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NIH abandons plans to limit individual research funding, creates special fund

June 15, 2017
By: Robert Ksiazkiewicz

After much criticism, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will abandon the Grant Support Index (GSI) plan – a strategy to bolster NIH funding support for the next generation of researchers by placing limits on individual research funding which SSTI previously covered. Instead, NIH will launch the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) that will allocate $1.1 billion over the next five years to support nearly 2,400 new grants for early and mid-career researchers whose grant proposals receive high scores, but fall short of receiving funds. At this time, however, there was no immediate promise of where that money would be found, according to an article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

NIH’s director, Francis S. Collins, in a statement wrote that the GSI plan was shelved due to significant concerns from the research community about the GSI methodology for assessing research impact, and the potential for application of a GSI-based cap on total support to discourage team science, complex trials, research networks, and the support of infrastructure and training. 

In addition to the proposed $1.1 billion fund, Collins also highlights several other elements of the NGRI including:

  • Tracking the impact of NIH Institute and Center funding decisions for early- and mid-career investigators with fundable scores to ensure this new strategy is effectively implemented in all areas of research;
  • Placing greater emphasis on current NIH funding mechanisms aimed at early- and mid-career investigators; and,
  • Encouraging multiple approaches to develop and test metrics that can be used to assess the impact of NIH grant support on scientific progress.

The new proposal is not without skeptics including Garry McDowell from the Future of Research coalition. "I don’t know where the money is going to come from for this," he said in a Chronicle of Higher Education story. "It will probably end up affecting our success rates anyway because the money has to come from somewhere." He contends that while the program may be effective in the short-term for the existing cohort of early and mid-career researchers, it may have unforeseen ramifications on future generations.