While applications for funding at the US National Science Foundation are seeing higher success rates, Science reports that that is not due to budget increases, but to fewer applications being submitted.
It adds that a recent analysis by the agency found that success rates increased from 22 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2020, but that the number of applications submitted declined from 51,562 to 42,723, respectively.
The effect has been particularly noticeable at the biology directorate, according to Science, noting that some have suggested the decline could be due to its elimination of fixed deadlines and other changes aimed at reducing the burden on agency staff. There, the success rate has jumped from 18 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2020, as compared to shift from a 31 percent success rate to 42 percent at the geology directorate, which tested out but did not fully implement those changes.
Science notes that while researchers and administrators are happy with the increased success rate, it adds that policymakers and others are concerned that the decline in applications could reflect a fall in innovation.