The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget proposes to flat fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $30.7 billion. About half of the budget would go to extramural research grants ($16.5 billion, -$25.8 million), with an additional $3.4 billion (+$20.9 million) for intramural research at NIH. Intramural support includes a federal pay raise of 0.5 percent.
The budget proposal prioritizes support for basic research, including genomics and proteomics, and stem cell research; new investigators; technologies to accelerate scientific discovery, such as large-scale sequencing technologies and The Cancer Genome Atlas; and the newly established National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. This center, which was created in FY 2012, is intended to help move basic research findings into new diagnostics and therapeutics.
Funding for Research Project Grants (RPGs) would decline by 0.2 percent. Despite this proposed reduction, the number of new competing RPGs would increase by about 670 over FY 2012; this is an increase of nearly 8 percent. At the requested funding level, 19 percent of proposals would be funded, an increase from the current rate of 18 percent.
According to NIH’s budget documents: “In order to maximize resources in FY 2013 for investigator-initiated grants, and to continue to focus on resources for young, first-time researchers, NIH proposes to reduce non-competing RPGs by one percent from the FY 2012 level, and to negotiate the budgets of competing RPGs to avoid growth in the average award size.” The average cost of new competing RPGs (excluding HIV/AIDS Clinical Trial Networks) would decrease by one percent.
Other proposed changes to research grants include additional scrutiny for any proposal submitted by a principal investigator with existing grants totaling $1.5 million or more. Additionally, NIH will no longer build in inflationary increases to the out-years of competing and non-competing awards.
Training program funding would be slightly reduced, resulting in a 1.8 percent reduction in the number of trainees supported. Stipend rates, however, would increase by 2.0 percent.
The proposal to flat-fund NIH has received push back from two senior members of the House of Representatives. Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) have authored a Dear Colleague letter to the House Appropriations Committee that requests at least $1.3 billion more in funding for NIH.
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