End of FY grant pickups

October 5, 2007

I’m reminded (by writedit, natch) of the “end of the Fiscal Year pickup” strategy of the ICs which is worth mentioning. The way this works, apparently, is that the ICs hedge some of their budget throughout the year. Understandably for any organization. One never knows when emergencies will arise, like say, bailing the Tulane researchers out of their Katrina woes. Yet they have to spend out their budget each year, I assume, so at the very end the ICs get to look at their pool of not-yet-spent money and pick up a few more grants.

It is a bit hard to do this with my go-to, CRISP because it doesn’t seem to be able to search on the funding date field. If anyone has any ideas on that front…. So that means my analysis is the usual nonrandom set of anecdotes. Meaning I’d tend to gate on new funding (1R%, 1P%, 1F%, etc; out years of grants are identified with a 5 and competing renewals with a 2 as the initial numeral, btw) and the usual suspects. Meaning my usual ICs of interest (the brain and substance abuse ones) or a handful of study sections that would account for decent fraction of grants going to those ICs. The goal is to try to identify grants which have been funded Sep 30 since these seem to be the end of year pickups. I should add that there is some additional bias in my searching since I do similar looks on occasion. Therefore the ones that I can’t remember seeing before are going to draw a click to check the funding date. This is far from a rigorous approach, I’ll note.

Now, I don’t usually pay attention to this issue. So I can’t make a relative judgment across many FYs. But whoa Nellie it looks to me like there are quite a number of grants getting picked up. Particularly by NIDA, I’ll note, which I also think has been really conservative/slow throughout the year in getting grants funded. So maybe this Institute, maybe this year only? Not sure. The interesting thing is that we can be reasonably well-assured that this pool represents “pickups” meaning things that did not fall in the top priority pool for the round (or entire FY?). So this type of inquiry starts to give us some clues as to “pickup” behavior for our respective ICs. In case you were wondering.

There is one thing I find puzzling in a specific case. Hang with me here because this gets into the land of strategerizin’ from very little data, the type of fool’s errand that is unbelievably pointless to some :-). I like to follow the relationship between RFA announcements, funding from the RFA and funding of suspiciously similar topics in the following few rounds. I assume this might help me to an understanding of how “good” a deal responding to an RFA is. As I said, a fool’s errand. Anyhoo, our good friends at NIDA have issued an RFA for “Exploratory/Developmental” Center applications on a particular topic for something like four years running, the latest pre-RFA notice came out pretty recently. By my count they have funded five of these things in the past two years, 4 of which were on Sep 30 start dates! WTF? What lessons do we learn from this?

Does this reinforce the impression that all the “big stuff” is done essentially off the books? That the fate of Centers has very little to do with review scores and everything to do with the financial concerns of the ICs from moment to moment? Or that they use this trick (“oh gee, we had some cash left so we decided to pick up this one, wink”) to paper over review-ignoring behavior? In this case the fact that they left ’em to the end of the FY is in one sense positive, presumably the bias was for meritorious unsolicited grants to fund first. Are the ICs so scrambled right now because of the budget situation that there is all kinds of unusual behavior emerging that may have very little bearing on the future?

One thing unrelated to the funding date, is the fact that sometimes an IC may not fund anything from an RFA round. I have no idea how common this is or whether it is specific to the bigger grants. (These Ex/Dev “P20” Centers may be the R21 of Centers but they are still Centers after all, 3-5 components plus some Admin and Cores.) One might suspect, however, that it would be a damn good idea to check a few years back when you see a promising RFA. The point being that it is highly likely that if a RFA is re-issued, you are going to be competing with revisions. Not formal revisions, of course, because the RFA would be for new apps by definition. Nevertheless, one might expect previous applicants to be coming back- with the benefits of a prior review to improve their applications. Not that there is anything you can do about it but still, good to know.

2 Responses to “End of FY grant pickups”

  1. Piled Higher, Deeper Says:

    I thought it was pretty common knowledge that Centers and Program Projects tend to get funded with scores much worse than an R01 would need in a given funding climate. I’m hearing 180s as being fundable for Centers. That’s damn near a triage for an R01…

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  2. […] gave a little (p)review of the P20 in a prior post actually. NIDA seems to be putting on the full court press to launch new (full) Centers for the […]

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