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

UPDATE: The slides [PDF 1.38MB], videoLink to external web site, and FAQs 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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New Area for NIGMS Predoctoral Training

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to graduate training and has for many years supported research training in 11 broad areas of basic biomedical science, including Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface; Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; Biostatistics; Biotechnology; Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences; Chemistry-Biology Interface; Genetics; Molecular Biophysics; Molecular Medicine; Pharmacological Sciences; and Systems and Integrative Biology.

With publication of the NIGMS’ new predoctoral training grant funding opportunity announcement, the list now includes Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences. This new area is designed to broaden the scope of disciplines supported by an NIGMS training grant and increase the geographical distribution of institutions that might apply.

The transdisciplinary area is open only to a) institutions that currently do not have an NIGMS-funded institutional predoctoral T32 training program in any of the basic biomedical science disciplines listed above (with the exception of Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface or Biostatistics), or b) institutions with current NIGMS-funded predoctoral T32 training programs that propose to merge two or more of their existing NIGMS-funded predoctoral training programs into a single program. Training supported in this area is expected to be broadly-based and multidisciplinary in nature and may be covered by the other NIGMS-supported areas of basic biomedical science disciplines, or may include other emerging area(s) within the NIGMS mission.

Applications for the Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences area will be accepted for the May 25, 2018, receipt date and thereafter.

We welcome your comments and questions—they can be posted here, emailed to me, or you may call 301-594-3900.

Webinar for Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for IDeA States FOA

UPDATE: The slides and video Exit icon from the Regional Technology Accelerator Hubs webinar have been posted.

If you or your institution are considering applying for our Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for IDeA States (STTR) funding opportunity—a new initiative designed to promote biomedical entrepreneurship—don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Wednesday, November 15, from 3:00-4:30 p.m. ET.

During the webinar, NIGMS and Center for Scientific Review staff will explain the goals and objectives of the initiative and answer your questions. You are encouraged to submit questions by November 13 to Krishan Arora.

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 access code 628 562 389.

NIGMS Staff Participating in the November 15 Webinar:

Krishan K. Arora, Program Director, NIGMS

Joseph Gindhart, Program Director, NIGMS

Christy Leake, Grants Management Team Leader, NIGMS

Allen Richon, Scientific Review Officer, NIH Center for Scientific Review

Slides will be available on the IDeA website following the event.

We look forward to talking with you soon.

New NIGMS Funding Opportunity: Collaborative Program Grants for Multidisciplinary Teams

We’ve published a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support multidisciplinary, collaborative team research in scientific areas within the mission of NIGMS. The Collaborative Program Grant for Multidisciplinary Teams (RM1) aims to support highly integrated, interdisciplinary teams working toward a common scientific goal. The RM1 program replaces NIGMS Program Project Grants (P01) and most of NIGMS’ P50 centers programs (with the exception of the Structural Biology of HIV/AIDS centers). The first receipt date for the new program is January 25, 2018.

RM1 applications should have a unified scientific goal within the NIGMS mission that requires a team with diverse perspectives and expertise in a variety of intellectual or technical areas. We are seeking projects that are challenging, ambitious, and innovative, with the potential to produce lasting advances in their fields. Unlike many larger programs, NIGMS Collaborative Program Grants require one integrated research plan and a separate management plan that addresses shared leadership, responsibility for decision making and resource allocation, and opportunities for professional development and credit. Optionally, the team can expand to support early stage investigators (ESIs) in pilot projects that enrich program objectives and help the ESIs obtain independent funding.

In general, we expect that the research supported by Collaborative Program grants will be the primary focus of the principal investigators (PIs) rather than being in addition to the main work going on in their individual laboratories. Guidelines for investigator effort and details about how the PIs’ other support will be considered when making funding decisions can be found in the FOA and on the Institute’s website. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss research plans with NIGMS staff before submission.

If you have any questions about NIGMS Collaborative Program Grants, please contact Drs. Susan Gregurick or Paul Sammak.

New NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement

We’ve just released a new training funding opportunity announcement (FOA) specifically tailored for predoctoral graduate programs in the basic biomedical sciences. Through this FOA, we intend to encourage changes in biomedical graduate training that allow it to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the research enterprise, which is increasingly complex, quantitative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative.

The overarching objective of this new predoctoral T32 training program is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained scientists who have the following:

  • A broad understanding across biomedical disciplines, and the skills to independently acquire the knowledge needed to advance their chosen field.
  • The ability to think critically, independently, and to identify important biomedical research questions and approaches that push forward the boundaries of their areas of study.
  • A strong foundation in scientific reasoning, rigorous research design, experimental methods, quantitative and computational approaches, as well as data analysis and interpretation.
  • A commitment to approaching and conducting biomedical research responsibly and with integrity.
  • Experience initiating, conducting, interpreting, and presenting rigorous and reproducible biomedical research with increasing self-direction.
  • The ability to work effectively in teams with colleagues from a variety of cultural and scientific backgrounds, and to promote inclusive and supportive scientific research environments.
  • The skills to teach and communicate scientific research methodologies and findings to a wide variety of audiences (e.g., discipline-specific, across disciplines, and the public).
  • The knowledge, professional skills, and experiences required to identify and transition into careers in the biomedical research workforce (i.e., the breadth of careers that sustain biomedical research in areas that are relevant to the NIH mission).

Because diversity at all levels is integral to research and training excellence, this FOA is also intended to fund outstanding research training environments that support trainees from all backgrounds, and to enhance diversity in the biomedical enterprise by paying particular attention to the inclusion of individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

The goal is of this FOA is to enable the community to develop and implement innovative approaches to training and mentoring that will effectively and efficiently train future generations of outstanding biomedical scientists. This funding announcement is designed to allow biomedical graduate education to preserve the best elements of the current system, while enhancing the focus on the trainee development of the technical, operational, and professional skills needed to transition into successful and productive careers in the biomedical research workforce.

The new FOA will apply to all NIGMS predoctoral T32 training grants submitted for receipt dates beginning May 25, 2018, except the Medical Scientist Training Program, which will remain on the parent T32 announcement for now. Because this is a new funding announcement, all applications (including those from previously established programs) must be submitted as new (-01), however applicants may describe up to 15 years of outcomes in the narrative.

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can email your questions and comments or post them here.

Multiple Principal Investigator (MPI) Application – When Is it the Right Choice?

For some time now, NIH has offered the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) Award, also known as the MPI award, as an option for investigators seeking support for research projects. At NIGMS, we’ve been thinking about collaborative research, and we want to share some of our observations so you can choose the grant mechanism that best fits your research goals.

An MPI application is a commitment by two or more investigators. Both/all have the authority to direct the research project, should agree on how they are going to accomplish this, and will describe their project leadership plan in the grant application. If awarded, both/all have the shared responsibility to direct the research and ensure that it remains on track both intellectually and logistically. Some examples of these shared tasks include experimental design, resource allocation, supervision of staff, financial management, data sharing, and submission of publications. The responsibilities can be rotated over time. If both/all investigators are not full and equal partners in the award, it isn’t really an MPI project.

The MPI award was developed to share credit among equals on research teams. In contrast, some applicants want to use MPI awards to accomplish unintended goals, for example, to elevate a junior scientist, to entice a luminary colleague who might not otherwise get involved, to add a new technical approach to the research, or to support a collaborator at another institution. However, there can be costs associated with such strategies:

  • A young scientist PD/PI will lose her/his early stage investigator (ESI) status, which offers the advantage of having an application grouped with other ESIs at the initial review group meeting, a higher priority funding consideration, and sometimes a fifth year of an award.
  • All PD/PIs will be considered under NIGMS’ policy for Support of Research in Well-Funded Laboratories, so that if any investigator has greater than $750,000 in direct costs awarded annually, then the entire application will receive extra scrutiny by our National Advisory Council.
  • Furthermore, any PDs/PIs who fall under NIGMS’ policy for funding Investigators with Substantial, Unrestricted Research Support may hold no more than one NIGMS research grant.

Other types of awards, including a single PD/PI regular research grant (R01), may be better alternatives to an MPI award for supporting collaborative research. Here are a few points that investigators should consider:

  • Collaborators often play an important role in a project and may commit specific effort and receive funds from an award. If at another institution, funds essential to accomplish the research can be delivered through a subcontract.
  • Another viable way to enable an individual to participate in a research project is to name a consultant in the necessary area of expertise. Consultants can receive a fee for their work, if appropriate.
  • Almost any relationship can be well-documented in a letter of support, so that the initial review group recognizes an established and committed scientific relationship.

The MPI award fills an important niche. But the mechanism can be misunderstood and may even be misused to the detriment of one or more of the PD/PIs. Always look carefully at the continuum of opportunities to support multidisciplinary research programs and collaborative research.

Starting this fall, NIGMS anticipates offering a new award called the Collaborative Program Grant for Multidisciplinary Teams (RM1), which is designed to support highly integrated teams of researchers working to achieve a shared objective. Watch the Feedback Loop posts and talk to your NIGMS program director to learn more.