NIA applies new strategy to address funding scarcity

In the face of increasing and intense competition for research funding, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is employing a new short-term strategy to improve investigators’ chances of obtaining long-term funding. In a Sept. 30 blog posting, NIA’s Director of the Division of Extramural Affairs, Robin Barr, Ph.D., announced, “We are aggressively using the NIH R56 activity code for the first time…This award program provides one or two years of support to allow investigators to collect more data, develop more publications, or conduct any activity that allows them to respond to comments made in the review. ”

The NIH R56 mechanism was created roughly 10 years ago as funding lines began their precipitous decline, with awards made in order of how applications performed in review. Now, NIA is using this mechanism to fund proposals most likely to be improved by a single year of funding. The intent is for these short-term awards to generate productive research advances as well as improved applications. Also, by receiving this funding, R56 awardees who return with successful applications will then have funds distributed over two or more budget years rather than competing with the general pool of applicants for funding in the same budget year.  Note: Investigators cannot apply for an R56 grant. Applications will be selected for conversion as described above.

Barr has been tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of this strategy and will be sharing what he learns in future posts. In the meantime, he wants to hear thoughts from the research community on whether this strategy is well-conceived and how to best evaluate its success. Lend your voice here.