What Are the Chances of Getting NIH Funding?

Many PIs monitor success rates as an indicator of NIH funding trends, but award and funding rates should also be considered. Funding rates, which are higher than either success or award rates, depict a more promising scenario for the prospects of receiving NIH funding. But what exactly do all these rates mean?

Success rate describes the likelihood of a project or an idea getting funded, rather than of the success of the individual application submission.

Success Rate = Number of awards in a fiscal year
Applications reviewed (excluding resubmissions in that fiscal year)

Award rate describes the chance of an individual application being funded and is the number that more closely reflects institute and center paylines (which can vary significantly from one institute or center to another).

Award Rate = Number of awards in a fiscal year
Applications reviewed (including resubmissions in that fiscal year)

Funding rate reflects the number of investigators who seek and obtain funding. Each PI is counted once, whether he or she submits one or more applications or receives one or more awards in a fiscal year.

Funding Rate = Number of unique PIs receiving funding in a fiscal year
Number of unique PIs with applications reviewed in that fiscal year

In fiscal year 2014, NIH received 51,073 research project grant applications, out of which 9,241 were funded, resulting in an 18.1% success rate.  Considering the award rate, which accounts for resubmissions during the same fiscal year, the application count increases to 54,519 resulting in a 17.0% award rate. For numbers of PIs, NIH funded 9,986 PIs out of 39,809 total investigator applicants resulting in a 25.1% funding rate.

Success, award, and funding rates correspond closely to the NIH budget. In these challenging times, the NIH budget is not keeping pace with demand. As a result, success, award, and funding rates are at historically low levels. However, more applications are being submitted and more PIs are being supported now compared to 15 years ago.

Excerpted from “What are the Chances of Getting Funded?” Rock Talk, June 29, 2015