The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) received $445 million in funding from the Recovery Act: $434 million (97.5%) was allocated to extramural research initiatives and $11 million was reserved for NIDDK’s Intramural Research Program and for the management and administration of extramural funds.
To capitalize on this opportunity, NIDDK created a funding plan to meet the stimulus goals of the Recovery Act. At the center of this plan, scientific merit, transparency, and accountability guided the Institute’s implementation of the ARRA.
Priority Funding Areas
NIDDK Extramural Programmatic Divisions utilized the Recovery Act funds in five priority areas:
- Competing applications beyond the payline from FY 2008 and FY 2009 With nominal budget growth that constrained paylines over the past several years, NIDDK has been unable to fund many meritorious applications. NIDDK used ARRA funds to partially or fully support some peer-reviewed applications beyond the payline that met programmatic priorities and had aims that could realistically be accomplished within a two-year funding period. Awards made above the payline were through various mechanisms, including R01, R21, R24, R34, and R56.
- Challenge Grants and “Grand Opportunities” NIDDK participated in the Recovery Act-funded NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research initiative. NIDDK used ARRA funds to support high-impact Challenge Grants in 11 broadly-defined Challenge Areas, including priority topics in Enabling Technologies, Stem Cells, Clinical Research, Translational Research, and Comparative Effectiveness Research. NIDDK also used ARRA funds to support two Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” (“GO” grants). This program supports projects that address large, specific biomedical and biobehavioral research that will have high short-term impact and a high likelihood of enabling growth in biomedical research, public health, and health care delivery.
- Competitive Revisions Recovery Act funds were available for researchers to submit revised applications that significantly expanded the scope of the currently approved and funded project. Applications for these supplements were evaluated for scientific merit and awarded based on the traditional NIH peer review process.
- Administrative Supplements to existing grant awards NIDDK used ARRA to provide current grantees with supplemental funding to promote job creation, economic development, and accelerate the pace and achievement of scientific research. This funding was provided to support additional personnel, replace aging equipment, and purchase new equipment, among other expenses, all of which were aimed at increasing the tempo and improve the quality of ongoing research.
- Administrative Supplements to Foster Summer Research Experiences ARRA provided additional funding for current NIDDK grantees to employ students and science educators over the summer months. In addition to creating jobs and accelerating grantee’s research, this program encourages students to pursue health sciences-related research careers and allows science educators to carry out cutting-edge research in NIH-funded laboratories.
Factors Impacting Funding Decisions
NIDDK considered several factors in establishing its funding priorities and guiding its funding decisions. These decisions were made in the context of competing demands, including the overwhelming demand for ARRA funding that far outpaced the Institute’s allocated resources. NIDDK’s selection of awards was made in a rigorous manner with oversight and guidance from the NIDDK Adviosry Council and senior institute staff.
NIDDK is committed to funding peer-reviewed, outstanding science as its top priority. With the exception of Administrative Supplements, all applications considered for ARRA funding were evaluated for scientific merit by the NIH peer review process. According to ARRA guidelines, research projects also had to have goals that could be realistically accomplished within a two year funding period. In addition to scientific merit and feasibility, NIDDK made ARRA funding decisions to:
- Promote a broad range of innovative studies representing diverse research interests relevant to the NIDDK mission
- Bolster research in under-funded areas
- Cultivate new approaches and fresh ideas from related disciplines
- Accelerate the pace of research with improvements in equipment and infrastructure
- Support productive ongoing high impact projects
- Meet the economic goals of the stimulus program
Funding Decisions for Administrative Supplements
NIDDK received more than 2,400 applications for Administrative Supplements, including more than 200 applications for Administrative Supplements to Foster Summer Research Experiences. Although the funded grants requesting the supplements have previously undergone vigorous peer review, the Administrative Supplement requests themselves do not receive peer review. Therefore, NIDDK developed a review procedure to ensure that Administrative Supplements were awarded in a consistent fashion in line with the aims of the ARRA program and the scientific mission of NIDDK. Supplement applications were considered by teams of NIDDK Program Staff members. To establish funding priorities, the review team considered scientific merit (including original peer review summary statement of parent grant), productivity of the Investigator, justification and need, and fulfillment of ARRA goals. Funding recommendations and priorities of the review teams were then reviewed by NIDDK senior management for final funding decisions with oversight by the NIDDK Advisory Council.
ARRA Funds Available for FY 2010
In FY 2009, NIDDK awarded or committed for use more than half of its ARRA funds available for extramural research. The focus of the FY 2009 awards was on applications requiring two years of funding, including 2-year R01s, R21s, Challenge Grants, and Competitive Revisions. In addition to funding research projects, NIDDK awarded many Administrative Supplements for upgrading and purchasing equipment. With less than half of the ARRA funds remaining for FY 2010, NIDDK will focus on research priorities that can be accomplished with a single FY2010 award.
Impact of ARRA on Future NIDDK Research
In addition to stimulating the U.S. economy, the NIDDK expects that ARRA funding will stimulate a number of scientific areas that advance its public health mission. It is likely that exciting new findings that result from this investment will open entirely new areas of biomedical research. With the potential for new research opportunities created by this one-time capital infusion, the research community’s demand for ARRA funding far outpaced the amount of funding available. This was especially true for the Challenge Grants, where NIH as a whole received more than 20,000 Challenge Grant applications requesting more than $20 billion. As this amount exceeded the total amount of ARRA funds, many highly meritorious applications could not be funded. NIDDK expects that many of the Challenge Grant applications that it received will be revised and submitted as research project applications for support under NIDDK’s regular appropriation. The new scientific opportunities created by ARRA and the carry-over demand for research funding are likely to dramatically increase the number of applications that NIDDK receives for the next several years. NIDDK is evaluating the steps needed to meet this challenge and ensure continued progress in accomplishing its mission.