In the last 14 years, the amount of money requested in grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has risen from $4.4 billion to more than $13 billion. The main contributing factor for that increase, according to a blog post by Sally Rockey, the NIH's Deputy Director for Extramural Research, is the near doubling of the number of applicants—from 19,000 in 1998 to around 32,000 in 2011.
“These results are not unexpected, but it is interesting to see the actual numbers,” Rockey wrote. “And this information helps define the biomedical research enterprise that interacts with NIH.”
Rather than limiting the number of grants awarded to a single, successful researcher, biomedical research industry blogger DrugMonkey argued that the answer to the funding shortage is to come up with an efficient way of culling the excess applicants. “The ‘real problem’ is clearly that we have too many mouths to feed,” he wrote. “The solution, consequently, is not to further squeeze and constrain the good PIs with budget cuts, dismal success rates, and limits on the number of grants or grant dollars they can hold at a time. The real solution is to make some hard decisions about which PIs to chase out of the system on a lasting basis.”
(Hat tip to GenomeWeb.)