Five MIRA Myths

Our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program is still relatively new, so it’s not surprising that NIGMS staff frequently hear misconceptions about it. This post dispels five common MIRA myths.

Myth 1: Once an investigator is awarded a MIRA, the budget will never increase.

MIRA budgets may increase. At the time of the competing renewal application, a principal investigator (PI) may request an increase in funding. MIRAs with modest budgets that have been very productive and score very well could receive budget increases. Study sections will be asked to look at budget requests, and NIGMS staff will make determinations based on the reviewers’ recommendations and available funds.

Myth 2: Early stage investigators will receive more funding for their labs if they get an R01 than if they get a MIRA.

A MIRA PI who is an early stage investigator (ESI) has a higher probability of receiving more NIGMS funding than a non-MIRA ESI. Most ESI MIRA investigators receive $250,000 in direct costs per year. A recent analysis found that the vast majority of ESIs who have received an NIGMS R01 are initially awarded $200,000 or less, and most do not go on to receive a second NIGMS R01 during the first five years of their initial award. Thus, the total NIGMS funding for most relatively new investigators is higher with a MIRA.

Myth 3: MIRA discourages collaborative research.

NIGMS strongly endorses collaborative research, and this extends to the MIRA program. However, the MIRA concept is based on the idea that NIGMS will provide support to individual investigators’ research programs. Collaborators are expected to work together because of their mutual interest in a problem. The collaborator, in most cases, will support his or her efforts with independent funding, not through a subcontract from the MIRA. In cases where a collaborator’s efforts are well-justified, essential to the research program of the MIRA and cannot be supported by the collaborator, a consortium agreement can be included in the competing application.

NIGMS also encourages scientifically productive international collaborative research efforts. However, NIGMS will only provide funding for a foreign consortium arrangement when the collaboration is essential to the PI’s research program, represents a unique scientific opportunity and cannot be supported by the collaborator.

Myth 4: MIRA PIs cannot apply for administrative supplements.

MIRA PIs are eligible for Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research and may be eligible for other types of administrative supplements, such as equipment supplements offered by NIGMS through notices in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. In rare situations, NIGMS may provide a supplement for a piece of equipment that could not have been anticipated at the time the application was submitted.

Myth 5: MIRA PIs cannot apply for NIGMS training grants or conference grants.

MIRA PIs are eligible to apply for grants that support research resources, training, workforce development or diversity building, clinical trials, selected cooperative agreements, SBIR/STTRs, conference grants and the portion of a center grant or a P01 that is strictly a core. In addition, a MIRA PI may receive grants from other NIH institutes or centers, although when making funding decisions NIGMS always considers an investigator’s other support, as described on our Funding Policies page.

More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is on the MIRA page.

4 comments on “Five MIRA Myths

  1. If an MIRA awardee is not eligible for obtaining additional NIH funding (such as the funding resulting from a multi-PI R01), then MIRA indeed discourages most collaborative research projects. If the lab members that are paid by the MIRA award are too busy to take on additional work (in particular if the work is unrelated to their own projects), the PI would need additional funding to be able to hire a new lab member who can perform the collaborative work. In addition, the reagents and equipment needed for the collaborative projects must be paid for somehow. Where is the money coming from if not from the MIRA award, which only provides enough money (at least initially) for running a small lab with 2-3 people?

    • NIGMS created the MIRA mechanism with the understanding that there will be trade-offs for MIRA PIs. In return for the great deal of flexibility that MIRA allows investigators in their research related to the NIGMS mission, it also expects investigators to prioritize their work within the confines of their awarded budget. So, if you have a really important new idea you want to pursue, you can do it – and quickly – but you will probably also have to cut back on a less promising research avenue. This is true whether or not the new direction involves a collaborator.

      It should also be noted that having a MIRA precludes most additional research funding from NIGMS, but not from NIH as a whole, as stated in the comment.

  2. Thanks for posting this list. I have recently learned about MIRA and am considering applying. I noticed that it is okay to submit both an R01 and MIRA application at the same time, so long as only one is accepted in the case where both qualify for funding. I am an ESI currently writing an R01 with an ideal study section in mind, but I MIRA seems ideal as well. Would it be acceptable for me to submit two applications, one for an R01 and one for MIRA, if the subject matter in both applications has considerable overlap?

    • As stated in the FAQs for the FOA, your R35 and R01 applications do NOT need to be completely distinct. Since an R35 encompasses all of the work in your lab that is relevant to the NIGMS mission, it will overlap by definition with any R01 you would submit to NIGMS. Note though that there is an important difference in form between an R35 and an R01 – an R35 is about your research program, whereas an R01 is a specific project (Aim 1, 2, 3). An R35 does not have specific aims.

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