Letter from Dr. Elizabeth Nabel to Recipients of NHLBI Support

January 2006


Dear Colleague:

I am writing to provide information about policies and activities that may be of interest to you as a recipient of support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Appropriations

On December 30, the President signed into law the FY 2006 appropriation for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Although the bill sent forward by Congress provided the NHLBI with a 0.3 percent increase over the FY 2005 amount, a rescission within the Department of Defense bill reduced the NHLBI budget by 1 percent, giving us a total allocation of $2,921,757,000 for FY 2006. That figure was reduced further by $26,109,000 – the NHLBI allocation toward the NIH Roadmap Initiative. Therefore, we are left with a working budget of $2,895,648,000, which is about $27 million less than the comparable figure for FY 2005. Although this situation will call for some belt-tightening, the Institute’s longstanding prudent fiscal policies have placed us in a reasonably good position, and I am optimistic that we will be able to weather this lean period without invoking severely restrictive measures.

FY 2006 Funding Policies

As has been the Institute’s practice for many years, new (type 1) research project grants (RPGs) will, as a rule, be awarded at the full direct cost level recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council. The direct cost cap on program project grants is $1,515,000.

Also in line with previous practice, competing renewal (type 2) RPGs paid in FY 2006 will generally be limited to a 10-percent increase over the level of the last noncompeting budget period. Specific policies for program project grants and for grants that are awarded in modules or that entail non-recurring equipment costs are described in the FY 2006 Funding and Operating Guidelines.

Noncompeting renewal (type 5) RPGs, on the other hand, are being scaled back slightly – direct costs will be awarded at 97.65 percent of the committed level (the amount indicated on the Notice of Grant Award for the previous budget period). The amounts indicated for future budget periods will be adjusted by the same factor. Grants awarded through several other NHLBI funding mechanisms (e.g., centers, cooperative agreements) also will be paid in this manner. This reduction in noncompeting renewals is being implemented across all of the NIH institutes.

Caps on Competing Applications for Funding in FY 2007

Given expectations that the NHLBI will see little, if any, budget growth in the immediate future, we find it necessary to examine the direct cost amounts on competing grants that applicants may request for FY 2007.

Requests for type 2 RPGs to be funded in FY 2007 and likely thereafter will be limited to a 3-percent increase over the level of the last noncompeting budget period. For details specific to modular grants or non-recurring equipment costs, please consult the FY 2007 Funding and Operating Guidelines .

In the past, the cap on type 1 program project grants was increased annually to compensate for inflation. For FY 2007, however, it will remain at $1,515,000. Moreover, annual increases for recurring costs in noncompeting years may be requested at no more than 3 percent (and, depending on the availability of funds, may actually be awarded at a lower level). Type 2 program project grant requests may not exceed the greater of $1,515,000 or 3 percent more than the level of the last noncompeting budget period.

Special Approaches to Help the New Investigator

Lean fiscal times, unfortunately, have a disproportionate impact on the motivation and ability of young investigators to take their place in the research enterprise. Let me assure you that the NHLBI is strongly committed to nurturing new talent and, in particular, to facilitating the transition from traineeship to independent investigator status. With that in mind, we have established a separate RPG payline for new investigators that is 5 percentile points above the regular NHLBI payline, and we will fund their grants for the full recommended duration. Moreover, applicants who “miss” the new investigator payline by 5 percentile points or fewer will be offered an opportunity to address the primary criticisms of the initial review group and receive an expedited administrative review. Details specific to the new investigator program can be found in the January 2006 Statement of the NHLBI Director on Fostering the Independence of New Investigators.

The NHLBI also plans to be an enthusiastic participant in the new NIH Career Transition Award program, which will be rolled out within the next few months. The program will provide 1-2 years of mentored advanced postdoctoral training support via a K-series award and, subsequently, 1-3 years of research support via an R-series award if the trainee has secured an independent research position.

In Conclusion

We recognize that flat budget levels over the immediate future present a difficult and frustrating situation for all investigators. I encourage you to celebrate – and, indeed, advertise – your research accomplishments and ensure that the public is informed that such progress would not have been possible without NHLBI support. For our part, we at the NHLBI will do our best to minimize the impact of these flat budgets over the short term. I believe that our Institute is in an excellent position to meet the challenges and capitalize on the vast opportunities before us, both now and in the future. We are counting on you to join us in these exciting and rewarding research endeavors.

With best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.
Director


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