Friday, May 07, 2010

The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign

Buckle up folks, we're in for a rough ride...

Apparently the NIH is concerned funding rates are going to fall off a cliff in 2011. Jocelyn Kaiser has a news piece this week in Science.

Some "lowlights":

The 2-year grants will run out in 2011, and when that happens it could cause a nasty shock. Barring a new windfall—and none is in sight—NIH's budget will drop sharply next year. Much of the work recently begun will be left short of cash. The result could be the lowest grant funding rates in NIH history, and the academic job market will suddenly dry up—especially for young researchers.

Ummm, duh.

"This is the cliff that people are talking about, " Collins said. "We are going to face a crunch" in 2011, he said. The success rate, or portion of reviewed applications that receive funding, which hovered around 30% a few years ago and 20% this year, "will be more like 15%."

20% this year? Really?

The cliff problem was the focus of a meeting of economists, academic leaders, and NIH officials last week at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island in New York. Economist Paula Stephan of Georgia State University in Atlanta expects trouble as a glut of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who were hired or kept on with ARRA money will hit the job market. "There is going to be a huge backlog of individuals looking for jobs and fellowships in 2011 and 2012, " predicts Stephan.
One suggestion: persuade Congress to fund one-time "bridge" fellowships to give ARRA-funded postdocs more time to find academic jobs or switch careers. "It wouldn't take a whole lot of money, " says meeting organizer Richard Freeman, a labor economist at Harvard University.

What academic jobs is he talking about? Basically Freeman's suggestion boils down to giving "bridge" funding to ARRA-funded postdocs so they have time to bail out...
Harvard microbiologist and American Society for Microbiology President Roberto Kolter, who spoke at Cold Spring Harbor, says "there's a wait-and-see attitude right now" in his department, which didn't apply for much ARRA money. He and many of his colleagues won't need to renew their grants for 2 or 3 years. But then, he expects, "there will be some casualties."

Ain't that the truth...


biochem belle said...

"...and the academic job market will suddenly dry up—especially for young researchers."

Hmm. I'm intrigued by this "suddenly" dry up part... because it seems from a lowly postdoc's point of view that it's already been drying up. Does this just mean we're approaching Sahara standards now?

Odyssey said...

I'm curious as to what world some of the people quoted in the piece live on. My impression was the academic job market on my planet barely exists at this point. So you're right, there's not much more "drying up" possible.

Drugmonkey said...

I'm a little suspicious of the 'cliff' metaphor. We've had dire situations before and the trendlines are usually pretty gradual. And, keep in mind, that in a population sense, the majority of NIH grants are not ARRA right now. Still plenty of long-term awards being made, many previously awarded ones that will be in non-competing years through 2011.

many investigators who *did* land ARRA funds are the already-rich, going by the stats on types of awards, locations and all. if smart, they just turned around and started stockpiling on the other awards, carrying forward budgets where they otherwise would not have.

I believe NIH success rates are going to suck a bit more but I don't see this as any worse than other times in the past.

Odyssey said...

Hyperbole in an attempt to get Congress to do something?You're right of course, if it' s cliff it a pretty low one. There isn't all that far left to fall.