Remember the NIH R56 Funding Mechanism?

By Meg Bouvier

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

Anyone remember the NIH R56 funding mechanism? Started in 2005, the goal of the R56 is to provide 1-2 years of funding to promising submissions that are outside the funding range. Two important things to know about the R56:

  • You may not apply directly. The recipients are typically chosen by program staff. Need I continue to beat my “get to know your program officer” drum? Please, please develop a relationship with your NIH PO whenever possible. They are more important to your career than you think, in many ways.
  • Applications chosen are not necessarily just outside the funding range. While the description of the award does state it is for “R01 applications with priority scores or percentiles that fall just outside the funding limits”, it goes on to state that “Nominees for the award must be in the most meritorious half of the priority or percentile range” (i.e., not triaged). Of the few clients I know who have been selected for an R56 over the years, in one memorable instance the grantee had an R01 ranked 30%, but the PO knew him well and strongly believed in his work (see “get to know your PO” above).

NIA recently issued a blog stating that they will be aggressively utilizing the R56 in response to fierce competition for a limited pool of money. Robin Barr, Director of Extramural Research at NIA, states:

“Instead of setting an R56 funding line and paying applications in order of how they performed in review, we asked program staff to choose applications that we could not otherwise fund, based on the degree to which the proposal’s merit (and so the score given to a subsequent submission) might be improved by a single year of funding.”

Has anyone heard if any other ICs plan to increase use of the R56?

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