An article in the CHE raises the spectre of the NIH limiting the number of grant applications that a given University may submit.

At a time of dwindling federal budgets, the National Institutes of Health is considering one sure-fire way to raise record-low grant-approval rates: Have researchers apply for fewer grants.

According to how it was written this thinking is due to comments from Sally Rockey, head of Extramural Research at the NIH.

One idea getting some internal study, said Sally J. Rockey, the NIH’s deputy director for extramural research, is to press universities—or perhaps even force them—to simply submit fewer grant applications.

“We have to think about it as a community, how we control demand,” Ms. Rockey told attendees at a conference held here by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “Because writing applications, submitting applications, and reviewing applications is extraordinarily costly to the community.”

although the article backtracks a bit…

Either way, the NIH is not looking to push anything on universities that they don’t want, Ms. Rockey said. “We have to have a conversation together about how to do all this,” she said.

It tends to leave you with the impression the NIH is actively considering this as an option.

So Rockey clarified matters on her blog.

I have seen the very recent report and follow-on discussions that NIH is considering asking institutions to limit grant applications as a way to control demand. Let me present the facts. You may remember the dialogue we had back in October 2011 on how NIH should manage science in fiscally challenging times. The option of limiting applications was raised at that time but was discarded at the outset and we are not pursuing it now.


The discussion of how to manage NIH funds that we had in October 2011 was engaging and informative, and did result in changes in policy. … The community offered lots of other ideas as well that we may decide to consider sometime in the future, but at the moment limiting applications by institution is not one of them.

Seems pretty clear.