of centers and other mechanisms that support collaborative research by interdisciplinary teams.

The United States currently enjoys a remarkably productive system of biomedical research. The basis of this highly successful enterprise is the partnership of academia, government, and industry in making discoveries leading to better understanding and improved ways of preventing and treating disease and promoting health. Congress has set national biomedical research priorities and provided generous research funding. A key part of the system is the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the largest single source of support for biomedical research in the nation and the world.

NIH uses a variety of ways to identify and support high-quality research. The main approach is to invite investigators from throughout the country to submit their best ideas for research projects, have the proposals rated by an appropriate peer review group, and give grants for the projects considered the most promising by the peer reviewers. The research model historically has been a single investigator, working with one or two collaborators and several postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and technicians on a specific project of three to five years duration, after which the investigator must apply for a renewal of the grant or a new award by proposing follow-up studies or a new project. These individual investigator-initiated grants are still the mainstay of NIH’s extramural research program, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the research grants awarded by NIH in fiscal year (FY) 2002 and the majority of the funding for the grants.1

Another research model is the multi-investigator research center. In academia, centers have evolved as a structure to facilitate collaborations by multiple investigators on a research problem of common interest. NIH has supported research centers for many years as a means of encouraging interdisciplinary basic, clinical, and population-based research on scientific problems not being adequately addressed by individual investigator grants alone. Center programs are also popular with the public, organizations representing patients, and Congress, because they can bring focus, visibility, and more funding (private and public) to research on a specific disease. Every year Congress, with the encouragement of patient advocacy groups, urges


In FY2002, NIH awarded 43,500 research grants, of which 63 percent were R01 (individual investigator) research project grants. R01 grants accounted for 53.4 percent of the funding ($16.8 billion). Calculated from NIH table “NIH Research Grant Awards by Fiscal Year and Activity, Fiscal Years 2000-2002” (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/award/research/rgbyact0002.htm).

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