RPG Funding Policies for FY 2004
There has been some confusion in the grantee community about our R01 policy and whether the cuts might represent a reduction of support from a grantee's current award level. I hope this message corrects any misunderstandings, and clarifies the rationale behind our decisions.
Although NCI funding remains at a historically high level, our operating budget in the current fiscal year (FY 2004) is slightly lower than that of last year as a result of cost-of-living adjustments, an increasing number of noncompeting grants, and assessments to support the NIH Roadmap Initiative and other centralized activities. To maintain the momentum of scientific discovery, we will continue to fund the maximum number of competing R01 research grants. The abrupt change in our rate of growth, however, has necessitated a modification in our funding policies. To secure the funds necessary to maintain the R01 payline at the 20th percentile, we will reduce the award amount of competing grants to a greater degree than has been the case over the past two years. This budget adjustment will enable us to support 75 more R01 grants than would have been possible if we maintained budget reductions at recent levels.
It is important to understand that these reduced funding levels apply only to competing grants and that we are taking into account the size of each grant. Smaller grants are being reduced, on average, by a smaller percentage than larger grants. Competing renewal grants (Type-2s) will also take a smaller average reduction than new (Type-1) applications; even after the reduction is taken, renewal grants will receive, on average, an approximately 10 percent budget increase over the current grant level. Furthermore, no competing renewal grant will be reduced below its current level of support unless the principal investigator has requested a smaller budget.
This "reduction from requested budget" policy will also apply to P01s, R21s, and all other research project grant (RPG) mechanisms, except R15s and R03s. However, it does not apply to noncompeting continuation R01s (often called Type-5s), as every Type-5 will receive the amount committed in its prior award. For nonmodular Type 5 grants (those whose direct costs exceed $250,000), there will be a cost of living adjustment of 3 percent. Research currently under way will not be affected by this policy.
All investigators conscientiously prepare their research budgets and are negatively affected by receiving less than the requested amount. Reductions, however, must be put into context. Since FY 2001, we have actively sought the advice of our scientific advisors on the National Cancer Advisory Board, the Board of Scientific Counselors, and the Board of Scientific Advisors regarding the funding options we face each year. Our advisors consistently express the view that, while we need to be cautious about imposing budget reductions in excess of 15 percent on competing grants, funding more R01s is a greater good - and should be a higher priority - than funding fewer grants with budgets as requested.
Given the unprecedented increases in the NIH and NCI budgets in recent years and the intense competing demands on the overall federal budget, we at NCI must plan for a period of nearly flat growth in the foreseeable future. That prospect is a challenge to all of us at NCI and to everyone in the cancer research community, and difficult decisions must be made. We remain eager to hear your best thinking as to how we can align NCI's budget with the best opportunities that will enable us to reach our goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer by 2015.
Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach