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All in the Rate

Success, award, and funding rates give similar, though distinct peeks into how successful US National Institute of Health grant applications and applicants are, writes Sally Rockey, the deputy director for extramural research at NIH, at her Rock Talk blog.

Success rates, calculated by dividing the number of awards made by how many applications, excluding revisions, were submitted that year, gauge the success of a project or an idea rather than of an investigator, Rockey says. And the award rate is determined by dividing the number of awards made in a year by the number of applications made, and that rate gives an idea of how likely any given application is to be successful, she adds.

Meanwhile, the funding rate — calculated by dividing the number of applicants receiving funding a year by the total number of applications — is a "person-based rather than application-based statistic," Rockey notes.

She then charts out those rates and how they've varied during the past two decades or so. From that, she says, it's clear that "award rates are consistently lower than success rates each year, by about 3-5%, even when we've changed the number of resubmissions NIH will accept."