Awards of R01 and R21 Grants in FY 2013
Beginning in 2011, NCI adopted a new approach to the selection of grant applications for funding. Rather than establish an absolute payline, individual consideration of a broad range of applications were the hallmark of NCI's selection process for all competing applications.
In 2013, most applications with scores up to the 9th percentile[1] were funded. Funded applications with higher scores were subject to divisional and Scientific Program Leaders (SPL) review. The NCI awarded 1,095 competing Research Project Grants (RPGs), resulting in a final success rate[2] of 14%. The graphs below summarize the overall funding patterns for R01s and R21s in various categories of investigators.
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Funding Patterns for R01 Applications

The graph in Figure 1 summarizes the number of R01 applications received and grants funded at each percentile, among all investigators. As is evident, the number of grants funded decreased in direct proportion to the percentile ranking. Nevertheless, 39% of the grants funded had rankings beyond the 9th percentile.
Similar displays are shown below for experienced investigators (applicants who have received a prior RPG and were applying for a new grant or a competitive renewal - Figure 2); new investigators (applicants who have never received an RPG - Figure 3); and early stage investigators (new investigators within 10 years of receiving their highest degree - Figure 4). Similar patterns are observed in all cases, although success rates are not plotted for new and early stage investigators in view of the small numbers of applications at each percentile score.
NCI FY2013: "Percentiled" R01 Applications, Awards and Success Rates
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Figure 1: All Investigators: Experienced, New and Early Stage
Figure 1: All Investigators: Experienced, New and Early Stage
NCI FY2013 Competing R01 Applications and Awards
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Figure 2: Experienced Investigators
Figure 2: Experienced Investigators
NCI FY2013 Competing R01 Applications and Awards
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Figure 3: New Investigators (Includes Early Stage Investigators)
Figure 3: New Investigators (Includes Early Stage Investigators)
NCI FY2013 Competing R01 Applications and Awards
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Figure 4: Early Stage Investigators
Figure 4: Early Stage Investigators
Figures 1-4: Excludes applications that did not receive a percentile ranking. When an amended application is considered in the same fiscal year as the original, only the one with the better ranking is counted.
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Funding Patterns for R21 Applications

The funding patterns for R21 grant applications differ markedly from those of the R01. This difference is explained by the fact that NCI receives a disproportionate number of applications relative to the number of R21 grants that can be funded (see Table 1). 21% of the grants funded had rankings beyond the 9th percentile.
In contrast to the case with the R01 funding patterns, success rates for R21 funding of applications from new investigators[3] are significantly lower than for established investigators (8% versus 13% success rates, respectively - Table 1). The difference in success rates for R21 compared to R01 applications from new investigators is striking: 8% compared with 12%. This disparity results from the fact that R01, but not R21 applications, from new investigators are given preferential consideration.
Similar displays are shown below for experienced investigators[3] (applicants who have received a prior RPG - Figure 6) and new investigators (applicants who have never received an RPG - Figure 7).
NCI FY2013: R21 Applications, Awards and Success Rates
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Figure 5: All Investigators: Experienced and New
Figure 5: All Investigators: Experienced and New
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Figure 6: Experienced Investigators
Figure 6: Experienced Investigators
NCI FY2013 Competing R21 Applications and Awards
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Figure 7: New Investigators
Figure 7: New Investigators
Figures 5-7: Excludes applications that did not receive a percentile ranking. When an amended application is considered in the same fiscal year as the original, only the one with the better ranking is counted.
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Table 1: Fiscal Year 2013: Success Rates (unsolicited R01's and R21's)
  Total Applications Number With Percentiles
Of 25 or Better
Number With Percentiles
Of 10 or Better
Funded Success Rate
R01 - All Investigators 3,998 973 405 582 15%
  Experienced Investigators - Total 2,806 743 319 436 16%
    Type 1 2,304 530 218 301 13%
    Type 2 502 213 101 135 27%
  New Investigators - Total* 1,192 230 86 146 12%
    Early Stage New Investigators** 506 136 58 92 18%
R21 - All Investigators 2,334 510 207 241 10%
  Experienced Investigators 1,032 273 117 133 13%
  New Investigators 1,302 237 90 108 8%
Total applications include all new and competing renewals that received a percentile, those with just an impact score as well as triaged or not recommended for funding. Competitive supplements are excluded.
When an amended application is considered in the same fiscal year as the original, only the one with the better percentile is counted. NCI funded an additional 272 grants for a total of 1,095 competing Research Projects which includes Program Projects, Small Grants, Requests for Applications and other funding mechanisms.
* Includes Early Stage Investigators
** Included in New Investigators
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Table 2: Fiscal Year 2013 vs. 2012: All Competing Research Project Grants
  FY 2013 FY 2012
Funded Success Rate Funded Success Rate
R01 - Unsolicited 582 15% 620 15%
R21 - Unsolicited 241 10% 200 11%
R03 100 15% 101 20%
Solicited (RFAs) 82 16% 88 9%
Other RPGs* 90 20% 76 17%
Total Competing RPGs: 1,095 14% 1,085 14%
* Other RPGs include R15, P01, U01 and UM1.
In FY 2013 there was a 6.1% decrease in R01 (Investigator Initiated) awards attributed to fewer new investigator applications. The R21 awards increased by 21%, a direct result of the new NCI Omnibus Program Announcement PAR-12-145.
[1] A percentile is a score that ranks competing applications against others in the same study section in the past year. It is intended to allow a comparison of impact scores of applications across all study sections. The impact score is given by scientific reviewers based on the overall impact that the project is likely to have on the research field(s) involved.
[2] The success rate is the percentage of applications received that are funded. It is calculated by dividing the number of funded grants by the number of applications received. When an amended application is considered in the same fiscal year as the original, only the one with the better score is counted in the number of applications received.
[3] Since the NIH does not report the R21 grants in terms of experienced and new investigators, the NCI applied the R01 rules to the R21 grants to extract, and generate the data that distinguishes the two groups in these graphs.
Awards of R01 and R21 Grants in FY 2012
Awards of R01 and R21 Grants in FY 2011
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Published Dec 13, 2013 by NCI/DEA
Comments
  • 10/21/2014 06:12 PM
    Very strongly agree with comments on 12/20/13 and 12/22/13. If we continue to fund the established investigators over the new investigators, we will lose a great many of those new investigators permanently. We have already seen this happen. In the long run, this system will undoubtedly result in the US losing its competitive edge in scientific research, to say the least! The K-series is a small remedy. A much greater percentage of R01 grants need to be given to new investigators to not only keep these investigators, but also to increase diversity on several levels.
  • 04/23/2014 01:54 PM
    IF THE FIRST PERSON TO COMMENT COULDN'T UNDERSTAND THESE GRAPHS, THEY SHOULDN'T BE IN SCIENCE.
  • 01/09/2014 08:32 PM
    Contents and messages are simple but Very difficult to understand graphs.... Make them simple.
  • 12/22/2013 04:53 AM
    Based on my prior comment regarding "preferential treatment" to be given to new investigators is imperative if the nation wants to keep workforce diversity a vibrant force to combat cancer in the next couple of decades. We have to be cognizant of the fact that these trends are viewed by our pre- and post-doctoral fellows in positive and encouraging manner; that they have great chance of attaining and securing prestigeous R-series NCI grants after completion of their F31 fellowships and K- series career development awards. NCI has a moral and ethical obligation to be a beacon of hope and guiding light for our developing workforce diversity and demographics; that we continue to inspire next generation "Ground breaking - Nobel prize winning" exceptional scientists who are ready to conquer the forty year war against insideous cancer which has afflicted each and every member of this nation for the last several decades. Thank you, Anil Wali
  • 12/20/2013 05:42 PM
    Taken together, this impressive data reflects a unique trend that despite inclusion of NCI omnibus PAR-12-145, the success rate for new investigators stayed around 8 percent compared to 13 percent of experienced investigators. This data shows that in order to cultivate next generation cadre of cancer researchers, we ought to give similar consideration of "preferential treatment" for the budding scientists in making to keep them at par with experienced investigators.
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