Dear Colleagues,

Many in the UCSF community are aware that NIH has been seeking ways to assess the value of NIH grant support, and in particular wants to determine “whether it might be possible to fund more investigators with a fixed sum of money without hurting overall productivity.” [1, 2] On the premise that there are diminishing returns after achieving a given level of total support, NIH Director Francis Collins announced on May 2, 2017 a plan [3] to limit the number of grants held by any one investigator. In that scheme, a Grant Support Index (GSI) would assign point values to various grant mechanisms (e.g., an R01 grant is valued at 7 points), and any applicant who would exceed a GSI of 21 would be expected to adjust his/her grant portfolio if the new application were to be funded. Based on an initial analysis carried out by our Office of Sponsored Research, at least 42 UCSF investigators currently exceed 21 points, and at least an additional 18 are at 21 points precisely.

Not surprisingly, there has been much concern within the research community about the GSI policy as initially announced. I have been in active discussion with NIH leadership about these issues, as have many others across the nation. Direct communications to me, as well as a recent press article [4], suggest that substantial changes are being made. Unofficially, I have been told that GSI point assignments will be limited to R-mechanism grants, and that T, P and U mechanisms will no longer be included. I also have been assured informally that the 21-point line will not serve as a formulaic cap, but rather will flag an application and applicant for consideration of whether exceeding 21 points is merited by the applicant’s prior performance and by the quality and impact of the application.

Perhaps most importantly, I have been told that formal changes will be announced following the upcoming (June 8-9) meeting of the Advisory Committee to the (NIH) Director. I will post another communication with those changes, their projected implementation date (the original scheme was September 2017), and implications for UCSF, as soon as more is known.


Keith R. Yamamoto, PhD

Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy