The first receipt date for predoctoral T32 applications in response to NIGMS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) PAR-17-341 is fast approaching—May 25, 2018. While a wealth of information is already available regarding the intent and requirements of this new FOA, including on our NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants website and a recent Feedback Loop post, we want to reassure prospective applicants that we are also actively preparing for the review of these applications.
All predoctoral T32 applications submitted to NIGMS are currently reviewed by two in-house standing review committees, TWD-A and TWD-B, and this will continue for applications submitted under the new FOA. However, we are mindful that reviewing these applications requires different expectations and considerations, and that reviewers must accordingly be prepared for them. To this end, scientific review officers in our Office of Scientific Review are working closely with program staff in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to revise the materials and resources currently used to orient review committee members to ensure they understand and address the new review criteria appropriately. We are also exploring options to add expertise to the committees in aspects of the FOA that may be less familiar to reviewers, such as program evaluation, evidence-based approaches to teaching and mentoring, and non-academic career development. In addition, we are considering ways to bring the perspectives of community members who educate and mentor undergraduate students who go on to pursue Ph.D.s in biomedical fields, as well as of those who employ graduates of NIGMS-funded Ph.D. programs, such as representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. And of course, NIGMS review and program staff are available at each step, including during the review meetings, to provide guidance and reminders.
The application package for submitting all types of grant applications is about to change. Effective for receipt dates on or after January 25, 2018, applicants will have to use FORMS-E application packages. NIGMS is urging applicants to direct their attention to NOT-OD-17-062 and be ready for the change.
The change will apply to all funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) and all application types (new, resubmission, renewal, revision). Applications submitted using the wrong forms will automatically be withdrawn by the Division of Receipt and Referral within the NIH Center for Scientific Review and will not be reviewed. Application guides for FORMS-E application packages will be posted on the How to Apply – Application Guide page no later than October 25, 2017.
One of the best resources to help applicants stay on top of new and upcoming changes for grants and contracts at NIH is the Notices of NIH Policy Changes located on the Office of Extramural Research website. Please check this page frequently and, as always, contact NIGMS program and review staff with any questions.
Trying to navigate changes in NIH grant application policy can be a daunting task. Moreover, when these policy changes bypass the radar of applicants, the result can be an unwelcome outcome. This was the case most recently for many grant applicants who did not follow the new NIH policy limiting the types of appendix materials allowed for applications with due dates on or after January 25, 2017. This policy was first advertised last August to allow sufficient time for applicants to absorb the change. Unfortunately, many of the grant applications assigned to NIGMS came in for the January 25 receipt date with non-compliant appendix materials, resulting in their withdrawal by NIH. We at NIGMS are very aware of the pain and frustration felt by applicants and institutional authorized officials when applications are withdrawn. In the hope of minimizing the number of withdrawals due to non-compliant appendices for upcoming receipt dates, here are some important reminders:
- Under the new policy, almost nothing is allowed as appendix material unless specifically requested in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
- The few remaining materials that are still allowed are very specialized and do not apply to most FOAs.
- If the FOA you apply for is one that does allow or specifically requests certain types of appendix materials, be sure to include only what is allowed. If you include any additional materials, your application will be considered non-compliant and will almost certainly be withdrawn.
- Do not use application sections that have unrestricted page limits (e.g., the Other Attachments section) as a surrogate location for appendix materials that are no longer allowed because this also will result in your application being withdrawn as non-compliant.
- Lastly, be sure you are reading the most up-to-date versions of the FOA and SF424 instructions, as the materials that are and are not allowed in an application may have changed from previous versions.
One of the best resources to help you stay on top of new and upcoming changes is the Notices of NIH Policy Changes on the Office of Extramural Research website—please check this site frequently. And, as always, NIGMS program and review staff are available to answer any questions.