CSR Launches Competition for Ideas to Detect Bias and Maximize Fairness in Peer Review

As part of NIH’s efforts to address racial disparities Exit icon in grant funding, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has just launched two America COMPETES Act Challenges. We hope that the ideas we receive will help us maximize the fairness and vitality of the peer review process, and we encourage you to enter.

One challenge, New Methods to Detect Bias in Peer Review, solicits ideas for strategies to detect possible bias in the NIH peer review process. Submissions can include approaches, strategies, methodologies and/or measures that would be sensitive to detecting bias among reviewers due to gender, race/ethnicity, institutional affiliation, area of science and amount of research experience. We’ll award first place ($10,000) and second place ($5,000) prizes in two categories: best empirically based idea and most creative idea.

The other challenge, Strategies to Strengthen Fairness and Impartiality in Peer Review, seeks ideas for reviewer training methods aimed at enhancing fairness and impartiality in NIH peer review. The submission does not require the full development of training materials. However, ideas should be presented with enough detail to allow assessment of their ability to address fairness and impartiality in review with regard to gender, race/ethnicity, institutional affiliation, area of science and amount of research experience. We’ll give first place ($10,000) and second place ($5,000) prizes for the best overall idea.

The challenges close on June 30, and winners will be announced on September 2. Details on the rules and submission procedures are on the CSR Challenge Web site and at http://www.challenge.gov Exit icon.

This contest is just one of many initiatives CSR is working on to evaluate the sources of racial disparities in grant funding in collaboration with the ACD Diversity Working Group Subcommittee on Peer Review.

Wanted: Program Directors to Manage Grants in Developmental and Cellular Processes, Research/Student Research Development Programs

NIGMS is still looking for two program directors (also known as “health scientist administrators (HSA)/program officers”) to manage research grants and/or student research development program(s).

One position is in our Developmental and Cellular Processes Branch of the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology. This branch supports research on the genetic and biochemical pathways that cells utilize in development and in normal physiological processes. Candidates should have expertise in the use of state-of-the-art molecular genetics and/or genomics-based approaches to address questions in these scientific areas.

The other position is in the Postdoctoral Training Branch of the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity. This branch supports research training, fellowship and career development programs for postdoctoral scientists. Candidates should have knowledge of and/or experience in understanding, planning and managing research/student research development program(s) at the postdoctoral or early stage investigator career level, including those targeted to groups that are underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral sciences. Candidates with expertise in innovations for teaching in STEM fields as well as research experience in other scientific areas within the NIGMS mission are also encouraged to apply.

For both positions, candidates should have leadership and strong oral and written communication skills. Familiarity with NIH extramural funding as a grant applicant, reviewer or NIH scientific administrator is preferred.

Vacancy announcements typically are open for 5 calendar days. We expect this one to open tomorrow and close at midnight on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Please see the NIH HSA Web site for position requirements and application procedures. The Applying for Scientific Administration Jobs at NIGMS blog post offers additional background and tips.

Editor’s note: The announcement for candidates with current or former federal employment status Exit icon is posted at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/369761700 Exit icon and closes on May 22. The one for candidates without such status is posted at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/370019300 Exit icon and closes on May 24.

Funding Opportunities: NIH Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub; Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Phase III; Enabling Resources for Pharmacogenomics; Administrative Supplements for Research on Dietary Supplements

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements (FOAs):

NIH Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) Awards (U01)
(RFA-OD-14-005)

Purpose: Facilitate and accelerate the translation of biomedical innovations into commercial products that improve patient care and enhance health
Letter of intent due date: May 26, 2014
Application due date: June 26, 2014
NIH contact: Kurt W. Marek, 301-443-8778

Limited Competition: Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Phase III – Transitional Centers (P30)
(PAR-14-178)

Purpose: Transition the core resources and biomedical research activities of Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) into independence and sustainability
Application due dates: June 30, 2014; May 26, 2015; May 26, 2016
NIGMS contact: Rafael Gorospe, 301-435-0832

Enabling Resources for Pharmacogenomics (R24)
(PAR-14-185)

Purpose: Support critical enabling resources that will accelerate new research discoveries and/or the implementation of research discoveries in pharmacogenomics
Letter of intent due date: 30 days prior to the application due date
Application due dates: September 25, 2014; September 25, 2015; September 25, 2016
NIGMS contact: Rochelle Long, 301-594-3827

Administrative Supplements for Research on Dietary Supplements (Admin Supp)
(PAR-14-201)

Purpose: Provide supplemental funding to investigate the role of dietary supplements and/or their ingredients in health maintenance and disease prevention
Application due dates: October 15, 2014; January 15, 2015; April 15, 2015
NIGMS contact: Scott Somers, 301-594-3827

Funding Opportunities: Undiagnosed Diseases Network Gene Function Research, NIH Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity; Request for Information: Clinical Questions in Post-Resuscitation Hypothermia

You may be interested in the following announcements:

Undiagnosed Diseases Gene Function Research (R21)
(RFA-RM-14-005)

Purpose: Investigate the underlying genetics, biochemistry and/or pathophysiology of newly diagnosed diseases in association with the respective gene variant(s) identified through the Undiagnosed Diseases Network
Letter of intent due date: May 23, 2014
Application due date: June 23, 2014
NIGMS contact: Donna Krasnewich, 301-594-0943

NIH Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (R25)
(RFA-NS-14-010)

Purpose: Enhance biomedical research workforce diversity through the development of creative educational activities primarily focused on research experiences, skills development courses and mentoring activities
Letter of intent due date: April 28, 2014
Application due date: May 28, 2014
NIH contact: Michelle D. Jones-London, 301-451-7966

Request for Information: Current Clinical Questions in Post-Resuscitation Hypothermia
(NOT-GM-14-112)

Purpose: Provide feedback on the clinical research questions that need to be answered surrounding post-resuscitation therapeutic hypothermia
Response due date: May 30, 2014
Send responses to: Jeremy Brown, 301-594-2755

Change in NIH Application Resubmission Policy

NIH has just announced a significant change in its policy for resubmission applications.

Effective immediately, for application due dates after April 16, 2014, following an unsuccessful resubmission (A1) application, applicants may submit the same idea as a new (A0) application for the next appropriate due date. NIH will not assess the similarity of the science in the new (A0) application to any previously reviewed submission when accepting an application for review.

NIH’s policy for accepting overlapping applications remains in effect (see NOT-OD-09-100), so it will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time. This means that NIH will not review:

  • A new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping resubmission (A1) application.
  • A resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.
  • An application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101).

The NIH time limit for accepting resubmission (A1) applications remains in effect, as well (see NOT-OD-12-128 and NOT-OD-10-140). NIH will not accept a resubmission (A1) application that is submitted later than 37 months after submission of the new (A0) application that it follows.

Also remaining in effect is the NIH policy for new investigator R01 resubmission deadlines, described in NOT-OD-11-057.

Background and details on the new resubmission policy are in NIH Guide NOT-OD-14-074 and a blog post by NIH’s Sally Rockey.

Feedback at 400

Feedback Loop LogoThis is our 400th Feedback Loop post!

A review of the past 100 posts shows that the top five most-read were:

  1. Hypothesis Overdrive?
  2. Budget Outlook for Fiscal Year 2013 and Beyond
  3. Examining Our Large-Scale Research Initiatives and Centers, Including the PSI
  4. CSR’s Percentiling Recalibration
  5. Principles for Initial Funding Decisions in Fiscal Year 2014

It’s not surprising that many of the most popular posts were about budget trends and factors affecting peer review and funding decisions. We’ll certainly keep providing you with this kind of information, but we’re wondering if you have suggestions for other topics you’d be interested in reading about—and commenting on—as well. These could include occasional pieces like the one I posted late last month, which generated a lot of good discussion.

Please let me know your thoughts, either by posting a comment or by e-mail. We want to keep the feedback moving in both directions.

Give Input on Structural Biology Resource and Infrastructure Needs

Earlier this year, I told you about the formation of two committees focused on Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) transition planning. These committees are charged with determining what unique resources and capabilities developed during the PSI should be preserved after the initiative ends and how this preservation should be done.

An important part of this process is getting input from the community, so we have just issued a request for information (RFI), NOT-GM-14-115, seeking comments about structural biology resources that have a high impact on the community, whether those resources have been supported through the PSI or by other means. We also want to hear what you think about the future of structural biology-related technology development, which has been an important feature of the PSI.

While the RFI invites comments on these specific topics, you should not feel limited to them—we welcome any comments that you feel are relevant.

To respond to the RFI, send an e-mail to nigmspsirfi@mail.nih.gov by May 23, 2014. When we compile the responses, we’ll remove any personal identifiers like names and e-mail addresses and only use de-identified comments.

If you have any questions about the RFI or the transition committees, please let me know.

Wanted: NIGMS Deputy Director

We have just launched the search for a critically important position on our leadership team: the NIGMS deputy director.

This person will assist me in managing the Institute, advise on a range of topics and handle special projects. He or she will also work closely with groups within and outside NIH and will represent us on various Federal and non-Federal scientific and professional committees.

We’re looking for someone with a distinguished record of leadership and scientific administration who has expertise in our mission areas, a deep understanding of biomedical research and knowledge of the grant process. The job also calls for strategic vision, innovative thinking, energy and enthusiasm!

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the NIGMS team and play a key role in our efforts to bolster the biomedical research enterprise. For more about the qualification requirements and application steps, see the vacancy announcement. The deadline for applying is May 27. Questions about the position should be directed to Mariela Light at 301-496-9788.

I encourage you to share this information with others who might be interested.

UPDATE: This vacancy listing has been extended to June 30, 2014.

New Mechanism to Support Research Educational Activities

As part of our efforts to develop and sustain a highly skilled and diverse biomedical research workforce, we have introduced a new mechanism to complement or enhance research training activities. The Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) will support creative and innovative research educational activities through courses for skills development, structured mentoring activities and outreach programs.

We expect the scope, purpose and objectives of IPERT applications to be as varied as the potential applicants. Both institutions and organizations are eligible to apply.

An IPERT program should address a documented need, problem or challenge in research training and include measurable goals and objectives. Applications should explain the balance of effort and resources dedicated to each activity and how the activities will integrate. Proposals should also align with the NIGMS Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training, which recognizes that:

  • Research training is a responsibility shared by NIH, academic institutions, faculty and trainees.
  • Research training must focus on student development, not simply the selection of talent.
  • Breadth and flexibility enable research training to keep pace with the opportunities and demands of contemporary science and provide the foundation for a variety of scientific career paths.
  • Diversity is an indispensable component of research training excellence and must be advanced across the entire research enterprise.

The IPERT program may be of particular interest to institutions and organizations with current or past support from the MARC Ancillary Training Activities program (T36), which has lapsed and will not be reissued. Conference and meeting programs previously supported by the T36 mechanism may be more appropriately supported through the NIH conference grant mechanism (R13/U13).

While a letter of intent is not required, we strongly encourage anyone who is interested in submitting an IPERT application to consult with me or other staff of the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to determine if this is the best mechanism to support their ideas and plans.

Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 and Beyond

We recently posted our financial management plan for Fiscal Year 2014 and a budget table showing our Fiscal Year 2014 operating plan by mechanism. Consistent with our emphasis on bolstering our commitment to investigator-initiated research, we’re making every effort to move financial resources into research project grants (RPGs), which include R00s, R01s, R15s, R21s, R37s, P01s, DP1s, DP2s and U01s.

We estimate that these efforts will increase our RPG success rate from 19.9% in Fiscal Year 2013 to more than 22% in Fiscal Year 2014. This translates into funding about 100 more competing RPGs than we did in Fiscal Year 2013.

NIGMS’ plan aligns with NIH’s policies and includes these key elements:

  • We will fund noncompeting RPGs at the committed levels. We will restore those already funded at 90% to the committed levels.
  • The overall average cost of competing RPGs will be at approximately 2% above the Fiscal Year 2013 level.
  • We will fund noncompeting IDeA and AIDS research centers, which have required budget levels or a specific mandated policy, at the committed levels.
  • We will reduce other P41, P50 and U54 noncompeting awards by 10% from the committed levels. We will revise those already funded at levels below 90% accordingly. Future funding levels for these center mechanisms will depend on the Institute’s budget and efforts to increase support for our investigator-initiated RPG pool.
  • We will reduce by approximately 50% the funds set aside for new and competing research center awards in response to the targeted funding opportunity announcements we issued recently:
  • We will increase Ruth L. Kirschstein undergraduate and graduate student stipends by 2%. Entry-level postdoctoral stipends will increase to $42,000, with 4% increases between the years of experience levels. See NOT-OD-14-046 for the full range of Fiscal Year 2014 stipends.
  • We will continue to support new investigators on R01-equivalent awards at success rates comparable to or better than those of established investigators submitting new (Type 1) R01-equivalent applications.

Looking ahead to Fiscal Year 2015, you can find information about the President’s budget request for NIH and read the NIGMS Fiscal Year 2015 budget justification to learn more about the specifics of the proposed budget for our Institute.