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Policy

Large Decline In Scientists Receiving NIH Grants

by Andrea Widener
June 8, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 23

The number of principal investigators (PIs) receiving NIH grants has significantly declined in the past five years, according to a review by chemist Jeremy M. Berg of the University of Pittsburgh. In his blog, Data Hound, Berg posted an analysis of NIH data showing that the number of PIs started dropping in 2010 and has continued to decline since. The analysis looked at data for all principal investigators listed on a grant and for just the primary PI. Both groups showed a decline. In addition to looking at all grants, Berg, former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, pulled out the data for individual investigator grants—R01s and their equivalent—and found the same trend. The number of PIs grew steadily from 1985 to about 2009–10, his data show, but then dropped from 2010 to 2014. The total number of primary, or contact, PIs last year was around 217,000, and noncontact PIs was approximately 11,500. The data are in line with previous NIH reports that the overall number of grants is declining as the agency’s budget has flattened.

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