More Scrutiny for Senior Scientists?

The NIH plans an extra layer of review for scientists with at least $1.5 million in existing grants.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst was managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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In its 2013 budget request, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) outlined an additional round of review for any researchers with $1.5 million or more in existing grant money, in an effort to support the work of less-experienced scientists. But the proposal faced criticism when the budget request came before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the subcommittee's top Republican, worried that the plan would “discourages success,” and argued that grant funding decisions should be made purely on scientific merit.

NIH director Francis Collins responded that only some 6 percent of NIH grant applicants would qualify for the extra level of review, and that the new regulation would be unlikely to result in denials of grant proposals that would otherwise be funded. “It is just that if an investigator has already achieved that amount of...

And despite Shelby’s insistence on impartiality when it comes to funding scientific research, he did encourage Collins to include his home state of Alabama in its Institutional Development Award program, which dedicates funds for research taking place at universities in states with historically low NIH grant success rates. To this, the subcommittee's chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), reminded Shelby of his earlier comments about distributing funds strictly on scientific merit. “We're not in the business of just spreading money around,” Harkin said.

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