Blogging at NIH

Communication and transparency are core values of NIGMS, and the Feedback Loop is one way we put those values into practice. On the occasion of our 300th blog post, we take a moment to look back, look ahead, and look for your continued input.

Our former director, Jeremy Berg, started the Feedback Loop in 2005 as an e-newsletter distributed three times a year. In 2009, we switched it to a blog format to share information in a timelier way and provide a better platform for discussion. Since then, more than 50 NIGMS staff members have contributed posts announcing funding opportunities, meetings and job openings; offering application guidance and tips; sharing funding trend data and other analyses; and more.

Whether posted on the blog or addressed to me or other staff, your comments and questions have helped us provide or clarify information about the funding process and other topics important to you.

Since we created this blog, a number of other NIH components have started blogs of their own. Sally Rockey of the NIH Office of Extramural Research has been blogging for nearly 2 years on Rock Talk about grant policies, funding trends and other issues of interest to the extramural research community. And earlier this month, Francis Collins launched the NIH Director’s Blog to highlight recent discoveries in biology and medicine. We look forward to new opportunities for synergy with these and other blogs.

Above all, we hope you find the Feedback Loop a useful resource. As always, we welcome your comments, input and feedback on topics for future posts or other ways the blog can best meet your needs.

2013 Submission Deadlines for Collaborative Science Supplements

Collaborations are an ideal way to enhance a research project by introducing new approaches and complementary expertise. To support collaborative efforts by NIGMS grantees, we’re continuing our Supplements for Collaborative Science (SCS) program with two submission deadlines in 2013: January 15 and May 15. Investigators can request supplements of up to $90,000 per year in direct costs for two collaborating labs or up to $135,000 per year for three collaborating labs.

To be eligible, an NIGMS parent R01 or R37 award must be actively funded through July 31, 2014, for the January deadline and through November 30, 2014, for the May deadline. Proposals may request support to cover a period up to the end of the parent project.

The proposed research must be within the original scope of the project and should propose approaches not used previously by the principal investigator. All collaborators should be able to make significant intellectual contributions, and we especially encourage proposals that involve less commonly combined areas of expertise.

One new aspect of the submission process is the requirement that the collaborating investigators provide a letter of commitment and “other support” page countersigned by their institutional official. For more details, see the funding opportunity announcement. Send any additional questions to me at or to Sue Haynes at

The SCS program is very competitive, so if you are interested in submitting an application, we recommend that you first discuss your potential proposal—and its new and novel aspects—with your program director.

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Funding Opportunity

You may be interested in this funding opportunity from an interagency initiative:

NIH-NSF Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program: A Joint Program for Multidisciplinary Research

Purpose: Support research, including field and laboratory studies and model development, focused on the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease systems
Application due date: December 05, 2012
NIGMS contact: Irene Eckstrand, 301-594-0943

Compliance with NIH Public Access Reporting Requirements Will Affect Renewals

Since 2008, NIH has required as a condition of all grant awards and cooperative agreements that scientists make their findings publicly accessible through the widely used PubMed Central repository. To increase the number of papers available to the public, NIH has announced that it will delay the processing of noncompeting renewals whose publications are not in compliance with this public access policy. The change will take effect as early as spring 2013, and it will coincide with the required use of the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) for SNAP and fellowship awards.

For more discussion on this topic, including how to ensure you meet the policy requirements, read Improving Public Access to Research Results written by NIH’s Sally Rockey.

Guidance on Submitting JIT Information

Over the years, NIH has tried various approaches to make sure advisory council and institute or center (IC) staff members have all the information they need about applications being considered for funding. In March 2012, NIH announced the latest procedures for submission of this “just-in-time” (JIT) information:

  1. All JIT information must be submitted via the NIH Commons.
  2. The JIT function button will be activated for all scored applications, just in case it’s needed. This is neither an indication that you should submit JIT information nor an indication of your application’s likelihood of funding.
  3. If your application has an impact score between 1 and 40, you will receive an automated e-mail, which only tells you to follow the JIT guidelines of the application’s corresponding NIH IC. Receiving this message does not necessarily indicate that you will need to submit JIT information, as noted in the NIGMS guidelines below.

You can find guidelines for most NIGMS applications on the Summary Statement and JIT Actions for Applicants Web page and in the relevant section of the funding opportunity announcement you’re responding to. Our current guidance is:

If your application, with the exception of T32 or R25 applications, received a percentile ranking between 1 and 20, or if a percentile ranking is not specified and the priority score is between 10 and 30, please submit Other Support information within 2 weeks of the availability of the Summary Statement. In addition, if your research involves vertebrate animals or human subjects, you must submit information as described in the above referenced Actions on Applications after Initial Review sheet for instructions on completing this information.

Should there be changes to this guidance, they will be reflected on the Web page, so I encourage you to check it each time you receive a summary statement. We’ve also posted JIT details for Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity grants, fellowships and SCORE grants. If your application’s grant mechanism isn’t covered, please consult the program contact listed on your summary statement for instructions.

In the future, we plan to cover what goes in the “Other Support” document and why we ask for it.

Web Chat Stimulates Student Interest in Cells, Research Careers

Joe Gindhart, Sirisha Kumpatla, Judith Greenberg, Jen Villani, Ward Smith, John Laffan, Shari Tutt and Brian Pike (pictured left to right) were among many NIGMS staff members who participated in Cell Day. Courtesy of Peter Rice.Last Friday, we hosted Cell Day–an extremely exciting online interactive chat about the cell. During the event, many members of our scientific staff, including our Acting Director, Judith Greenberg, fielded more than 140 questions from mostly 5th through 12th grade students and teachers across the country.

We anticipated some of the questions we’d be asked, but many surprised and impressed us. Some questions got us thinking about how we know what we know and let us share why we became scientists. Here are a few examples:

  • Do my cells think?
  • Which living organism has the most cells?
  • Why have plants not evolved to be black in color in order to maximize light absorption?
  • What inspired you to take an interest in biology and its beautiful diversity?

Read the transcript to view more questions and our answers.

While Cell Day was developed as an NIGMS 50th anniversary activity, we enjoyed it so much that we plan to do it again next year as part of our continued commitment to science education.

Wanted: Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology Division Director

Search Committee Members:

Francine Berman, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Valerie Florance, National Library of Medicine

Daniel Gallahan, National Cancer Institute

Christine Kelley, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

David Landsman, National Center for Biotechnology Information

Michael Rogers, NIGMS, Chair

Earlier this year, NIGMS formed the Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology (BBCB) to administer programs that were part of the former NIGMS Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and the National Center for Research Resources. The division also manages the NIH Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative (BISTI), an effort to stimulate and coordinate the use of computer science and technology to address problems in biology and medicine. Because of its role at NIH, BBCB serves as a focal point for collaborative efforts with other federal agencies that are developing related programs and policies.

To lead BBCB and BISTI, we’re looking for an individual with exceptional strategic vision and a distinguished record of research and management experience in computation/informatics, biomedical technology and biomedical research. NIGMS Acting Director Judith Greenberg has noted that the BBCB Director will have an extraordinary opportunity to shape this still relatively new division, forge key alliances with other NIH components and government agencies, and interact directly with the NIH Director to help establish guidelines and programs in biocomputing and technology.

For details about the job qualifications, how to apply and other information, see the vacancy announcement. Applications will be reviewed starting November 26, 2012, and will be accepted until the position is filled.

Now is a particularly exciting time for this division at NIH, since biomedical progress is critically dependent on the development of a more robust computing infrastructure and on the creation of new biomedical technologies. As chair of the search committee for the division’s director, I ask for your help in identifying candidates for this important position and in sharing this information with others who might be interested.