In this notice, Dr. Collins describes a new tool that NIH plans to implement—the Grant Support Index (GSI)—to ensure that the NIH supports a diversity of biomedical problems, rather than concentrating resources in a smaller number of labs. NIH’s goal is to free up about 1,600 new awards to broaden the pool of investigators conducting NIH research and improve the stability of the enterprise.
The plan is that each principal investigator (PI) that submits an application to NIH will be assigned a GSI value based on the type, complexity, and size of the PI’s current NIH awards. PIs that have GSIs over 21 (the equivalent of 3 single-PI R01 awards) will be expected to include a plan in their applications for how they would adjust their existing grant load to be within the GSI limits if their application is awarded. (Note: A GSI limit is not specified by Dr. Collins.)
Rationale for the use of the GSI from Dr. Collins:
- The distribution of NIH grant funding is highly skewed, with 10 percent of NIH-funded investigators receiving over 40 percent of NIH funding. Analyses conducted by both NIH and others has shown that incremental research output gradually diminishes as the amount of support per investigator increases.
- The more principal investigators must manage in terms of additional projects, personnel, and grant applications, the less additional time they have to dedicate to their research.
- There are reasons to believe that supporting more researchers working on a diversity of biomedical problems, rather than concentrating resources in a smaller number of labs, might maximize the number of important discoveries.
Over the next few months, NIH will be seeking feedback from the scientific community on how best to implement the GSI limit. Dr. Collins indicates that there are still many details of the policy that need to be worked out. Look for more on this topic from NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Dr. Michael Lauer through his Open Mike Blog.