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Down, Down

With the sequester and other budget woes in the US, 2013 was a trying year for federally funded biomedical researchers. The US National Institutes of Health has updated its Data Book with figures from 2013, and as Sally Rockey, the deputy director for extramural research at NIH, notes at her Rock Talk blog, pretty much all of the numbers are down from 2012.

"[M]ost of the numbers you are going to see … went down because of the reduction of NIH's budget due to the sequestration which lowered NIH appropriations by more than 5 [percent] or $1.55 billion below the previous fiscal year," she says. "So these smaller numbers, such as fewer new awards and lower application success rates, are not surprising."

For instance, a chart she includes in her post shows that the overall success rate for competing research project grants dropped from 17.6 percent in 2012 to 16.8 percent in 2013. At the same time, the average size of such grants dropped from $454,588 in 2012 to $441,404 in 2013, and, Rockey notes, in constant dollars, the average grant size for 2013 is the lowest since 1999.

At his blog, DrugMonkey notes that new investigators were among those hit hard, as their success rates fell below that of established PIs despite a push to fund new PIs at the same rate as experienced ones. "Interestingly, this will to maintain success rates of the inexperienced PIs at levels similar to the experienced PIs has evaporated for FY2011 and FY2013," he says.