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NIH Starts Mild Belt-tightening Policies for Fiscal 2008

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to continue its 2007 policy of supporting “a highly productive pool” of new and established biomedical researchers in its 2008 fiscal year, according to the NIH’s recently issued policy guidelines for the coming year, but its $29.2 billion budget will leave the various institutes to figure out how to manage programs with a 1 percent budget increase. 
Non-competing research awards will receive only a 1 percent inflation allowance for 2008, NIH said in its latest Fiscal Operations Plan, which “requires a reduction to previously established commitments, based on a 3 percent inflation allowance.”
The NIH had calculated biomedical research inflation to be around 3.7 percent for 2008, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, meaning the increased budget and inflation allowance leaves the individual institutes and centers working with less funds than last year.
This policy for handling the expected contraction of funds follows on the NIH’s November 2007 announcement of a short-term plan for dealing with the inability of Congress and the White House to pass a budget before beginning of the fiscal year. Under that continuing resolution funding, the NIH said it “will issue non-competing research grant awards at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Award,” which it expected to be around 80 percent of the previously committed level.
Each NIH institute and center will be in charge of how it pans to allocate the 1 percent adjustment for the non-competing research grants, the NIH said, and commitments in the future “will be adjusted accordingly,” NIH said.
This policy does not apply to Career Awards, SBIR/STTRs, and Ruth L. Kirschstein-National Research Service Award Individual Fellowships & Institutional Training Grants, the NIH said.
For Competing Research Awards, the NIH said it expects to maintain a number of investigators “comparable to the average of the most recent five years.”
The NIH also said it will to continue to use the Director’s Innovator Awards and its Pathway to Independence Awards progams and it will continue backing its Directors Bridge Award Program, which offers “continued but limited bridge funding to meritorious investigators whose applications were close to the funding range of the relevant IC and have minimal other support.”
Further details about the NIH’s policy plans for fiscal 2008 are scheduled to be announced on Feb. 6.

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