Strapped for Cash
Scientists—whether they’re new or experienced, engaged in mainstream or unconventional research—all face stiff competition in getting NIH funding.
Since 2003 the National Institutes of Health’s budget has plateaued, even as the number of grant applications has reached record highs. No one has been harder-hit than young researchers competing for their first grant. High-risk research has also suffered as review panels have become more conservative. Despite the introduction of programs to address these problems, the NIH has been unable to keep up, a fact reflected in the dismal success rate: Only about 20% of applicants get grants. Though some relief is on the way—the economic stimulus bill contains a whopping $10.4 billion for the NIH—that money must be spent within two years, and there are no long-term plans for a budget increase. A continued funding roller coaster could make or break three hypothetical researchers.