The article "NIH Study Section Members Acknowledge Major Flaws in the Reviewing System" (R. Finn, The Scientist, Aug. 21, 1995, page 1) highlights some serious problems that beset a review system that is indeed out of step with the present (financial) times. However, a pattern of funding, apparently prevalent for some time, was not mentioned.

Based on National Institutes of Health-published data (Peer Review Trends 1981-1991, DRG Study Section Trends, FY 83-92, Statistics, Analysis and Education Section, Information Systems Branch, Division of Research Grants, NIH), there is a steady decline in success rates for obtaining a new NIH grant with age. Applicants aged 26-30 are approximately two- to threefold more successful in the award of a new R01 than applicants older than 51.

It has been my experience on (two) NIH study sections that age per se is not cited in reviews. However, the majority of study section members are...

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