We frequently come across compliance issues when reviewing NIGMS T32, T34, and K12 institutional training grant applications. We’re providing information to help applicants avoid the consequences of not following the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) instructions, which could result in the withdrawal of applications without review:
- Letters of support: Each FOA requires one or more institutional letters of support. Special care should be paid to the type of letter, the number needed, and any specific language or signatures that must be included. One compliance issue we often see is applicants combining information into one letter when the FOA states that two or more distinct letters are required. Some letters must include specific language—for example, certification of an institution’s eligibility. Yet, this is sometimes missing. We also see letters that fail to include all required signatures, such as in cases of an application with partnering institutions, where signatures from appropriate institutional leaders are required for each participating institution.
- Training data tables: Each FOA specifies a required set of tables that must be included with the application. We frequently have to withdraw applications for missing one or more of the required tables, for submitting the wrong tables, or for including additional tables not requested in the FOA.
- Multiple program directors (PDs)/principal investigators (PIs): Some FOAs may require multiple PDs/PIs (MPIs) as key personnel—for example, when a PD/PI is required to be designated from each of the participating institutions in an application. As indicated in the SF424 (R&R) application guide, all PDs/PIs in an MPI application must be assigned the “PD/PI” role and all MPI applications must include a multiple PD/PI leadership plan. Note that NIH doesn’t recognize the “Co-PD/PI” role, so avoid using it in your application.
- Appendix materials and page limits: We receive many applications that are either missing required materials, include unallowable materials, or exceed the page limits allowed under FOA instructions for the appendix section. New appendix page limits were recently implemented as part of FOA instructions, or as notices, and all required training activities and elective activities are now limited to two pages maximum per activity.
Please be sure to keep these topics in mind for your future applications! A withdrawn application is a disheartening outcome for all. Therefore, we want to stress the critical importance of reading and following all instructions in the SF424 (R&R) application guide, the FOA, and any related notices listed near the start of the FOA. The notices are sources of additional FOA requirements that often get overlooked and are a frequent cause for an application’s withdrawal. It’s important to start preparing your application early so that you have time to digest all the instructions and double-check that you’ve followed them before submitting.