Quashing hopes raised by a recent news report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that it will not reverse a controversial policy that gives researchers only one chance to resubmit a rejected research grant proposal.
The matter concerns the agency's old "three strikes" rule, which allowed researchers two chances to resubmit a rejected grant application. (The three versions were known as the A0, A1, and A2.) A few years ago, an advisory committee told NIH that as budgets became tighter, peer reviewers were not approving many grants on the first submission and were instead putting investigators in a holding pattern. Strong proposals usually received funding after the applicant resubmitted the grant—but this often could mean a long wait. So in early 2009, the NIH began phasing out the A2 and allowing researchers to resubmit a rejected grant just once. If their second submission (A1) is rejected, they must revise their idea and submit it as new proposal.
The change sparked an uproar. More than 2300 researchers signed a petition last year arguing that with grant success rates at record lows, the limit on resubmissions was unfair to scientists who had just missed the funding cutoff. It was especially unreasonable to expect young scientists who struck out twice to come up with an entirely new idea, the petitioners argued. NIH extramural research chief Sally Rockey soon responded by saying the agency was holding firm.