NIH Rolling Out New Policy to Limit Support for Individual Grantees

May 25th, 2017

On May 2, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new policy, restricting the amount of support individual grantees may receive from the agency. In a statement, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said NIH was enacting this policy to ensure the agency is “exercising optimum stewardship of the funds that we receive from taxpayers.” NIH also said the policy is necessary to address an imbalance in the distribution of NIH grant funding. Data indicate that 10 percent of NIH-funded investigators receive over 40 percent of NIH funding with mid-career investigators experiencing the most dramatic decline in the percentage of NIH grants awarded. According to NIH, this change would affect approximately 6 percent of current investigators and expand the availability of funds to support nearly 1,600 additional grants.

To assess an individual’s level of support, NIH is developing a mechanism, the Grant Support Index (GSI, introduced earlier as the Research Commitment Index), which will measure not only total dollars an individual receives, but also grant type, complexity, and size. Principal investigators who have GSI scores over 21 (the equivalent of 3 R01’s) would need to explain in any new applications for funding how they intend to adjust their grant load to reduce their GSI score.

During the coming weeks, NIH officials will be discussing the proposed policy with members of the various NIH Institute and Center advisory councils. The agency is also accepting comments from the general public via the NIH Office of Extramural Research blog. Among other things, NIH hopes the community will respond with input addressing how the GSI should be calibrated; how exceptions to caps should be entertained; how to weigh different grant mechanisms; and, how to determine impact of this proposed policy change.

FABBS staff will be attending advisory council meetings and monitoring discussions council members will be having regarding this proposed policy change.