Opinions on the GSI

ASCB members may have heard about proposed changes at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to reduce the current hypercompetitive funding atmosphere that currently exists among NIH-funded investigators.

Since the Grant Support Index (GSI) program was first announced by the NIH in May, it has attracted a wide range of opinions from the NIH community, some very passionate. The discussion has continued beyond the NIH decision to replace the GSI program with the Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI). ASCB’s Executive Committee would like to know what ASCB members think about this issue.

As a way to begin an ASCB-wide discussion, four ASCB members have provided their thoughts on GSI, NGRI, and what Francis Collins called “a biomedical research workforce dangerously out of balance.” We want to know what you think. You can share your thoughts with us by sending us an email at ascbinfo@ascb.org. Please indicate if you would like to have your views posted to this discussion.


On May 2, 2017, NIH Director Francis Collins announced on his blog that the NIH would, in the coming weeks, be instituting a new NIH-wide program “to limit the total NIH grant support provided to an individual principal investigator through NIH-supported research.” The GSI would address what Collins called “a biomedical research workforce dangerously out of balance.”

This imbalance is most notable in a chart by the NIH that shows the increasing percentage of NIH investigators over the age of 60 while the percentage of mid and early stage NIH investigators is decreasing. The general question facing the NIH and our community is how this imbalance will be addressed.

Age of Investigators Funded by NIH


On the same day, Mike Lauer, the Deputy NIH Director for Extramural Research, used his blog, Open Mike, to explain the details of the new proposal and solicit comments from the NIH community. The GSI would limit NIH researchers to 21 points worth of NIH grants, with R01 grants each equaling 7 points.

Over the next four weeks, the NIH community participated in a debate about the merits of the GSI proposal, discussed which grants should be scored under the system, and debated how many “points” each type of grant would be worth.

As time went on, dissention within some parts of the community began to develop. By the time of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director meeting in early June, the NIH had decided to scrap GSI and replace it with the new NGRI program. Instead of a program that limited the number of NIH grants individual investigators could receive, the new program that was announced would dedicate funds, beginning at $210 million and increasing to $1.1 billion over a five-year period to “support additional meritorious early stage investigators and mid-career investigators.”

This change was announced by both Collins and in the Open Mike blog. The NIH has also created a website that will serve as the central source of information for the NGRI initiative.

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