The R01 equivalent is the heart and soul of the NIH Extramural program

February 27, 2013

If you look around a bit on the NIH funding data at RePORT, you will find the following definitions.

Research Project Grants: Defined as R00, R01, R03, R15, R21, R22, R23, R29, R33, R34, R35, R36, R37, R55, R56, RC1, RC2, RC3, RC4, RF1, RL1, RL2, RL5, RL9, P01, P42, PN1, UA5, UC1, UC2, UC3, UC4, UC7, UF1, UH2, UH3, UH5, UM1, U01, U19, U34, DP1, DP2, DP3, DP4, and DP5 . Research projects were first coded to NLM in fiscal year 2007.

R01-Equivalent Grants: Defined as activity codes R01, R29 and R37.

The R29 was the FIRST award program and the R37 is MERIT, generally an extension of the noncompeting interval for a continuation R01 that scored really well. So…basically these are all R01s.

A post from Steven Salzberg begs to “Please save the unsolicited R01s” which includes this graph sourced from FASEB.

Making the same leap of considering these the “real” investigator initiated awards, we can see that the number of new awards in the past two Fiscal Years is lower than it has been since 95-96, *prior* to the doubling.

Everytime the NIH officialdom chooses to respond to criticism and concern about how their latest initiative will hurt the traditional strength (investigator initiated R01 equivalents) they try to claim that these are not paying the price. In various ways and with various incomplete analyses they try to give the impression that despite the invention of RC this and DP that, the failure to dismantle boondoggle Ps and the increased use of U-mechs…that the R01 remains sacred.

This graph gives you a retort.

7 Responses to “The R01 equivalent is the heart and soul of the NIH Extramural program”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    As I posted at Salzberg’s place, it’s a bit disingenuous to point to ENCODE, 1000 Genomes, and TCGA as the cause of 6% paylines at NIAID. NHGRI has *always* had a research portfolio that’s heavily biased towards IC-directed programs and away from investigator-initiated programs, even back in 2003, the high water mark for R01 numbers. I don’t believe you’d find any correlation with NHGRI’s research budget and NIAID’s paylines either.

    The multiplier effect on biomedical research that the huge decrease in sequencing costs has brought about should also be taken into account when the usual “We hate big science” pitchfork-weilding mobs do their thing.


  2. Dave Says:

    There is no doubt that big genome projects have questionable value. GWAS, anyone?


  3. antistokes (allison l. stelling) Says:

    (cross commenting from the simply statistics post)
    We need “big science” if we’re going to “cure cancer”— but, I don’t think that work should be done at the universities. Universities should be for training scientists, and doing risky “discovery work” without fears of losing your job if you don’t discover exactly what shareholders think the laws of the universe ought to be. The “big science” stuff should be done at huge centers and should offer permanent positions for technical staff (the UK does this a lot). We have a few of those in the USA, but we need something on the order of the Manhattan Project right now– or larger– if we’re going to get serious about curing many human diseases. It’s not going to be just one institute or lab group that does this, it’s going to require a ton of communication and cooperation across disciplines over many different labs and hospitals in different locals so results can be replicated and verified.

    Adding to this: Killing the R01 is NOT the solution, here. Maybe set up more government institutes/centers to support this sort of long-term, sorely needed grunt work? It’ll be expensive; I vote we take the cash from the military budget.


  4. Jonathan Says:

    Digging around in REPORTER, I can’t see support for these claims. The trends for centers vs RPGs hasn’t been that strong, whereas the average cost of an R01 has almost doubled since 1998:

    Really, a few minutes spent poking around in the numbers ought to clear a lot of this up.


  5. mikka Says:

    Let’s not delude ourselves. We can talk forever about the causes of the low paylines, but the truth of the matter is that the way the NIH is run has very little quantitative weight on any of this. The real problem is not exclusive to the NIH, and it is that, if the Bush tax cuts are not fully rolled back, revenues minus non-interest expenditures will continue to decrease as they have until now. Briefly, if the tax paying public wants good science done (or pretty much anything else), we’ll have to pay for it. By all means shift some money from one program to another, if rearranging chairs makes you feel better. But the “beast” that the republicans are starving includes american science.


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