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Rejected NIH Applicants Should Keep Trying

According to figures maintained by NIH for the past 18 years (see chart), the percentage of applicants funded on their first try varied quite a bit in the 1970s—from about 24% in 1973 to a high of more than 40% in 1975. So far in the 1980s, the success rate for first-time applicants has stabilized at just under 30%—a stability mirrored by the success rate for all NIH applicants during recent years. “Part of it is deliberate policy,” says Joseph Brackett, chief of NIH&

The Scientist Staff

According to figures maintained by NIH for the past 18 years (see chart), the percentage of applicants funded on their first try varied quite a bit in the 1970s—from about 24% in 1973 to a high of more than 40% in 1975.

So far in the 1980s, the success rate for first-time applicants has stabilized at just under 30%—a stability mirrored by the success rate for all NIH applicants during recent years. “Part of it is deliberate policy,” says Joseph Brackett, chief of NIH’s Reports, Analysis, and Presentations section. “We’re trying to even out the big fluctuations.” Brackett adds, though, that stability also depends to an extent on the level of funding authorized by Congress—and this level has risen in recent years.

However, first-time success rates tell only part of the story. Perseverance pays off very well indeed, according to NIH figures revealing that between 30% and 55% of each...

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