NIH Announces Policy to Limit Grant Support

UPDATE: NIH is replacing the GSI initiative with the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI)

On May 2, 2017, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak held a conference call with the NIH stakeholder community to announce that NIH will phase in a new policy limiting the amount of grant support going to any single investigator. This policy is still under development. For the most up to date details see the statement from NIH Director Francis Collins.

Some of the main points discussed on the call:

  • Limits to grant support will be determined through a “grant support index (GSI)”, which assigns points to investigators based on the types of grants they hold and their role on those grants. It is neither a straight dollar amount nor a maximum number of grants.
  • Only NIH funds will be taken into account.
  • The new policy will be phased in and no grants will be defunded. The goal is to have the policy in place by the September 2017 grant deadlines.
  • GSIs will be determined automatically by eRA Commons. Principal Investigators (PIs) with a GSI of greater than 21 (roughly equivalent to 3 R01s) when they submit a new application will be required to include a plan for adjusting their current grant load.
  • The policy is expected to affect 6-10% of NIH PIs. NIH hopes that this will free up $500-600 million dollars, roughly enough to fund 1600 new awards.
  • Each institute and center will distribute the funds to grant applicants, with a focus on mid-career and early stage investigators, and those who are considered vulnerable (i.e., those who only hold one current grant).
  • Many details remain to be worked out, and the NIH has said that it wants feedback from the community. The policy will be presented to the IC councils over the next few months and has been posted on Mike Lauer’s Open Mike blog.

This approach of more evenly distributing funds among investigators is one that has been suggested by both the APS and FASEB (see page 69 of FASEB report) over the past several years with a goal of supporting more investigators and providing greater stability for researchers throughout their careers.