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Vol. LXI, No. 6
March 20, 2009

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ARRA Results in Unprecedented Boost for NIH Budget

On the front page...

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed by President Obama on Feb. 17 gives NIH a one-time 34 percent budget increase of $10.4 billion, a sum meant to stimulate both fine science and good jobs. The allotment, part of a $787 billion stimulus bill, must be disbursed within 2 years, sending NIH’s grant-making apparatus into high gear.

NIH had been invited to testify at a hearing last fall about a potential role for NIH in an economic stimulus package. NIH acting director Dr. Raynard Kington told Congress last November that investments in NIH science also create jobs. Two studies, one by the Rand Corp. and another by Families USA, had shown that an investment of $100,000 in biomedical research typically yielded $200,000 in benefits, including jobs. This so-called “multiplier effect” armed NIH with evidence that science investments create jobs, promote economic recovery and advance public health, simultaneously.


NIH intends to spend as much of the stimulus money as possible in FY 2009. The bulk of the funds will go to the more than 3,000 grantee institutions across the country, assuring that benefits are widely, and fairly, distributed to towns, cities and states.

“NIH is extremely grateful to President Obama and the Congress for recognizing both the economic and health impacts of biomedical and behavioral research,” Kington said. “The science funded by this bill will stimulate the national economy and have a for many years to come.”

The $10.4 billion will be allocated as follows:

  • $8.2 billion to support scientific research. $7.4 billion is to be transferred to the ICs and Common Fund (CF), using a percentage-based formula, and $800 million goes to the Office of the Director (not including CF). Some of this would support Challenge Grants, a program designed to focus on health and science problems where progress can be expected within 2 years.
  • $1 billion to support extramural construction, repairs and alterations. This money is allocated to the National Center for Research Resources in support of all NIH-funded research institutions. $300 million is designated for shared instrumentation and other capital equipment.
  • $500 million for NIH buildings and facilities. This money is intended to fund high-priority repair, construction and improvement projects. NIH’s Office of Research Facilities will determine which projects are supported.
  • $400 million for comparative effectiveness research, which NIH’s request for applications defines as “a rigorous evaluation of the impact of different options that are available for treating a given medical condition for a particular set of patients. Such a study may compare similar treatments, such as competing drugs, or it may analyze very different approaches, such as surgery and drug therapy.”

Although NIH will employ different kinds of funding mechanisms, it will focus scientific activities in several areas:

  • NIH will choose among recently peerreviewed, highly meritorious R01 and similar mechanisms capable of making significant advances with a 2-year grant. NIH will also fund new R01 applications that have a reasonable chance of making progress within 2 years.
  • NIH will accelerate the pace of ongoing science through targeted supplements to current grants. For example, NIH may competitively expand the scope of current research awards or supplement an existing award with support for infrastructure (e.g., equipment) that will be used in the 2-year availability of these funds.
  • NIH anticipates supporting a number of awards to jump-start the new NIH Challenge Grant program. The number of awards and amount of funds will depend on scientific merit and quality of applications.

NIH is working with the HHS Recovery Act implementation team to ensure transparency and accountability for Recovery Act funds. As NIH “spend plans” are approved through this process, NIH will post information about projects and their impact on the economy on the web site www.HHS/

The impact is expected to extend beyond the scientists who will receive funds, to allied health workers, technicians, students, trade workers and others who will receive the leveraged benefits. NIHRecord Icon

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