NIGMS Transitions AREA Support to Undergraduate-Focused Institutions

NIGMS is realigning its support of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program to focus on providing research experiences to undergraduate students in scientific areas within its mission. Accordingly, we’ve published a new undergraduate research-focused AREA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and are discontinuing our participation in the NIH Parent AREA FOA. The undergraduate research-focused AREA FOA will allow us to continue to: 1) support small-scale meritorious research projects at institutions that do not receive substantial NIH funding (less than $6 million in total costs in 4 of the last 7 years), 2) enhance the research environment at eligible institutions, and 3) expose students to scientific research so that they consider careers in biomedical sciences. Unlike the Parent FOA, the new announcement allows NIGMS to place its emphasis specifically on undergraduate research.

This new AREA FOA limits eligibility to undergraduate student-focused institutions or academic components within an institution (e.g., School of Arts and Sciences) in which the undergraduate student enrollment is greater than the graduate student enrollment, and it excludes all types of health professional schools. Additionally, the research team must be composed primarily of undergraduate students. This FOA aligns the application instructions and review criteria with the goals of the AREA program. We expect that these clarifications will lead to applications that better fit the goals of the program and provide reviewers the tools they need to evaluate the program as designed.

NIGMS is withdrawing from the Parent AREA FOA after the May 7, 2018, AIDS application due date. Beginning with the June 25 application due date, all AREA applications for NIGMS support, including renewals originally submitted to the Parent FOA, must be submitted to the undergraduate research-focused FOA (see NOT-GM-18-021). Note that this change does not affect existing NIGMS awards or applications that are pending review or funding decision. We will also continue to provide co-funding for meritorious AREA grant applications from institutions in IDeA states to other NIH institutes and centers that fall just outside of their normal funding range, regardless of which AREA FOA they come in under.

NIGMS has been a strong supporter of the AREA Program since its inception and will continue this commitment. We expect that the new FOA will better serve the community and fulfill our mission.

If you have any questions about the new AREA award, please email me or call 301-594-0943.

Planning to Apply for an NIGMS Established Investigator MIRA? Points to Consider

When NIGMS issued PAR-17-094, Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35), in December 2016, we opened the established investigator MIRA mechanism to all NIGMS grantees whose single-PI R01-equivalent grants were set to terminate in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the MIRA application. The purpose of this post is to remind you of important points to keep in mind if you are eligible to apply for a MIRA. Before applying, we strongly encourage you to contact your program director, who can advise you on whether MIRA is the best funding program for you and can help estimate a project budget if your application does well in peer review.

Some key points to know if you are considering applying for a MIRA grant:

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Webinar for MARC U-STAR Program Applicants

If you’re preparing an institutional MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) grant application for the May 24 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Tuesday, March 27, 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET

During the webinar, we’ll answer your questions about the MARC U-STAR funding opportunity announcement and data tables. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter the meeting number 621 811 686 and the password “MARC2018.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.

Requesting Your Input on the Draft NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science

To capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing a Strategic Plan for Data Science. This plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. As part of the planning process, NIH has published a draft of the strategic plan [PDF 490KB], along with a Request for Information to seek input from stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public.

As co-chair of the NIH Scientific Data Council, which is overseeing development of the Strategic Plan for Data Science, I encourage your comments and suggestions. Responses should be submitted via an online form by April 2, 2018.

Funding Opportunity for Development of Training Modules to Enhance the Rigor and Reproducibility of Biomedical Research

It’s crucial that the results of NIH-supported biomedical research are reproducible, unbiased, and properly validated. Establishment and use of rigorous and reproducible approaches require appropriate and sustained training of researchers and students. In 2014, we announced a funding opportunity to develop, pilot, and disseminate training modules to enhance data reproducibility. The products of these grants are posted on the NIGMS website as they become available, together with other relevant training modules about conducting rigorous and reproducible research.

We’ve just reissued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support the development of additional training modules in three areas that build upon and extend those targeted through the previous FOA. The three new areas of emphasis are: 1) How scientific culture, organization, and incentives influence the rigor and reproducibility of biomedical research; 2) Good laboratory practices and record keeping; 3) Advanced experimental design and analysis.

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Application and Funding Trends in Fiscal Year 2017

NIGMS is committed to ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible returns on their investments in fundamental biomedical research [PDF 702KB]. As part of this commitment to stewardship [PDF 7.89MB], we regularly monitor trends in our funding portfolio.

We recognize the value of a diversified investment portfolio and approach our research investments in a similar fashion. Sustaining a broad and diverse portfolio of talented investigators is a central goal of the Institute, as a wide variety of research questions can be studied by an investigator pool that comprises many different backgrounds, fields, and skills. To monitor this, we track the “cumulative investigator rate,” which indicates the proportion of unique investigators actively seeking funding who had an NIGMS grant in a given Fiscal Year (FY). As shown in Figure 1, the number of investigators seeking support consistently increased between FY 2006 and 2014, but the number of NIGMS-funded investigators remained relatively unchanged over that same period. As a result, the cumulative investigator rate steadily decreased. Since FY 2014, the cumulative investigator rate has steadily increased, as the number of applicants seeking support has stabilized and the number of investigators receiving support has grown by 14%. Currently, 37.4% of investigators seeking R01/R35 funding from NIGMS received support in FY 2017.

Figure 1. Number of NIGMS R01/R35 Applicants, Awardees, and Cumulative Investigator Rates, FY 2006-2017. The number of investigators actively seeking NIGMS R01 and R35 support (blue circles, dashed line; left axis) increased steadily from FY 2006 to 2014 but has stabilized more recently. These applicants were defined as anyone who submitted a competing NIGMS R01 or R35 application in the fiscal year shown or any of the previous four fiscal years. The NIGMS R01 and R35 awardee counts (green squares, solid line; left axis) remained relatively stable from FY 2006 to 2014 and have increased somewhat over the past three years. As a result, the NIGMS cumulative investigator rate (gray triangles, dotted line; right axis) declined from FY 2006 to 2014 but has begun to recover since then.

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Webinar on NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant Program in Basic Biomedical Sciences

UPDATE: The slides [PDF 1.38MB] from the Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an application for the NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) program for the May 25 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Monday, March 5, from 3:00-4:30 p.m. ET.

During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the new funding opportunity announcement and answer any questions you may have. You can send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To join the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page (link no longer available) and enter the meeting number 627 943 381 and the password W7pyYXW4. If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

NIGMS Staff Participating in the March 5 Webinar:

Jon Lorsch, Director
Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch
John Laffan and Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officers
Lisa Moeller, Grants Management Officer

We look forward to talking to you about the NIGMS-sponsored T32 program.

The Diversity Program Consortium – Open Competitions for Phase II

We are pleased to announce that NIH Leadership has granted clearance for the second, final phase of the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), a national program that is part of a larger, trans-NIH effort to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce. To accomplish this goal, the DPC takes a scientific approach to evaluating training and mentoring interventions. Two components of the second phase will be open competitions: the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the DPC Dissemination and Translation Awards (DPC-DaTA). The DPC-DaTA grants will allow sites that are not currently part of the DPC to implement sustainable training, mentoring, or research-capacity building interventions using DPC evaluation methods. NIH intends to release the DPC-DaTA FOAs in 2019.

The NRMN funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) were released on February 16, 2018. They include:

  • The Science of Mentoring and Networking (U01) (RFA-RM-18-004). Applicants may submit proposals for research projects in the following areas: 1) The Science of Mentorship, 2) Professional Networking, or 3) Navigating Critical Career Transition Points. Using randomized control trial approaches, case controls, matched pair designs, or other rigorous designs, applicants will explore their research questions and contribute to building the knowledge base to inform the scientific community about their thematic area.
  • NRMN Coordination Center (U24) (RFA-RM-18-003). One service award will be granted to develop an NRMN Coordinating Center. This Center will build upon and improve the current NRMN Administrative Core and work in conjunction with the Center for Evaluation and Coordination (CEC). It will coordinate trans-NRMN activities, and provide infrastructure and expertise surrounding data collection, storage, de-identification, and reporting.
  • NRMN Resource Center (U24) (RFA-RM-18-002). One service award will be granted for an NRMN Resource Center. This center will be analogous to the current U54 Mentorship and Networking Core and will provide a web-based mentoring tool to facilitate real-time mentor/mentee engagement. It will also oversee management of the NRMN website and serve as a platform for publicly available mentoring resources and tools.

Two components of the DPC for the second phase will be limited competitions. The Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) (U54) (NOT-RM-18-005) will allow meritorious sites to complete their BUILD experiments. Review will include a focus on site-specific and consortium-wide experiments, and emphasize sustainability and dissemination. The Center for Evaluation and Coordination (CEC) (U54) (NOT-RM-18-006) will allow for uninterrupted data collection. The review will focus on the current center’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing for improvements and course corrections. Sustainability and dissemination will be emphasized.

Contact for questions? Mercedes Rubio for NRMN inquiries, Anissa Brown for BUILD inquiries, Michael Sesma for CEC inquiries, and Alison Gammie for DPC-DaTA inquiries.

Discontinuing Our Participation in the NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) Program

We recently issued an NIH Guide notice informing the community that we will discontinue participation in the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) (PA-16-309). As stated in the notice, we will not accept new or resubmission applications for this program, and its subsequent reissuances, starting with the April 8, 2018, receipt date. We will continue to accept NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31) (PA-16-308) and NRSA Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD or Other Dual-Doctoral Degree Fellowships for Students at Institutions Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (F30) (PA-16-306). This decision does not affect those F31 (parent) applicants who have already received an award from NIGMS or whose applications have already been received by NIH and have been reviewed or are currently pending review.

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Webinar for RISE Program Applicants

UPDATE: The slides from the RISE webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an institutional Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) grant application for the May 25 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Wednesday, February 7, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET.

During the webinar, we’ll answer your questions about the RISE funding opportunity announcement and data tables. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page (link no longer available) and enter the meeting number 620 731 655 and the password “nigms.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the RISE program.