Research Stimulus: How to Spend $5 Billion Fast

The National Institutes of Health has released a preliminary breakdown of how it spent the first half of its $10.4 billion in stimulus money. It includes this breakdown by number of the more than 12,000 Recovery Act grants announced last month. The categories include previously reviewed proposals that just missed the cutoff for funding from NIH's regular budget, as well as extensions of existing projects (supplements and revisions).

The amount of money going to each type of award varies--an administrative supplement might be $70,000 in FY2010, a full RO1 research grant $300,000. NIH’s Office of Extramural Research says it doesn't yet have a breakdown for these categories by total dollars.

As for the much-discussed Challenge Grants, which drew over 20,000 applications for as few as 200 awards, there's slightly good news: The NIH director's office and other institutes wound up funding at least 840 projects, which puts the success rate at around 4%. Total funding for these awards in FY 2010 is $389 million. The larger Grand Opportunity competition, which drew more than 2000 applications (NIH was saying 2700 in June), funded 376 projects to the tune of $625 million in FY2010 (14% success rate if 2700 still stands). Competing revisions turned out to be the best way of playing the stimulus lottery, with a success rate of 19.7%, NIH says.

The data are preliminary and don't include contracts, and numbers are still rising. A search today of NIH Reporter for Challenge Grants (RC1) found they're up to 880.