NIH No Longer Considering Capping Grants for Individual Labs

In May, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposed restricting the amount of funding that an individual laboratory could hold in order to free up funding for younger researchers, but it recently announced it is dropping the controversial plan.

The goal of the original grant-capping policy was to correct an imbalance in distribution of research funds – late-career investigators receive the majority of NIH funding. However, many in the research community pushed back on the proposal, claiming that these limits would discourage collaboration and divert funding from talented, proven investigators.  In its place, the agency is proposing the Next Generation Research Initiative (NGRI), which aims to prioritize funding opportunities for early- and mid- career scientists. The NGRI will “place greater emphasis on current NIH funding mechanisms aimed at early- and mid-career investigators,” in part by freeing up $210 million in grants for such researchers, which will incrementally increase to $1.1 billion in 5 years. The increased budget will benefit first-time grant applicants, labs losing NIH support, and mid-career scientists (those with ≤10 years of experience as a principal investigator). Although NIH officials did not specify where the redirected funds would come from, they said a “reprioritization of funds” would take place.

Investigators already compete for scarce funding, and it is also unclear how the White House’s proposed budget (which includes cuts to biomedical research funding) would affect these initiatives.

Sources: The Boston Globe, June 8, 2017; NIH Director’s Blog post, June 8, 2017.