You might have about the NIH Challenge Grants funded by the stimulus package. The grants are for two years, with a total (direct and indirect costs) of $1 million (there are other grants available too, but this post isn’t about those grants). There will be roughly 200-300 funded grants. And I’ve heard that there are 27,000 applications. Yep, you read that right.
And I don’t think this number is too much of an exaggeration (maybe three-fold, maybe not)–I have good reason to think that Massachusetts General Hospital alone submitted hundreds of grants (one number I’ve heard is 800). Most major research institutions are submitting dozens, if not more.
This is insane. There’s no way with a funding rate of less than five percent (or much worse) that grants are getting chosen on merit alone. This is like applying for an elite college where those schools have to come up with reasons to not accept perfectly qualified students. Except the ‘acceptance’ rate is worse.
It will be even worse for these proposals. Of course, I’m sure the ones I helped write will be funded…