Category: Requests for Information

NIH Director’s Award Programs Keep ‘Pioneering’ and ‘Innovating’


NIH Director’s Pioneer AwardNIH recently conducted an evaluation of the short-term outcome of the NIH Director Pioneer’s Award program, which started in 2004 and is managed by NIGMS. The report was positive and confirmed that the research supported by the program truly has been pioneering, not only in pursuing highly creative and often unconventional approaches but also in leading to additional “high-risk, high-reward” programs at NIH and other funding agencies.

We hope to see many more highly innovative ideas submitted for the next Pioneer Award application cycle that is now under way. Applications are due October 7, 2011.

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award program, also managed by NIGMS, is accepting applications until October 14, 2011. This program is designed for early stage investigators at U.S. institutions who have not yet obtained an NIH R01 or similar grant.

For more information and links to the requests for applications, see the Pioneer Award Web site and the New Innovator Award Web site.

As I’ve written before, one of my favorite elements of these programs is the annual symposium, scheduled this year for September 20-21 at the Doubletree Bethesda Hotel near the NIH campus. The meeting is free and doesn’t require registration, so if you’re in the area, I encourage you to join us for talks and poster sessions by Pioneer and New Innovator awardees. If you can’t make it in person, you can view the platform presentations after the meeting on the NIH Videocast site.

Send Input on Single-Cell Analysis


Cool Video: Leading Cells with LightNIH is seeking broad input from the scientific community on challenges and opportunities in single-cell analysis, a topic of great interest and relevance to many NIGMS grantees and applicants. Please help NIH shape its future programs in this emerging research area by sending in your opinions. The request for information (RFI) asks for responses on topics including:

  • Current conceptual, technical and/or methodological challenges in the field;
  • Major biomedical research questions that can be addressed by single-cell analysis; and
  • The highest priority tools and resources needed to move forward.

We hope you’ll take the time to weigh in with your opinions and specific examples between now and the March 18 response deadline.

Let me know if you would like to learn more about trans-NIH activities in this area, as I’m a member of the group that issued this RFI—the Single Cell Analysis Working Group of the NIH Common Fund (formerly known as the NIH Roadmap), which provides strategic planning, coordination and support for programs that cut across NIH institutes and centers.

Training Strategic Plan Draft Posted for Public Comment

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NIGMS Training Strategic PlanIn March 2010, I announced that we were in the process of developing a strategic plan for research training, and I asked for your input.

We heard from more than 300 stakeholders, who included university faculty and administrators, graduate students and postdocs, representatives from professional societies and individuals from government and industry. We also received input from our Advisory Council at its meeting last week.

NIGMS staff and I took these comments into account in producing a draft strategic plan for training. Reflecting the Institute’s core values and vision, the plan encompasses several key themes:

  • Research training is a responsibility shared by NIH, academic institutions, faculty and trainees.
  • Research training focuses on student development, not simply selection of talent.
  • Breadth and flexibility enable research training to keep pace with the opportunities and demands of contemporary science and provide the foundation for a variety of scientific career paths.
  • Diversity is an indispensable component of research training excellence, and it must be advanced across the entire research enterprise.

We’ve posted the draft training strategic plan for public comment. I invite you to read the plan and give us your input. Between now and February 15, you may submit your comments anonymously through our online form.

Comment on Proposed NIH Organizational Changes via New Feedback Site


Feedback NIHNIH recently launched a new site for communication with the scientific community, The site has already been quite active, since it requests input on a proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and a proposed institute focused on substance use, abuse and addiction research.

Of particular interest may be a recent post on a “straw model” regarding where current National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) programs might end up if they are redistributed as a result of the formation of NCATS. In this model, some NCRR programs would be transferred to NIGMS.

An even more recent post provides information about open conference calls for grantees and others who are interested in NCRR programs to discuss the straw model. These calls will be held today through Friday.

If you have an interest in these rapidly moving activities, the NIH Feedback site is a good place to find updates and to submit your thoughts.

The Advisory Council’s Critical Roles


Later this month, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council will hold the first of its three meetings in 2011. While many applicants, grantees and reviewers are familiar with the roles and processes of study sections, fewer know how an advisory council works. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of its many critical roles.

Council members are leaders in the biological and medical sciences, education, health care and public affairs. Their areas of expertise cover the broad range of scientific fields supported by NIGMS. The Council performs the second level of peer review for research and research training grant applications assigned to NIGMS. Council members also offer advice and recommendations on policy and program development, program implementation, evaluation and other matters of significance to the mission and goals of the Institute.

A portion of each Council meeting is open to the public.

For the peer review function, which occurs during the part of the meeting that is closed to the public, Council members read summary statements, providing a general check on the quality of the first level of peer review. They advise us if they find cases where the comments and scores do not appear to be in good alignment. Their evaluation complements the initial peer review done by study sections, as it focuses primarily on summary statements rather than on applications (although Council members may have access to the applications).

Members also provide advice regarding formal appeals, typically discussing 10-20 cases per meeting in which a procedural aspect may have significantly influenced the initial peer review process.

The Council also provides input on cases where staff are considering exceptions to the well-funded laboratory policy, and it approves the potential funding of grants to investigators at foreign institutions. Another area of Council input relates to Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) awards. Finally, Council members point out applications that they feel are particularly interesting based on their scientific expertise and knowledge of trends in particular fields. They explain their perspective to NIGMS staff, who incorporate this input in subsequent steps of the funding decision process. I’ll describe these steps in an upcoming post.

The policy and program advisory function includes discussing “concept clearances,” or ideas for new initiatives being considered within the Institute. These can take the form of proposed requests for applications (RFAs) or program announcements (PAs). Council members provide critical analysis and feedback about the appropriateness of proposed initiatives and factors to consider should they be implemented. Approved concept clearances are posted soon after each Council meeting on the NIGMS Web site and often on the Feedback Loop. NIGMS staff can then receive input from the scientific community as they refine the funding opportunity announcements.

This month’s meeting will include one concept clearance presentation, on macromolecular complexes.

Council members also give input and feedback on assessments and formal evaluations of specific NIGMS programs, such as the Protein Structure Initiative. When the need arises, Council members form working groups focused on specific issues. To ensure an appropriate range of expertise and perspectives, these groups can include non-Council members, as well. Finally, the Council receives periodic reports about ongoing initiatives in order to monitor how they are proceeding and offer advice about possible changes.

NIGMS Program Project Grants (P01) Funding Opportunity


The program announcement for NIGMS program project grants was published yesterday in the NIH Guide. This grant mechanism enables outstanding scientists working on different aspects of a similar problem to collaborate.

Applicants should propose innovative, complementary approaches to solving a significant biological question within the NIGMS mission. Over a 5-year period, program projects may receive total direct costs of up to $6.5 million (excluding any proposed equipment purchases and subcontract indirect costs). If you request more than $500,000 in direct costs in any year, you must receive approval from NIGMS staff before submitting your proposal.

I strongly encourage you to speak to the relevant program staff member before submitting a P01 application. For more information, see the NIGMS Program Project Funding Policies Web site.

Earlier Submission Deadlines for 2011 Pioneer and New Innovator Awards


NIH Director’s Pioneer AwardNIH has announced the 2011 competitions for the NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards. These awards support exceptionally creative scientists who propose highly innovative—and often unconventional—approaches to major challenges in biomedical or behavioral research. Both programs are part of the NIH Common Fund and are managed by NIGMS.

The Pioneer Award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over 5 years and is open to scientists at U.S. institutions at any career level. The deadline for applying is September 13, 2010.

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

The New Innovator Award provides $1.5 million in direct costs over 5 years and is designed for early stage investigators at U.S. institutions who have not yet obtained an NIH R01 or similar grant. Applications are due by September 20, 2010.

For more information about the programs and links to the requests for applications, see the Pioneer Award Web site and the New Innovator Award Web site.

A highlight of these programs is the annual symposium. This year’s symposium will take place near the NIH campus in Bethesda on September 30 and October 1, and it will include research talks by the second graduating class of Pioneer Award recipients. If you’re in the area, consider attending the symposium. It’s free, doesn’t require advance registration and also offers the opportunity to view poster presentations by many of the Pioneers and New Innovators. If you can’t attend, the symposium will be videocast live and archived at

Online Site for Giving Input on Research Training and Career Development Closes Next Week

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Give us your input on the future of NIGMS-sponsored research trainingIn March, I announced the launch of a strategic planning process focused on training and career development. I encourage all stakeholders, including faculty members, postdocs, graduate students, university administrators and government and industry scientists to provide input on this important topic.

One easy way to make your voice heard is through our online form (no longer available). We list several questions that you can respond to anonymously. You don’t have to respond to every question, and you can also make other comments or recommendations.

If you have not yet shared your views, there’s still time—the Web site closes April 21.

Give Us Input for Our Strategic Plan on Training and Career Development


Give us your input on the future of NIGMS-sponsored research trainingI’m proud of NIGMS’ long and strong commitment to research training and biomedical workforce development. As biomedical research and its workforce needs evolve, we want to be sure that our training and career development activities most effectively meet current demands, anticipate emerging opportunities and help build a highly capable, diverse biomedical research workforce.

To this end, we are beginning to develop a strategic plan focused on research training and career development, and we want your input.

Between March 2 and April 21, you can anonymously submit comments at

You can also give us input at one of the regional stakeholder meetings we’re holding in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco between April and June 2010. If you’re a pre- or postdoc, you can participate in a special webinar designed just for you on June 11, 2010.

You don’t need to be an NIGMS grantee to share your thoughts on this important topic. We want to hear from individuals with many different perspectives, so in addition to responding yourself, I encourage you to let others know of these opportunities to offer comments.

As the planning process unfolds, look for updates on the Feedback Loop.

Give Input on NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunities


As I noted in a previous post, NIH recently launched the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet) and issued four funding opportunity announcements for the current fiscal year.

OppNet is now planning initiatives for future years. Key to this effort is obtaining input from all interested parties about current and emerging opportunities in basic behavioral and social sciences research that offer the greatest potential for improving health and well-being. Toward this end, OppNet has just released a request for information soliciting suggestions for both short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (3-5 years) activities, which can focus on humans or animal models.