The NIH Distribution
For those unfamiliar with NIH, it comprises 27 institutes and centers organized mostly according to disease categories, with a long tradition of fiefdoms and “stovepiping.” Despite the best efforts of various NIH directors and congressional oversight bodies to break down these barriers and promote cross-institute activities, the basic structure remains. Thus, the lion’s share of the allocation
($7.4 billion) will be divvied up among these fiefdoms, while $800 million is handed over to the acting director (Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD) to support cross-cutting initiatives and another $1.3 billion goes for extramural construction and equipment. About a month before the stimulus package arrived, NIH released its first Biennial Report of the Director (http://biennialreport.nih.gov), in which a serious effort was made to lay out an integrated portrait of its research activities and future directions, with particular attention to a list of congressionally mandated priorities.
Included in that list are several of possible interest to the HF/E prospector: technology development, research training and career development, and health communication and information campaigns and clearinghouses. Following the stimulus package announcement, Kington gave a briefing in which he revealed in broad strokes how these new funds will be used. First and foremost, this windfall is regarded as a shortterm (two-year) supplement, not an overall budget increment, with economic stimulus implications (including geographic job creation) a primary focus. Second, although funds are to be administered
mostly via the 27 institutes and centers, each institute will be directed to do so in accordance with pre-established strategic planning (presumably reflecting priorities in the Biennial Report).
Third, most of the money will be aimed at accelerating the pace of selected R01 (basic research) grants that have already been approved for funding, beefing up current grants for a two-year period, and funding new “cross-cutting” research (via so-called challenge grants of up to $500,000, with fast-tracked peer review), details of which are still on the drawing board. Some awards in
the former two categories will be competitive, some not. So, obviously,
anyone in the HF/E ranks who already has NIH funding should be thinking about making a case for acceleration or enhancement, whereas those still in the prospecting stage should pay close attention to forthcoming NIH announcements under the challenge grant label (see page 4).