Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), addressed a packed room about funding opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). ARRA was passed to help stimulate the economy, preserve and create jobs, advance biomedical research, and expand science with new programs and initiatives. ARRA added $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget for fiscal year 2010, of which $102 million went to the NIDCR.
The ARRA supplement to the NIDCR has gone into payline extensions, challenge grants programs, Grand Opportunities (GO) grants, faculty recruitment initiatives, and competitive supplements. Of these, the challenge grants program has seen a robust response from the community, with 453 applications presented and 41 of these scored.
Of particular interest is the creation of a special K99/R00 (also called a "kangaroo") grant to help postdoctoral students achieve specialty education and move forward in a research grant. The program is limited to recent dual-degree D.D.S./Ph.D. scientists. The R00 phase, normally limited to a three-year track, can be extended to five years to allow grantees part-time clinical specialty education.
Dr. Tabak also covered recent changes in the NIH peer review process. The entire process has been shortened, with a restructured application process to provide better transparency and succinctness. A new scoring system is being applied to all applications, with a score applied for individual core criteria and overall impact, to help applicants in the refining process. With new page limits in place, the entire process has been streamlined, and extensive training material is now available for reviewers and NIH staff.
ARRA has provided the NIDCR with additional funds and opportunities for grant applications. The NIDCR and NIH have seen an increase in the diversity of grants being awarded, creating new opportunities for scientific research, study, and breakthroughs.