I follow the stats about getting funded. I think its useful, and instructive. But, I’ve been around long enough to have heard this over and over. The buzz word today is “translational” perferably with “transformational”. But I can remember sitting on a study section in the early 00’s hearing someone trash a training grant because it did not have any proteonomics. But it was a systems neuroscience training grant at a place that was, and still is, a leader in that area.
Yes it is tougher now, and yes, funding levels are lower than they have been historically. But something that someone once said to me is still valid – NIH is a bit like a big snake – it swallows whole pigs and then has to digest them. Aside from the delight that the snake image gives me, it works well as a metaphor. When hungry or flush with an increase in funding, NIH gives out a lot of grants, or eats a pig. Then, it has to sit back and work through all the commitments to those funded grants, and can’t give out quite as many new ones till it shits out the old ones. Part of the problem right now, as opposed to a various points in the last century, is that the pig its eaten has taken up more stomach than usual, due to the budget idiocy in Washington.