The National Institutes of Health tackles the sequester ?>

The National Institutes of Health tackles the sequester

Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health released the budgets for each institute/center for the rest of fiscal 2013. The FY13 budget for NIH is $29.15 billion, down $1.7 billion from FY12, which incorporates the FY13 continuing resolution as well as the cuts from sequestration. The budgets of each of the 10 largest NIH institutes1, which account for ~75 percent of all NIH funds, were cut 5.6-5.7 percent, except for NIA which sustained a 7.3 percent cut. However, it is clear that, while NIH may have dictated the level of cut to the institutes, each institute was able to enact these cuts in the manner each saw fit. As examples of the independence of each institute, we look to Research Project Grants2 and Training3 grants.

  • Research Project Grants: RPGs in total are being cut at every institute, however, the fine print shows very different strategies. NIGMS, NIDDK, NIMH, NICHD and NIDA are cutting back on funds for competing grants far more than for noncompeting continuations. NIGMS and NICHD are cutting competing grants by over 20 percent and are slightly increasing their noncompeting continuation funds, while NIDDK, NIMH and NIDA are cutting both pots of money, just more so on the competing side. On the other hand, NHLBI, NINDS and NIA are cutting noncompeting continuations in favor of competing grants with NIA increasing its allotment to the competing grant money pool by 9 percent. NCI and NIAID are cutting competing and noncompeting grants by roughly the same percentage.
  • Training grants: NCI, NINDS and NIMH worked their budgets so that they are not cutting any training grants; NIAID, NHLBI, NIDDK and NICHD are cutting institutional training grants far more than individual training grants; and NIGMS, NIA and NIDA are cutting individual and institutional training grants by equivalent percentages.

What can we glean from these comparisons? Simply that each institute has different opinions on how to deal with the cuts caused by sequestration. Some institutes believe that it is more important to follow through on commitments made prior to FY13 and are maintaining funding for noncompeting continuations at the expense of competing grants, while others have the opposite take. In the same vein, some institutes believe that trainees on training grants should be spared the brunt of budget cuts while other institutes believe trainees should share the pain. The differences in approach are not restricted to RPGs and training grants, but they persist in all facets of the institutes’ budgets, including funding for research centers, intramural research, SBIR/STTR grants, etc.

The ASBMB has long been concerned about the effects of sequestration on individual researchers and trainees. Now, that we know the raw numbers for NIH institute budgets, we await the directors’ statements on the strategies behind the implementation of sequestration. As individual investigators await word of what this means for their grants, the varied strategies will likely cause confusion , especially for those funded by multiple institutes that each took different approaches to budget cuts. The ASBMB will continue to advocate for overturning the sequester and engage with NIH institute directors to clarify their strategies for implementing budget cuts while stressing the need to preserve funding for individual investigators. Stay tuned to the Policy Blotter as we follow up on this and other science funding issues.


1 The 10 largest NIH institutes by appropriations: NCI-National Cancer Institute, NIAID-National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NHLBI-National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, NIGMS-National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIDDK-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, NINDS-National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIMH-National Institute of Mental Health, NICHD-Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIA-National Institute on Aging, NIDA-National Institute on Drug Abuse

2 Research Project Grants are the most common types of grants and include the R01 and R21. Individual RPGs come in two flavors—competing grants and noncompeting continuations. Competing grants are new applications or renewals that are reviewed and scored by grant review committees. Noncompeting continuations fund the years subsequent to the original grant award. For example, if you have a 4-year R01 application awarded in 2013, it will be a competing grant in 2013 and a noncompeting continuation in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

3 NIH funds two types of training grants—individual training grants (F series) and institutional training grants (T series).

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