Data on NIH Grant Funding Inequalities

By Meg Bouvier

I stay current on NIH happenings and I’d be delighted to keep you informed.

In January, NIH personnel Mike Lauer and Deepshikha Roychowdhury published study results regarding inequalities of NIH research project grant funding. They analyzed data through the end of FY2020, and results confirmed worsening inequalities beginning in 1998-2003 (the time of NIH budget doubling) and only modestly reversing in recent years. Results also showed that the top 1% of investigators received 10% of the funds, up from 8% in 1998. Additionally, the top 1% of investigators tended to be in later career stages and more likely to be white, non-Hispanic, and hold an MD degree (either alone or with a PhD). 

Following the original release of information, NIH released additional data regarding time-related trends of Research Project Grant (RPG) numbers supporting individual PIs. The data show that, in 1985, approximately 80% of PIs were funded by just one grant. However, that number dropped to 67% in 2021. Over 80% of the PIs in the top 1% of funding were supported by two or more grants. 

Breaking the same data down by PI self-reported sex, from 1985 through 2021 a consistent pattern demonstrated that women were more likely to be PI on 1 RPG. Additionally, men were more likely to be PIs supported on 3 and/or 4RPGs during the same time period.

Graphical representations of the data and a link to the original report are available here.

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