For the past few months, NIGMS has been reviewing its HIV/AIDS grant portfolio. As the HIV/AIDS field has matured and the necessary research directions have become clearer, the HIV/AIDS-related grants we’ve supported have, appropriately, become more narrowly focused. Because of this, and after close consultation with leadership at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), we’ve concluded that it’s in the best interest of the research to transition NIGMS’ HIV/AIDS portfolio to NIAID to allow improved scientific coordination, prioritization, and efficiency of management.Continue reading “NIGMS-Managed HIV/AIDS Research Transitioning to NIAID”
Category: Research Administration
UPDATE: If you are looking for the program director of a specific NIGMS research portfolio, please see our Contacts by Research Area page.
Like most organizations, NIGMS has been modernizing many of its systems. One recent change is our phone system. To increase efficiency and to enable our support staff to handle higher-level responsibilities, we want you to know that the best way to now reach a program director or scientific review administrator is to send him or her an email. If you want the person to call you back, please provide your contact information and grant or application number. If you don’t know the email address of the NIGMS staff member, it can be found easily by entering the name in our Staff Directory. This directory also provides direct phone numbers of each staff member where you can leave a voicemail message.
The NIGMS website provides information that you may find helpful in determining the staff member you want to contact. If you are still uncertain about whom to contact, you may call the main NIGMS phone number (301-496-7301) and leave a message.
NIGMS’ program staff are, as always, interested in hearing from you, answering your questions, and addressing your concerns.
NIGMS is committed to supporting a wide-ranging portfolio of biomedically relevant fundamental research. As we discussed in a previous Feedback Loop post, we see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life. For many years, one important dimension of diversity in our scientific portfolio—the organisms scientists use to conduct their research—was limited by technical considerations. However, recent advances such as the decreasing cost of genome sequencing and the development of the CRISPR system for genetic modification now make it possible to use an expanded range of research organisms.
NIGMS is realigning its support of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program to focus on providing research experiences to undergraduate students in scientific areas within its mission. Accordingly, we’ve published a new undergraduate research-focused AREA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and are discontinuing our participation in the NIH Parent AREA FOA. The undergraduate research-focused AREA FOA will allow us to continue to: 1) support small-scale meritorious research projects at institutions that do not receive substantial NIH funding (less than $6 million in total costs in 4 of the last 7 years), 2) enhance the research environment at eligible institutions, and 3) expose students to scientific research so that they consider careers in biomedical sciences. Unlike the Parent FOA, the new announcement allows NIGMS to place its emphasis specifically on undergraduate research.
This new AREA FOA limits eligibility to undergraduate student-focused institutions or academic components within an institution (e.g., School of Arts and Sciences) in which the undergraduate student enrollment is greater than the graduate student enrollment, and it excludes all types of health professional schools. Additionally, the research team must be composed primarily of undergraduate students. This FOA aligns the application instructions and review criteria with the goals of the AREA program. We expect that these clarifications will lead to applications that better fit the goals of the program and provide reviewers the tools they need to evaluate the program as designed.
Continue reading “NIGMS Transitions AREA Support to Undergraduate-Focused Institutions”
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:
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.