Commenter Neuro-conservative pointed to a set of data slides on the NIH site. I was struck by the one showing the number of investigators supported on Research Project Grants by the NIH over time.


So obviously the ESI/NI pickups and preferential payline strategies enacted around Fiscal Year 2007 or so worked to significantly increase the number of first time awardees. I make this out to be something on the order of 1,000-1,200 newly funded investigators in FY2010 over a ~2,2000-2,500 baseline back in FY2004-6. (Although if you check the last slide on the website, you’ll see that if you limit it to R01 equivalents, the trend is a lot less impressive.)
Most interesting, however, is the uptick in experienced investigators that seems to be associated with the doubling. Since we know that inflation and Bush era flatlined budgets essentially un-doubled the budget, well, we can see the problem here pretty starkly, no?
The number of experienced investigators being supported on NIH dollars has not fallen back anywhere near fast enough.
Some 2,000-2,500 experienced investigators were added to the books during the great doubling. At best this has been pared back to the tune of 800-1,000 investigators. While the first time investigators are up by a good 1,800 since the start of the doubling period.
I’ve been taking the piss out of PhysioProf for his observation that he thinks the NIH is intentionally trying to pare back the number of funded labs. I may have to reconsider my skepticism. Not only that, but reconsider where I stand on the *need* to drop significant numbers of investigators off the books. Five to fifteen percent, maybe even 20 percent…these are the numbers that might be necessary if inflation and flat budgets have really erased the budget doubling.

Holy. Moly.

[ UPDATE 2/17/11: A post on the OER blog and a comment from drdrA at BlueLabCoats. ]

A short while ago Cath of VWXYNot made me aware of a Canadian policy on CV/Biosketch items that permitted a narrative on Personal Interruptions and Delays.

Here’s the official wording:

“Identify any administrative responsibilities, family or health reasons, or any other factors that might have delayed or interrupted any of the following: academia, career, scientific research, other research, dissemination of results, training, etc. Common examples of an interruption/delay might be a bereavement period following the death of a loved one, maternity/parental leave, or relocation of your research environment. Limit the list to one page. Descriptions might include the start and end dates, the impact areas, and the reason(s) or a brief explanation of the absence.”

I was immediately enthusiastic.

And I am instantly a big fan of a default section for “Interruptions and Delays”. This is frikken AWESOME to include as an expectation. I am beside myself.

In response to an article in The New York Times (“Keeping Women in Science on a Tenure Track“) which was coverage and distillation of an interesting report entitled “Keeping Women in the Science Pipeline,”, I felt compelled to post this on Jan 5:

The NIH needs to adopt [the Canadian section on Interruptions] right away as a required line on their Biosketch…The point is to make it default and a part of every application so that the applications of those who feel it necessary to use it will not stick out as unusual…it will be a subtle and insidious statement that it is expected that NIH applicants will have had delays in their career progress or scientific projects due to certain personal and family-related factors…Expected and therefore accepted…having expectations laid out relatively explicitly can’t but help…My usual advice for these types of delays is that it is dangerous to bring it up in your application before anyone has criticized you for it. Since in the old days you got two rounds of revision and at least one round of revision was pretty much necessary, no biggie…Trouble is, now that we’re down to a single revision and ICs are steepening the paylines for even the A1 revision…you have to face it head on in the original application if you judge your “Delay” to be so obvious as to entail a good chance of drawing reviewer fire.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a nice custom made section (which didn’t take away from your precious 12 pages) for this?

I think so.

Well Cath has alerted me to NOT-OD-11-045 issued on

The NIH is aware that personal issues can affect career advancement and productivity. Such considerations have shaped the implementation of the Early Stage Investigator Policy (see That policy permits Principal Investigators to describe personal factors that may have delayed their transition to research independence. Such factors can occur at any point in a scientist’s career and include family care responsibilities, illness, disability, military service and other personal issues.
This modification of the Biographical Sketch will permit Program Directors/Principal Investigators and other senior/key staff to describe personal circumstances that may have reduced productivity. Peer reviewers and others will then have more complete information on which to base their assessment of qualifications and productivity relevant to the proposed role on the project.

Beginning with applications submitted for the May 25, 2011 and subsequent receipt dates, the biosketch instructions will include a modification of the personal statement section to remind applicants that they can provide a description of personal issues that may have reduced productivity. The revised instructions for the personal statement are shown below and should appear in applications toward the end of March:

Personal statement: Briefly describe why your experience and qualifications make you particularly well-suited for your role (e.g., PD/PI, mentor) in the project that is the subject of the application. Within this section you may, if you choose, briefly describe factors such as family care responsibilities, illness, disability, and active duty military service that may have affected your scientific advancement or productivity.

Providing information about personal issues is optional. If applicants wish to provide such information they are encouraged to limit such descriptions to a few sentences.

Thank you NIH! This is a very nice step to help those, generally women, who have had the k3rn3d-damned gall to let actual life get in the way of their scientific careers.

Isis the Scientist recently posted a letter from the FASEB regarding a proposal in the Congress to pass a continuing budget resolution that whacks $1.6 Billion from the NIH budget for the current fiscal year. That’s a whole lot of grants that won’t be funded.
I’ll join many of my blogging colleagues in urging you to click on [ This Link ] to find the phone number of the Washington DC office of your Congressional Rep and for you to make that call.
I’ll also suggest a few things you might want to have at the top of your list for communicating to the office staffer who answers the phone. This originally went up Oct 29, 2008.

Since many of our US readers are feeling jazzed about politics right about now, it is a good time to discuss Talking Points. You, DearReader, whether in the biomedical science biz or merely interested in some aspect of biomedical science, are the first line of attack in advocating for the continued health of our federally funded science enterprises. As we’ve all learned over the past 8 or even 16 years of US politics, crafting and honing messages to convey essential themes is critical to political success. Generating a mantra-chant and drumbeat of lemming feet on a consistent and limited set of bullet point topics is the way to cut through the noise and transmit the message. Call it framing or Talking Points or whatever you like.
I have a suggestion for how scientists may wish to approach their CongressCritters.

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