NIH Charts Trends in Research Project Grant Costs Over Time

Funding News Edition: July 20, 2022
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Last month, we discussed how NIH calculates inflationary pressures in our article “Reference NIH’s Biomedical Research and Development Price Index.”

Serendipitously, Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH deputy director for extramural research, took up the same topic in his recent blog post “Inflation and NIH Research Project Grants.” He examines the average total costs of research project grants from 1998 to 2021, and takes care to differentiate mean and median costs to better address distribution of costs. He also identifies a series of key inflection points: 1998 (beginning of budget doubling), 2003 (end of budget doubling), 2013 (sequestration), 2019 (before the pandemic), and 2021 (most recent year).

Dr. Lauer finds that:

  • NIH has increased the number of research project grant awards in recent years, despite increases in nominal costs.
  • Real mean and median research project grant costs stabilized following a significant increase during the NIH-doubling from 1998 to 2003.
  • The distribution of research project grant costs is shifting toward both the high and low ends—NIH is funding a larger proportion of relatively expensive and relatively inexpensive awards.

To explore Dr. Lauer’s graphs, charts, and tables and review his analysis in full, follow the link above to the Open Mike blog. A more detailed report is available at NIH Research Project Grant (RPG) Inflation.

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