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A decision by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to limit its grant support for individual researchers has sparked concerns that the policy could discourage collaboration or divert funding from the best science. The move has alarmed some researchers who agree with the NIH’s stated aim of freeing up money for young scientists, who often struggle to obtain research grants.

“This seems like tax reform to me: everybody agrees something needs to be done, but with any given scheme there’s going to be winners and losers,” says Jonathan Karn, an HIV researcher at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. “Everyone will feel that a threshold is great — as long as it’s ‘just above where I am’.”

Under the policy, announced on 2 May, the NIH will assign a point value to each grant based on its complexity and size. Researchers will be limited to 21 points of funding at any one time — which NIH director Francis Collins says is the equivalent of three R01 grants, the type commonly given to individual projects. To win an additional grant, researchers with 21 points will need to adjust their existing load to stay under the limit.

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