Abstract for: Unintended Effects of Changes in NIH Appropriations: Challenges for Biomedical Research Workforce Development

The U.S. government doubled NIH appropriations between 1998 and 2003, aiming to foster research activities in biomedicine. However, several indicators demonstrate that the impact of the increase fell short of expectations and triggered unintended negative effects. Compared to pre-doubling conditions, researchers now spend more time writing grant proposals, leaving less time for research. Paradoxically, the probability with which a grant proposal is accepted for funding deteriorated sharply after the doubling. The average age of first-time NIH grant recipients has increased by almost a decade since the early 70ís, while the percentage of biomedical doctorates securing tenured positions drops. These trends represent a threat to the quality and stability of the U.S. biomedical research workforce. Using system dynamics, we test the hypothesis that a sudden and temporary increase in research funds can result in unintended long-term effects hampering research discoveries and workforce development. A simulation model is developed using the available literature and calibrated to replicate historical trends. The model is then used to perform experiments that test the effects of changes in certain parameters or policies. The outcomes of these experiments provide policy insights that can help improve the effectiveness of NIH funding and its impact on the workforce.