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Mar 10, 2014

More Competing Grant Funds but Overall RPG Spending Flat in Obama NIH FY'15 Budget

  • Investigators seeking more research program grants (RPGs) in NIH’s proposed budget for the 2015 federal fiscal year will find a higher number of anticipated competing awards than the current fiscal year, and more funding for them—but within a lower overall number of RPGs, whose combined funding will increase by less than 1%.

    President Barack Obama’s proposed spending plan for NIH envisions awarding 7,322 competing new grants in FY 2015, up 372 or 5.4% from 6,950 in the current fiscal year. Total funding for competing new grants would increase 6.4%, to $3.167 billion from the current year’s $2.977 billion.

    However, an almost equal number of anticipated RPGs (367) would be reduced from the anticipated number of noncompeting grants, which would dip 1.7% to 23,236 in FY 2015, from 23,632 this fiscal year. Spending for noncompeting grants would rise 2.2% or $238.973 million, to $11.199 billion in the fiscal year that begins October 1, compared with $10.96 billion in FY ’14.

    Obama’s NIH budget lowers the total number of RPGs by 67 or 0.2%, to 32,562 from 32,629 in FY 2014. And while total spending would rise in the new fiscal year, RPGs would see just $99.98 million more in FY 2015, rising to $15.38 billion from $15.48 billion this fiscal year, an increase of 0.7%.

    That’s the same proportion of increase as the total NIH budget would see in FY 2015, rising just $200 million over FY 2014, to $30.2 billion in overall program level funding.

    The RPG figures do not include SBIR/STTR awards. When the categories are combined, according to the proposed budget, the competing average cost per RPG would shrink to $443,096 in FY’15, down 6.6% from $474,181 a year earlier.

    According to NIH’s Budget Justification to Congress, funding for new grants would come from Obama’s proposed multi-agency Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, which includes $970 million for NIH to restore its funding to the level proposed in the FY 2014 President’s Budget ($31.3 billion).

    “These funds would be used to increase the number of new grants and provide additional resources for signature biomedical research activities,” the agency stated.

    The justification did not explain the shift toward more competitive grants or the relatively flat overall RPG numbers and funding, instead articulating four key agency policy themes in FY 2015: Today’s Basic Science for Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs; Precision Medicine; Big Opportunities in Big Data; and Nurturing Talent and Innovation.



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