The Canadian Institutes of Health Research says its September 2004 operating grants competitions received an unprecedented level of applications – 1,687 applications versus 1,493 applications for September 2003, an increase of 13%. This compares to 1,176 for September 1999, the last competition that was held under the auspices of the Medical Research Council. While this is a promising sign of the increasing capacity and vigour of Canadian health research, the CIHE also says it is impossible to maintain its recent success rates in the face of such increases in application pressure.
The success rate for the September 2004 operating grants competition was 24%, compared to 29% for September 2003. Also, there were 406 grants awarded for the September 2004 competition, compared to 437 for September 2003.
The institution says the major reason for the reduction in the success rate is the increase in the number of outstanding applications that it received for this competition.
In addition, because CIHR is not increasing its budget for fiscal 2005-2006, there is a smaller amount available to fund new grants and awards compared to 2004-2005 when CIHR received a budget increase. CIHR says it has already committed significant funds to supporting ongoing research over the past four years, and must fulfill its commitments to current research before it is are able to fund new projects. In fact, the number of grants funded by CIHR through all its competitions has increased by 48% over the past four years, from around 3,200 in 2000-2001 to over 4,600 by the end of fiscal year 2003-2004 (figure 1).
Furthermore, the peer review committees have recommended larger budgets per grant. The average value per awarded grants ($110,261) will be greater than for the September 2003 competition ($106,279) even after across-the-board cuts to successful applications of 18% were imposed by CIHR’s Governing Council to allow CIHR to fund additional highly ranked applications.
Given the reduced funds and the large number of high-quality applications, the rating required to qualify for funding rose to a higher level than in previous years. CIHR says it regrets that a number of truly excellent proposals by accomplished investigators will not be funded in this competition.
CIHR acknowledges the important contributions that these investigators make to health research, and encourages them to reapply. It is thus extending the registration deadline for the March 2005 operating grants competition from February 1 to February 8, 2005.