Analyses show NIH grant funding improved in FY 2016; can the progress be maintained?
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) released updated information on research funding trends for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and on the education and employment of biological and medical scientists. Analyses of NIH grant funding show increases in research project grants as well as R01-equivalent awards as a result of the $2 billion increase in NIH appropriations in 2016.
In fiscal year (FY) 2016, the NIH received a budget increase of $2 billion, the largest increase since FY 2003, and, for the first time in over a decade, funding for research rose faster than the cost of conducting it (Figure 1). With the larger budget, NIH was able to fund more research projects.
There were 10,372 competing research project grants (RPGs) awarded in FY 2016, 832 or 8.7 percent more than in the previous year. R01-equivalent awards rose by a faster rate with 6,010 funded in FY 2016 (Figure 2). This was 543 more than in FY 2015, an increase of 9.9 percent. Success rates for R01-equivant awards reached 20.0 percent, the highest since 2006.
Congressional champions for biomedical research tried to continue this progress in FY 2017. The House, Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, under the leadership of Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), passed a bill calling for a $1.3 billion increase for NIH. In the Senate, the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, led by Roy Blunt (R-MO), proposed an even larger increase of $2.1 billion. Regrettably, Congress was unable to complete its work on the appropriations bills. As a result, NIH and other federal agencies are currently operating under a continuing resolution and the planned increases are unrealized.
There is strong support in Congress and across the nation for accelerating the pace of biomedical research, as the overwhelming bipartisan support for 21st Century Cures bill demonstrated. While this legislation established an innovation fund within NIH for research in four designated areas, use of these funds is contingent on future appropriations bills. It is incumbent upon all those who care about progress in medical research to urge our Representatives and Senators to complete the effort they began in 2016. Passage of appropriations bills with increased funding for NIH is a national priority. We must make our voices heard.