DHHS, NIH News  
NIH Office of the Director (OD)

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NIH News Media Branch, NIH OCPL

New NIH Policy to Fund Meritorious Science Earlier

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a new policy today that will enhance success rates of new and resubmitted applications by decreasing the number of allowed grant application resubmissions from two to one. This policy is a part of a continuing series of changes to the NIH peer review system following an in depth review and a year long self-assessment that concluded in June 2008. This new policy will help ensure earlier funding of high-quality applications and improve efficiencies in the peer review system.

NIH analysis indicates that an increasing number of meritorious applicants that were ultimately funded had to resubmit their applications multiple times which increased burden on applicants and reviewers alike. NIH's previous policy allowed research applicants two attempts (amended applications known as A1 and A2 resubmissions) to improve upon their original application (known as A0 submission) based on feedback from peer reviewers. In times of budgetary constraint, however, data reveals a reduction in the number of awards made to original applications. An increasing number of projects were funded only after one or more resubmissions. This trend has been increasing over recent years. In 2006, successful applicants needed to apply on average twice as many times than in 2002 to get funded. See supporting data link (http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/resubmission.html#data) To address these inefficiencies and extra burden on the entire community — and to fund meritorious applications earlier — the NIH will phase out second amendments for new applications submitted beginning January 25, 2009.

"Over the past several years, the number of applications submitted each year to NIH has doubled and the number of investigators applying for grants has increased by over 75 percent, increasing stress on the system, especially when confronted with stagnating budgets. This has led to scientists spending more time rewriting their applications and undue delays in the funding of outstanding projects," Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH Director said.

The application must go through more rounds of submission today than it did just five years ago. In 2002, an investigator had a 17 percent chance of a first submission being funded as compared to a 7 percent chance in 2006. "To implement the recommendations of the peer review panel, we found after careful analysis that eliminating the second amended application is the best way to help ensure that we fund the best science earlier and reduce administrative burden on meritorious scientists and their projects," Zerhouni said.

The new policy (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-09-003.html) applies to all NIH grant programs. Below are key excerpts from the Guide Notice:

Beginning with applications intended for the January 25, 2009 due date, all original new applications (i.e., never submitted) and competing renewal applications will be permitted only a single amendment (A1). For this and subsequent cohorts of original new and competing renewal applications, any second amendment (A2) will be administratively withdrawn and not accepted for review. Applicants who fail to receive funding after two submissions may resubmit but only if the application is fundamentally revised to qualify as new. A new application is expected to be substantially different in content and scope with more significant differences than are normally encountered in an amended application. Note that there is no time limit for the submission of the original and subsequent A1.
Original new and competing renewal applications that were submitted prior to January 25, 2009 will be permitted two amendments (A1 and A2). For these "grandfathered" applications, NIH expects that any A2 will be submitted no later than January 7, 2011, and NIH will not accept A2 applications after that date.

This announcement is one of a series that NIH will be sending out in the coming months about specific policies to enhance its peer review system. Future topics will include early stage investigators and grant application scoring. Information on the new policy to fund meritorious science earlier may be found on the Enhancing Peer Review Web site (http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/resubmission.html#data).

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 institutes and centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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