Public Funding Notebook: Transparency from outside

Public funding roundup 1Q16

NIH's new deputy director for extramural research has set improving transparency as his banner priority, focusing in particular on the process for awarding grants and accountability over public funds. Michael Lauer, who replaced Sally Rockey in September, has followed in her footsteps by connecting to the research community via his "Open Mike" blog in an effort to explain grant policy, old and new.

Lauer told BioCentury he intends to build on Rockey's legacy of improving communications with the extramural research community. "She created a new kind of transparency," he said. In her blog "Rock Talk," the former deputy director aimed to "demystify NIH policies and processes."

Lauer said that like his predecessor, he is applying the scientific method to NIH itself, and he has already begun using his blog to scrutinize publicly available data on NIH grants. "The vast amount of data that we now have available to us means now it is much easier than ever before to track our results."

In March, Lauer published a year in review by the numbers, noting that FY15 saw the highest number of competing research project grant applications ever (52,190), and the success rate inched up from 18.1% to 18.3% over FY14 (see "FY2015 by the numbers, and a quick look at recent trends.").

Parsing the data, however, is a different challenge. Lauer posted a data dive on the publication impact of NIH-funded research in March, and attempted to account for caveats associated with comparing across fields, years and article types (see "Publication impact of NIH-funded research - A first look.").

After sorting papers by all three categories, he found that in the top tiers of percentages of citations

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