A recent blog post from Mike Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), highlights how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected extramural research applications at NIH and how application rates compare to previous years. According to data collected by NIH, the number of R01-equivalent applications received by NIH between May 1 and June 5 of 2020 was 10 percent higher than the same period in 2019. The data also reflects more than a 10 percent increase of applications across all research project grants between 2020 and 2019. In addition to the spike in applications in 2020, the data shows a slightly more gender diverse application pool, with the proportion of 2020 applications with the principal investigators (PIs) reporting more than one gender category on multiple-PI applications increasing from previous years.
The data is consistent with the findings of a May 2020 international survey of scientists, which found that researchers were reporting fewer research hours but reporting more hours performing administrative duties and other activities such as grant applications. Deputy Director Lauer noted that the October 5 application deadline would provide further insight into how research activities will be affected due to many research institutions remaining closed through the typical academic calendar. NIH is expected to report on that data when it is available.