Head of the NIH OER Sally Rockey posted another set of data on the extramural research population, this time focused on the applicant institution, aka, Universities, Med Schools, Research Institutions, etc.

my staff and I took a look at the number of institutions that submitted competing research project grant (RPG) applications each fiscal year, going back to 1995. In addition to looking at all RPGs, we also looked at data for R01s only.

This post is relevant to our ongoing discussion of the RealProblemTM at the NIH and the consequent ObviousSolutions(R). A comment on a recent post trolled me into revisiting this Rock Talk post.

At least with respect to RO1s it would seem to argue against the “a bunch of middling non-research intensive institutions jumped on the extramural bandwagon during the doubling” theory that’s occasionally been floated here.

Rockey-Applicants_ChartMarch2013I don’t agree that these data “argue against” at all. Not in the least. Unique Research Project Grant applicant* institutions went up 80%, if you limit the analysis only to R01s, 40%. This was the maximum effect of the doubling and numbers have subsequently subsided from the peak. Still, the most pertinent observation is that RPG seeking institutions remain 50% more numerous than they were in the late 1990s. As we’ve previously discussed, the unrelenting pace of inflation has resulted in an effective Un-doubling, putting the NIH budget back on the trendline established in decades prior to the doubling (and again, inflation means it never really doubled, 50% more purchasing power at best) interval. That un-doubling analysis is a bit old (2008) so we could be in quite a bit worse shape right now, following a few more years and the sequester.

Any way you look at it, seems a significant increase in competition from the *institutional* perspective to me.There are half again as many institutions fighting over what is very likely less than 150% of the purchasing power of the late 1990s budgets.

Is there anyone out there that believes that the pool of NIH-seeking institutions that existed in the late 1990s have shrunken the number of PIs that they each have applying?

*awardee RPG institutions went from 600 to 800 during the doubling. R01 *awardee* institutions went from about 450 to 55o. 33% increase versus 22% increase. Not much better than the applicant-institution numbers. I argue that the applicant institution number is more relevant to the low paylines, increased grant churning and overall dismality of the NIH situation at present.