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NIH to Pilot Special Review of Well-Funded Investigators

May 25, 2012—The National Institutes of Health (NIH) May 18 announced that it intends to pilot procedures for special advisory council review of research applications from program director(s) /principal investigator(s) (PDs/PIs) who already receive in excess of $1.5 million per year in total costs.  The goal is “to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators.”  NIH said that the feedback from the pilot will help it further refine policies for managing limited grant resources.

Several NIH institutes and centers (ICs) already undertake a special review of well-supported investigators.  NIH announced during the release of the president’s FY 2013 budget that it would move to institute NIH-wide review of such PDs/PIs.  According to NIH, the current pilot will involve IC advisory council members receiving “a list of all applications under consideration for award from PDs/PIs above the [special council review] threshold along with a justification of the IC’s recommendation to consider for funding or not consider for funding. In assessing these applications, Council members will be asked to recommend consideration of funding for applications that afford a unique opportunity to advance research which is both highly promising and distinct from the other funded projects from the PD/PI.”

In announcing the pilot, NIH stated, “It is important to note that the Special Council Review does not represent a cap on total NIH funding for any one investigator. NIH recognizes that some of the most productive investigators are leading significant research teams and programs that may require over $1.5 million/year of NIH awards to be sustained. NIH also recognizes that some types of research, for example large complex clinical trials, may commonly trigger this review but may also be recommended for funding.”  Some applications are being exempted from special review, such as responses to request for applications (RFAs) that “use a single round of competition to address a targeted research objective of IC(s) and are separately considered for funding.”


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806