Checking on FY 2020 Application and Award Totals

Funding News Edition: December 16, 2020
See more articles in this edition

The size and scope of your project, rather than presumed success rates, should determine which mechanism you use when applying.

Credit: NIAID

Despite it being a particularly tumultuous year, NIAID received more R01 applications in fiscal year (FY) 2020 than in any prior year. We were able to award more R01 and R21 grants than ever before, with success rates for R01 and R21 applications notably higher than in recent years.

In this article, we lay out that data and make a few observations along the way.

To start, consider the total counts of R01-equivalent* and R21 applications by year:

Application Counts

 

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

R01-Equivalent

2941

3047

2962

3316

3455

R21

2590

2968

2697

2630

2735

In FY 2020, the number of R01-equivalent applications increased by 4.2 percent over the FY 2019 total, which itself represented a jump by more than 11 percent over the average count of the previous three years (FY 2016 to FY 2018). However, it’s too soon to say whether we’ve established a higher baseline for incoming R01 applications moving forward.

Compared to the FY 2019 total, the number of R21 applications increased by 4.0 percent in FY 2020. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen steadily increasing R21 application totals. Although FY 2017, when the number of incoming R21 applications leapt to nearly match the number of R01 applications, appears to have been an outlier.

Next, look at our paylines for R01 and R21 grant applications over the last five years. Remember that the R01 paylines are calculated as percentiles while the R21 paylines are determined as overall impact scores, as explained at Understand Paylines and Percentiles.

Paylines

 

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

R01

13

11

13

14

14

R21

30

28

32

31

31

For both R01 and R21 grant applications, FY 2017 was a down year that interrupted a general trend of increasing paylines since FY 2013. The paylines of FY 2020 matched those of FY 2019, which marked NIAID’s highest R01 paylines since 2006. The R21 payline nearly matched that of FY 2018, which represents the high point for R21 paylines over the past decade.

Keep in mind, the R01 paylines listed above are for established investigators. NIAID sets a separate payline for new and early-stage investigators, usually four percentiles higher than the R01 payline for established investigators.

Given those yearly paylines, NIAID funded the following numbers of awards:

Award Counts

 

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

R01-Equivalent

638

576

649

666

809

R21

582

471

566

530

621

As the table makes clear, NIAID made more R01 awards in FY 2020 than in any other year, a one-year increase of 21.5 percent and 28.0 percent above the average of the previous four years (FY 2016 to FY 2019). Similarly, for R21 awards, the FY 2020 award count exceeded last year’s total by 17.2 percent and the average of the past four years by 15.5 percent.

All that combines to yield the following success rates:

Success Rates (in percentage)

 

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

R01-Equivalent

21.7

18.9

21.9

20.1

23.4

R21

22.5

15.9

21.0

20.2

22.7

The FY 2020 success rates were higher than those of the past few years. As compared to the average of the previous four years (FY 2016 to FY 2019), FY 2020 saw a 13.3 percent (not percentage points) increase in the R01 success rate and a 14.1 percent increase in the R21 success rate. Success rates are driven by budget appropriations and application counts, and alone do not necessarily indicate funding trends.

We often hear potential applicants speculate that an R21 award is easier to get, but recent success rates for the two activity codes don’t validate that claim. If you’re deciding which activity code to use for an investigator-initiated application, the size and scope of your project (e.g., cost and time requirements), rather than presumed success rates, should determine which mechanism you use—see Comparing Popular Research Project Grants—R01, R03, and R21.

Looking ahead, the FY 2021 interim R01 payline for established investigators is currently set at the 10 percentile. The FY 2021 interim R21 payline is set at an overall impact score of 25. Most years, our final paylines are higher than the interim paylines we set at the start of the fiscal year, although you shouldn’t take that for granted. For more on our budget process, read NIAID Paylines and Budget Information Changes Throughout the Year.

*In this article, “R01-equivalent” combines the R01 and Method to Extend Research in Time Award (R37) activity codes. Note that, in other contexts, NIAID and others may include additional activity codes when tabulating “R01-equivalent.”

Contact Us

Email us at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

Content last reviewed on