award Rates and Budget Changes

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NIGMS funded its first round of renewals for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. In this post, we compare data on the award rates and award sizes of MIRA renewals and R01 renewals to provide some insights into the early outcomes of MIRA renewals. We also examine award rates and budget changes for investigators applying to convert their NIGMS R01s to MIRAs.

In the first section, we present award rates (the percentage of reviewed applications that receive funding), considering both programs overall and then FY 2021 renewal applications specifically. The second section describes the award sizes for the two types of grants collectively, followed by award size changes for FY 2021 renewals. Where sample sizes and privacy concerns allow, we distinguish between established investigators (EIs) and early stage investigators (ESIs) renewing their first grants (“ex-ESIs”) as they often have different characteristics for award rates and sizes. All budget values shown in the post are yearly direct costs.

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Dorit Zuk Selected as NIGMS Deputy Director

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Headshot of Dr. Dorit Zuk.

I’m pleased to share that Dorit Zuk has been selected as NIGMS’ new deputy director.

Dorit has been a vital member of the NIGMS leadership team for many years, including serving as acting deputy director for the past year, and as director of our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology since January 2016. During her tenure at NIGMS, she’s made valuable contributions to our 2021-2025 strategic plan [PDF] and reorganization of the Institute’s divisions in 2018, and has led efforts to build a stronger, more diverse, and collaborative workforce—both within NIGMS and beyond.

Please join me in congratulating Dorit on her selection for this position. We can all look forward to benefitting from her continued leadership.

NIGMS to Co-Host ARPA-H Listening Session

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UPDATE: The videocast of the ARPA-H session on August 4 is now available.

President Biden recently called for the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to improve our capabilities to speed research that can improve the health of all Americans. The proposed mission of ARPA-H could include investments in breakthrough technologies and broadly applicable platforms, resources, and solutions that can’t be readily accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity. Such innovations could transform important areas of medicine and health for the benefit of all patients.

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NIGMS Strategic Plan 2021-2025 Now Available

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I’m pleased to announce the release of the NIGMS 2021-2025 Strategic Plan [PDF]. Like its predecessor [PDF], this plan sets the direction and priorities that the Institute will pursue over the next 5 years. It enumerates a series of goals, objectives, and implementation strategies that build upon the successful outcomes [PDF] of our prior plan, and it reflects key organizational values of the Institute. The plan also contains representative targets for each implementation strategy that promote both transparency and accountability to ensure that progress is tracked and periodically reported, and that any necessary course corrections can be implemented.

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Application and Funding Trends in Fiscal Year 2020

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On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, was signed into law. The appropriation provides NIGMS with a budget of $2,991,417,000, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, a 1.8% increase over the FY 2020 appropriation. With this increased budget, NIGMS is committed to providing taxpayers with the best possible returns on their investments in fundamental biomedical research. As part of this commitment to stewardship, we regularly monitor trends in our funding portfolio.

NIGMS maintains a diversified biomedical research portfolio, supporting a wide range of topics and investigators. NIGMS and NIH programs and policies aim to increase the number of funded investigators and to maintain researchers’ funding stability over time. In this post, we describe NIGMS investigator-level trends for selected R01-equivalent grants as well as overall research project grant (RPG) trends for FY 2020 compared to previous fiscal years.

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Richard Aragon to Direct Division of Data Integration, Modeling, and Analytics

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Headshot of Dr. Richard Aragon.

I’m pleased to announce that Richard Aragon is the new director of the Institute’s Division of Data Integration, Modeling, and Analytics (DIMA). He has been acting director of DIMA since January 2020.

Richard has ably led NIGMS’ strategic planning and evaluation activities and has served as our Congressional liaison since joining us in 2014 as chief of what was then our Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation. In this role, he has evolved and expanded our capabilities to include predictive analytics, budget and fiscal modeling, and the use of artificial intelligence to enhance business processes. As we prepare to the launch the NIGMS 2021-2025 Strategic Plan this spring, Richard’s extensive expertise in spearheading these activities makes him the ideal candidate to lead this critical component of the Institute.

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It Takes Courage: Re-Emphasizing Our Institutional and Societal Commitment to Diversity, Respect, and Inclusion

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Recent events have highlighted the unfortunate, discriminatory, and, at times, violent or criminal actions taken against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. These events, including attacks on women and the elderly, constitute a threat to the health and well-being of not only the AAPI community, but also to the principles of diversity, inclusivity, respect, and civility. Data recently released [PDF] by California State University, San Bernardino, indicate a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes reported to law enforcement between 2019 and 2020, including staggering increases in some of the most demographically diverse cities in the country. These events, and the perspectives or attitudes that underlie them, damage the social fabric and mutual bonds that hold us together. Elements of hate and discrimination anywhere act as a barrier to equity and respect everywhere.

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Wanted: NIGMS Deputy Director

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The search is underway for a critically important position on the NIGMS leadership team: our deputy director. The deputy director assists me in managing the Institute, advises on a range of topics, and handles special projects. This person also works closely with groups within and outside NIH and represents us on various federal and nonfederal scientific and professional committees.

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