Grant proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are less likely to be funded than ever before, according to a sneak peak at this year’s success rates obtained by ScienceInsider last week. According to the new estimate put out by the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research (OER), the fiscal year that ended on September 30 saw the funding of just 17.4 percent of research grant applications—a historic low, according to a comment from NIH Director Francis Collins.
The numbers are still “preliminary,” and may rebound slightly in the final release of the data next month, OER chief Sally Rockey told ScienceInsider. Still, it’s a significant drop from the 32 percent of grants the agency was funding around the turn of the millennium, and the first time in NIH history that the success rate has dipped below 20 percent. And the drop in grant funding could get even worse: just last month, the Senate approved a 1 percent drop in the NIH budget. If finalized, it would mark only the second time since 1970 that the agency’s budget has gone down instead of up.