Congressional inaction, continuing resolutions and new NIH grants

Dec 03 2010 Published by under NIH, NIH funding

About a year ago I took up the topic of the putative December 1 start date for NIH grant applications submitted in Feb/Mar and reviewed in Jun/Jul. In "Never, ever, ever, nuh-uh, no way, ever trust a Dec 1 start date!", I discussed the fact that Congress' failure to pass an appropriation bill on time for the start of a new fiscal year (October 1) means that the NIH operates under a continuing resolution until such time as Congress gets off its duff.

My perception has been that this means that no new grants would be funded. Perhaps competing continuation applications (a subsequent interval of funding for a project which has already been funded for period of time), but not new grants.

Well, I thought today I would step on over to RePORTER and do a wild card search for new R01 grants (1R01%) that had a start date of Dec 1, 2010 or later.

Huh. 66 new grants on the books already. Looks like NIMH, NIGMS, NEI, NHLBI, NIDCR, NIDCD, NIAID are on the ball with multiple new awards each. Interesting.

Now, of course we are only in the third day of the month and very frequently the ICs trickle their starts out from the first to the fifteenth of the earliest possible starting month. So I'm going to need to revisit this in a couple of weeks. Ultimately it is going to be fascinating to see which ICs go ahead and fund new grants under continuing resolutions and which do not.

27 new R21s and 12 new R03s are on the books for Dec 1 or later...again from this same list of ICs.

19 responses so far

  • not Mervyn Peake says:

    I was under the impression, perhaps mistaken, that issuing some new grants is not uncommon for the December start date. A number of years ago, I believe it was a program officer who told me some grants that score very well are prioritized by Institute staff and after Council meets they get rushed through so that NoAs go out before the prior fiscal year ends on September 30. (Almost all Institutes have a September Council meeting.) The number of grants pretty much is dependent on how much money is left in the Institute budget from the prior funding rounds. That was a bad Congress budget year, and as my grant didn't score high enough, I did not get a start date until the following March.

  • drugmonkey says:

    You seem to be confusing a couple of things. Yes, the US Gov fiscal year ends on 9/30 thus any part of their annual budget that is not spent out by the ICs gets rushed into awards at the end of Sept.

    The new fiscal year then starts. Under regular-old scheduled procedures, supposedly the grants submitted in Feb/Mar, reviewed in Jun/Jul, Council review Sep/Oct would have a first possible start date on Dec 1. If, by some miracle, Congress has passed a budget on time, this is what would happen. However when there is no new appropriation, the NIH ICs operate under continuing resolution meaning they are *permitted* to spend up to the prior year's budget levels. However, they may not choose to do so right off the bat. The could simply wait until the appropriation is finalized.

  • not Mervyn Peake says:

    So how can you tell if the new grants that you are referencing in this post are being issued under the continuing resolution budget or under the prior fiscal year budget? Is that obvious in NIH Reporter?

  • drugmonkey says:

    If it doesn't have a start date on 9/30 or before, it is in the current fiscal year. This is the point of having Fiscal Years. They end.

  • not Mervyn Peake says:

    Then you are saying that what I was told previously is incorrect, as a new grant submitted in Feb/Mar cannot be issued with a start date prior to 12/1. Or is this not what the "earliest possible start date" in the NIH instructions means? Thus any money left over at the end of the FY can't be applied to new grants, no matter how high the priority. Rather it gets rushed into either existing grants or new ones submitted in a round with an earliest possible start date before 9/30?

  • Jeremy Berg says:

    When we (at NIGMS) are operating under a continuing resolution at previous year levels, we try to start issuing awards (both new and competing renewals) as soon as we can at the start of the fiscal year. We are, however, quite conservative in the awards that we make since we strive to be as consistent as we can be over the course of the entire fiscal year.

  • So how can you tell if the new grants that you are referencing in this post are being issued under the continuing resolution budget or under the prior fiscal year budget? Is that obvious in NIH Reporter?

    Yes, it is obvious. There is a data field in ProjectReporter denoted "Fiscal Year", which indicates the fiscal year of the appropriation from which the funds are drawn. Interestingly, in the case of the new grants that have start dates in the beginning of December, some of them have 2010 fiscal year funding, but these are all NRSA graduate and post-doc fellowships. I assume this is because Notices of Award for NRSAs issue with unspecified start dates, and then the start date is initiated by the applicant sending a Notice of Activation back to NIH.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Asking if grants can fund *early* is yet another question. Technically, if it has been through Council review it should be possible. Didn't we speculate previously whether this could be a strategy to make FY11 look better in terms of success rates?

  • As far as I am aware, grants considered at September/October council are statutorily barred from being funded from that fiscal year's appropriation and must be funded from the following year's.

  • not Mervyn Peake says:

    "Interestingly, in the case of the new grants that have start dates in the beginning of December, some of them have 2010 fiscal year funding, ... I assume this is because Notices of Award for NRSAs issue with unspecified start dates, and then the start date is initiated by the applicant sending a Notice of Activation back to NIH."
    I think this speaks to my initial confusion, which is that I don't know the rules for when NIH funds are considered 'spent' from a federal FY perspective (and I'm not sure how far down this rabbit hole I want to go.) Is it the date of the NoA, the start date of the grant, when the sponsoring institution sends back a piece of paperwork, or some other, or possibly context-dependent, date?
    "There is a data field in ProjectReporter denoted “Fiscal Year”…" This is truly awesome. There is so much info now accessible that it seems wrong. ProjectReporter: the wikileaks of the NIH.

  • drugmonkey says:

    There is so much info now accessible that it seems wrong.

    Even just having the Abstract available back in the days of CRISP was quite a shock for some investigators.

  • Malone says:

    Coincidentally I was checking what's going on with the K99 yesterday. Since K99s are peanuts compared to the R grants, I expected to see few new K99s awarded, but only 2 funded under FY11.

    May be K99's story is different, in that it is not the money but the competition.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Re-running the search for new R01s funded as of 12/15 pulls up 28 more awards, the majority of which are from NHLBI. This is all confirming my belief that while it may be theoretically possible for all ICs to trickle out a few new grants under continuing resolution conditions, there are going to be ones that will not do so as a matter of policy. Sadly this includes most of the brain ICs, other than NIMH.

  • This is all confirming my belief that while it may be theoretically possible for all ICs to trickle out a few new grants under continuing resolution conditions, there are going to be ones that will not do so as a matter of policy.

    Dude, I'll bet you any amount of money that this is wrong. The current CR extends through the middle of March. No fucken way are any ICs gonna sit on their hands until then and not issue *any* new awards. Of course they will do so conservatively, but there is no way they are going to not issue *any*.

  • And BTW, the repubs can screech and keen all they want about "cutting spending" and fire up the rubes about federal funding for research on AIDS in Africa and blah, blah, blah. But where the rubber hits the road, spending cuts--if they really come--are of course gonna hit the poor and disenfranchised, and not the wealthy and well-connected (such as the universities that would literally collapse under their own weight if federal funding for scientific research was significantly cut).

  • drugmonkey says:

    Well, well, well. A few more grants sneaking out with Jan 1 start dates. Mostly from the usual suspect ICs although I do spy one NIDA award in there.

    CPP, time will tell I suppose. I remember a lot of grants waiting into Jan, Feb, Mar in the past but can't recall when NIH's appropriation was finally passed for those years. Still, it seems asinine to me for ICs to wait like this and then go ahead and fund a big chunk under continuing resolution. At best they are waiting as late as they can, hoping for an appropriation, and then finally giving up in Mar. This is not inconsistent with my position that some ICs are unbelievable conservative.

    Why don't they just go ahead and pay out ~50% or even 33% of what they expect to eventually fund right on Dec 1? That would be a "conservative" position. This way, not funding anything until Jan or even later, is something else. Clearly they are reluctant to fund anything under continuing resolution.

    The fact that some ICs clearly feel comfortable inking NOAs for Dec 1 and Dec 15 casts a negative light on those that do not.

  • BMBProf says:

    Given that the current CR ends March 4th, 2011, do you have any predictions about what might happen with grants reviewed Sept-Oct 2010 and going to Council January 2011?

  • drugmonkey says:

    For those of you playing along, I notice another big dump of new R01s funded as of 2/1/2011. Even though I've seen a couple of new awards pop up on seemingly random start dates in Dec and Jan, looks like 1st (and to some extent 15th) of the month is expected value.

  • [...] over to RePORTER and found some 283 new R01s funded since 4/1/2011. This is in contrast with the 66 I found a few days into December [...]

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