Navigating the Budget Landscape to Meet Our Mission

On March 23, Congress passed and the President signed the final set of spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2024. The total appropriation for NINDS is $2,689,925,000 (including funds from the 21st Century Cures Act), a decrease of 4.4% compared to FY 2023. We are grateful to Congress for continued support of the missions of NIH and NINDS despite the challenging budgetary landscape. Due to the rising cost of neuroscience research, NINDS faces difficult decisions as we prioritize investments to advance neuroscience discoveries and improve neurological health.

Like other federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (which includes NIH and NINDS) receives funding in a yearly appropriations package from Congress. For NIH, most of the yearly appropriation allocated for extramural research funds the continuation (or “out-years”) of multi-year grants awarded in previous years. This means that resources available for new awards depends both on the number and costs of past awards, and on the current year’s appropriation (for more on this topic, read the recent post on NIH funding dynamics from the NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Dr. Michael Lauer). Based on the final FY 2024 appropriation for NINDS, we must make difficult decisions about what to prioritize now and how that might impact what we can do in the future.

As we face these challenges, we will be clear and transparent about our rules and policies for funding considerations, which align with our values and priorities:

First, we foster and champion investigator-initiated neuroscience research. To support a robust portfolio of research driven by the ingenuity of scientists, we invest the majority of our funds in unsolicited research project grants (R01), trusting in the peer review process to identify meritorious applications and funding applications in impact/priority score order up to a funding cutoff, or payline. As such, we are taking steps to:

  • Protect the payline. As our financial constraints increase, protecting the payline for investigator-initiated research will be a priority. For FY 2024, that means working hard to preserve the 11th percentile payline we set at the beginning of the year (note important exceptions for Early Stage Investigators, applications subject to Special Council Review, and applications on Alzheimer's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease Related Dementias; see NINDS paylines webpage for further details). We recognize that the 11th percentile is exceptionally low, and we are eager to raise the payline in the future, if and when possible. We would like to note that the total dollars required to fund up to the 14th percentile payline in FY 2022 and FY 2023 can only support funding to the 11th percentile this year.
  • Fund as many investigators as possible. To support as many extramural investigators as possible with limited resources, we have established an even more stringent payline (equal to half of the current payline) for grant applications requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs per year submitted in response to Parent R01 Notices of Funding Opportunities (see NOT-NS-24-079). If you’re unsure if this policy will apply to your application, don’t hesitate to reach out to your program official. In addition, and in response to input from our Advisory Council that we should fund as many investigators as possible even if that means each investigator will get less money, we have made the difficult decision to further increase administrative cuts on certain awards (e.g., R01, non-modular awards will receive an additional 3% cut for a total administrative cut of 20.5%).

Next, we uphold our commitment to cultivate the future health of neuroscience research. We will continue to support the next generation of researchers with targeted training and workforce development programs, the updated NIH-wide stipend guidance for National Research Service Awards (see NOT-OD-24-104), an extended payline for early-stage investigators (ESIs), and the NIH-wide policy on requests for extensions of ESI status due to special circumstances. We will also work to ensure that the neuroscience research workforce reflects diversity of thought, experience, and perspectives.

Finally, we will maintain our focus on good stewardship. Congress, and by extension the taxpayers, have entrusted us with substantial resources to advance neuroscience research that will ultimately improve neurological health for all people. We will continue to advance neuroscience along the basic/fundamental, translational, and clinical research continuum, with a focus on investments where NINDS can make a unique contribution. Effective and efficient stewardship of resources is inherent in the design and execution of all NINDS programs, policies, and practices, and is a pillar of our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan. To direct resources to the most promising opportunities, we will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs and assess whether research milestones are being met.

NINDS remains a co-leader of several ground-breaking, NIH-wide neuroscience initiatives. Funding significantly decreased for the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® Initiative, or NIH BRAIN Initiative, which is a multidisciplinary collaboration across 10 NIH Institutes and Centers that is uniquely positioned for cross-cutting discoveries in neuroscience to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Due to a drop in 21st Century Cures Act funds this year, overall FY 2024 NIH allocations for the BRAIN Initiative total $402 million, representing a $278 million decrease compared to FY 2023. You can read more about the BRAIN Initiative, its extraordinary contributions to neuroscience, and its strategic priorities in a recent message from the NIH BRAIN Director, Dr. John Ngai.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (AD/ADRD) research, led by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in partnership with NINDS, received an increase of $100 million, with $10 million going directly to NINDS. NINDS and NIA work together to ensure similar paylines at the two institutes for AD/ADRD applications (see NINDS paylines webpage). NINDS also received an additional $5 million dollars for the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative, an NIH-wide effort co-managed by NINDS and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to speed scientific solutions for the opioid public health crisis and better manage chronic pain conditions. We thank Congress for the additional resources to continue these important initiatives addressing major health challenges.

NINDS will continue to evolve our policies as needed to adapt to these budget changes while maintaining our commitment to supporting a robust and innovative neuroscience research enterprise. The exemplary science we fund, and the resilience I have witnessed in the scientific community, gives me optimism for the future.