Faced with a barrage of criticism, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has scaled back a plan to cap its support for individual labs in order to free up funds for more scientists. The changes did not appease scientists who gave NIH a tongue-lashing this morning at a meeting of NIH’s Council of Councils.
Council member Jonathan Epstein described the “serious concerns” about the policy as “more than I’ve ever seen before in my scientific career.” He came close to resigning in protest because NIH did not consult the council first, said Epstein, who is chief scientific officer and executive vice dean at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Many researchers “feel that this was thrust upon them,” he added.
The policy announced on 2 May would assign points to various types of grants and give individual investigators a total score called a Grant Support Index (GSI). NIH would aim to limit a person’s GSI to 21 points, or the equivalent of three standard R01 grants. The objective, NIH explained, is to free up funds now held by 6% of the 1950 lead investigators over the cap so that NIH could support 1600 more grants for early- and midcareer investigators.