Now that we are approaching the end of the year, NSF has doled out the money it is going to for 2011. It was a rough year in the Bio Directorate, with funding rates down pretty much across the board. The good news? This is the last year we will be seeing such low rates. The bad news? That is not because of increased funding from congress, but rather the new application structure. DEB and IOS have moved to a preproposal that will triage >2/3 of the proposals before the "full" proposal stage, and MCB has gone to an extended cycle. All three now place limits on the number of propsals a PI can be associated with in a given cycle. Whereas these changes are directed at reducing reviewer burden, the new numbers will be hard to compare to the ones over the last few years.
But where do things stand in 2011? Well, it depends on where you look. On NSF's funding rate page the numbers are higher than this graph found on the Bio Directorate home page, but they are in the same ball park.
The overall is reported around 15%, but if you look at just core programs the situation is a little more bleak. And in fact my own experience with a couple of panels in 2011 indicates that many were funding well below even these reported rates - closer to 7% in a DEB panel and 10% in an IOS one.
So how is the process going to change this? Well, the numbers will go up, but it's not clear hoow it will affect the types of proposals getting funded. Certainly there is going to be a large emphasis on The Sell for the preproposals. Whereas this is always an important aspect, PIs won't need to back it up with as much data in January as they would have previously. You'll need to put your money where your mouth is in August if you get the full proposal call, but by that time 2/3 of the competition will be gone. Additionally, the preproposal panel will be different than the those judging the full proposals.
Interesting times ahead.