To resubmit or not resubmit – that is the question

The biomedical research funding climate remains challenging despite the words of optimism NIH Director, Francis Collins, shared with OHSU during his campus visit last week. In 2015, only 13.1% of new R01 applications were funded. If you were among those PIs whose application scored outside of funding range, you’re likely considering resubmission and wondering what types of changes might improve your chances of success.

In his Oct. 28 Open Mike blog post, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Michael Lauer, discusses several important considerations to help inform your decision. First, a look at the numbers:

Source: Open Mike blog, Oct. 28, 2016
Source: Open Mike blog, Oct. 28, 2016

Clearly, resubmission applications have a higher success rate (33.4% in 2015) than first time applications, but what are the factors that influence that success? “For most investigators, achieving funding success usually comes from persistence and patience,” writes Lauer. “The typical applicant who was successful in obtaining funding in the past few years from the NIH has submitted several applications prior to obtaining support for their research.”

When considering resubmission, Lauer encourages PIs to develop an application strategy for the specific science. Each Institute and Center (IC) has a unique funding policy that looks at the career stage of the investigator, and that balances long-term and short-term investments. “Knowing how the IC prioritizes different activities may influence your choice to submit an R01.” Additionally, your ability to address issues of concern raised in the reviews should be carefully considered and questions of appropriateness of the science for the R01 mechanism can be reviewed in concert with the assigned program officer.

If you do decide to resubmit and that application isn’t funded, keep in mind the NIH policy that allows applicants to submit a new application following an unsuccessful resubmission. The Next Steps webpage provides guidance on “.. what to do next” after your initial application is reviewed but not funded.

Finally, the NIH has launched a survey to better understand patterns of resubmission for new investigators so keep an eye out for your invitation.