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Web Date: April 18, 2014

NIH Allows Resubmission Of Rejected Grants

Research Funding: Community concern that good science was being rejected fueled change
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: NIH, funding level, grant, peer review

The National Institutes of Health will allow scientists whose research grants have been rejected to resubmit them a second time, the agency announced Thursday.

Grant applicants who have rewritten their grants once (a stage called A1) and had them rejected will be able to submit essentially the same grant a second time. But they will have to submit the grant as though it is a new grant (A0), with no reference to suggestions from previous peer reviewers.

The move comes in response to an outpouring of concern from the scientific community that limiting grant submissions forces scientists—especially vulnerable early career researchers—to abandon successful research pathways. The issue has become even more pronounced in recent years, as federal budget cuts have meant NIH grant funding rates have fallen to their lowest level ever. Just over 19% of grants were funded in 2013.

“We wanted to be supportive of your concerns,” explains NIH Deputy Director Sally Rockey. “We believe this is a very positive move for our applicants.”

In the past, grantees were allowed to submit essentially the same grant multiple times. NIH changed that policy in 2009 in an attempt to lessen the burden on peer reviewers and to encourage reviewers to fund good grants the first time around. Grantees were only allowed to resubmit their grant once before a major overhaul was required. That change happened at around the same time that the financial crisis meant that funding levels were going down.

“The policy that allowed only two strikes was very harmful to early career investigators who were just learning their craft, and it was unfair to people who barely missed the payline,” says Howard Garrison, public affairs director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which has lobbied against the policy for five years. “The inflexibility at the margin was something that was punitive.”

NIH’s change will likely mean a short-term increase in grant applications, Rockey says. But the combination of the length of time since the initial grant application and the comments of peer reviewers will likely mean any new A0 application is quite different. “Applicants have to think very hard about the decision to resubmit any application,” she says.

NIH’s move doesn’t fix everything, Garrison says. Funding levels are still at historical lows. “But in this day and age when so many people are facing such adversity, it is the right thing to do,” he says. “You can no longer imagine that the people being cut were undeserving. At this point everyone knows extremely talented scientists who are not getting funded.”

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society