The NINDS Research Program Award (RPA) – piloting a new approach to funding neuroscience research 5

Posted by Robert Finkelstein
Director, Division of Extramural Research, NINDS

For many years, the R01 (Research Project Grant) has been the go-to mechanism through which NIH supports investigator-initiated research. As most of you know, an R01 award supports an individual project described prospectively by an investigator in a grant application. During the last 60+ years, many biomedical breakthroughs originated in laboratories that were stably funded through one or more long-running R01 grants.

Unfortunately, life has become more challenging for principal investigators (PIs) and the labs that they oversee. The doubling of the NIH budget (1998-2003) led to a sharp increase in the number of investigators applying for funding. In addition, the NIH budget has failed to keep pace with inflation, leading to dramatic declines in the funding “paylines” of most NIH Institutes. For example, at NINDS our payline dropped from 26% during the doubling to 12% in 2006, and is currently set at 14%. Even worse, these declining funding rates have come at a time of unprecedented opportunities in basic and applied neuroscience. More…