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Original Investigation
August 2016

Trends in National Institutes of Health Funding of Principal Investigators in Dermatology Research by Academic Degree and Sex

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of California–Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento
  • 2medical student at University of California–Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento
  • 3Division of Biostatistics, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California–Davis, Davis
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(8):883-888. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0271

Importance  National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants are becoming increasingly competitive in the academic research arena. Identifying NIH funding disparities is an important step in improving academic diversity.

Objective  To examine recent NIH funding trends in dermatology.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective study with linear regression analysis and repeated-measures analysis of variance of all NIH grants awarded to departments of dermatology from fiscal year 2009 to 2014. Funding data were exported from the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools Expenditures and Results. Publication data were drawn from Scopus. All NIH-funded principal investigators in dermatology were categorized by their academic degree and sex.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The NIH funding trends were compared by investigator degree (MD, PhD, or MD/PhD) and sex.

Results  A total of 1292 NIH-funded grants were awarded to dermatology research from fiscal year 2009 through 2014. Adjusted NIH funding for dermatologic research diminished by 4.6% from $67.3 million in 2009 to $64.2 million in 2014, with a nadir of $58.6 million in 2013. Funding for the NIH’s Research Project Grant Program (R01) decreased by 21.0% from $43.9 million to $34.7 million during this period. The dollar amount of NIH funding significantly trended down for investigators with an MD degree by $1.35 million per year from $23.6 million in 2009 to $18.4 million in 2014 (P = .02) while there was no significant change in NIH funding for MD/PhD (from $17.6 million in 2009 to $19.8 million in 2014; P = .44) and PhD investigators (from $26.1 million in 2009 to $25.9 million in 2014; P = .74). Similarly, the total dollar amount of R01 grants awarded to principal investigators with only an MD degree trended down by $1.4 million per year from $13.2 million in 2009 to $6.0 million in 2014 (P < .001). The number of female investigators with NIH grants in dermatology trended down significantly compared with the trend of their male counterparts (from 49 women in 2009 to 43 women in 2014 vs from 84 men in 2009 to 97 men in 2014; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance  There is a downward trend in NIH funding for female and MD-only dermatology investigators. Departmental support and junior faculty mentorship for women and MD investigators is crucial for maintaining their presence in NIH-funded dermatology research.