Explaining Recovery Act Faculty Recruitment

Recovery.gov - NIGMS InformationWe’ve received a lot of questions about the Recovery Act faculty recruitment funding announcement. In addition to posting the questions and answers in our Recovery Act FAQs, I thought I’d share them here on the Feedback Loop.

What is the intent?

The intent is to contribute to startup packages for junior faculty so that they have a good foundation for becoming independent, tenure-track faculty members who are competitive for NIH awards.

Why does this use the P30 mechanism?

For technical reasons, this funding opportunity uses a research core. Despite the use of this mechanism, NIGMS does not intend our awards to be anything like a conventional resource or service core.

How will applications be reviewed?

Applications will be reviewed by standard NIH review procedures, in this case a special emphasis panel. Reviewers will consider the institutional selection process and environment, including how candidates will be identified and selected, the departmental and institutional track record for attracting junior faculty and programs available for their professional development.

Please note that we do not intend to make awards based on area of science or specific faculty candidates (more on this later).

How do I format the application?

It is difficult to address application requirements using the standard format of Aims, Background, Preliminary Data and Design and Methods sections. My suggestion is to play it straight! For example, include the history of the search in the Background section and describe the recruitment process in the Design and Methods section. Using subheads also helps.

Should I include a description of the general resources for the whole department, or a general description of what the resources might be for a new faculty member?

My best advice is to frame it in terms of what would be relevant to the area of research–computational clusters, 2P microscopes, MALDI-TOF spectroscope, etc.  Departmental resources are undoubtedly sufficiently multi-purpose that you can make access to them a positive feature of your application.

Can we use the award to support more than one recruitment effort?

Yes, but bear in mind that our intent is to produce competitive startup packages in cases of demonstrable need.

Can we use the award to support collaborators and/or co-investigators?

No, funds should be for the support of the new faculty member.

Would a junior faculty recruit who has recently (within the last month) received and accepted an offer be eligible for funding under the P30 mechanism?

No, the funding opportunity announcement specifically precludes this.

Is it appropriate and/or expected to identify potential specific new faculty candidates by name and with a brief description of credentials?

Specific identities are not appropriate, but you should describe the characteristics of the desired applicant pool—high-impact publications, prestigious awards, etc.

The funding opportunity announcement states “describe plans for how their research ideas will be selected, developed and conducted as pilot research projects.” Does this mean we should include funds for supporting pilot research projects in the P30 application budget?

Pilot research projects per se should not be proposed.  Rather, you should discuss the general research context and how the interests of a candidate will align with and expand your strategic vision.  You should discuss drivers of your funding timeline—when you anticipate the recruit to start, anticipated salary, equipment needs, etc.

Scientific Workforce Development, Diversity and the Power of Basic Research

Strategic PlanAs part of our strategic plan, Investing in Discovery, we pledged to “expand and extend the NIGMS commitment to facilitating the development of a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce” and “adopt a comprehensive, systems-based approach to address future workforce development issues.” In keeping with these goals, we convened a workshop to examine the benefits and feasibility of developing computational models of the biomedical workforce that would aid in program development and evaluation. Based on the discussions, we issued a new request for applications last week to develop computational models of U.S. scientific workforce dynamics. I encourage individuals or groups who are interested in this challenging area to consider applying, and I and others at NIGMS are looking forward to interacting with these researchers once awards are made.

The scientific workforce was also a focus of last week’s address by President Obama to the National Academy of Sciences. He made many important points about the ways that science impacts society, as well. I have included several excerpts below.

The President spoke of the potential impact of basic research, the need to support it and its benefits, saying:

No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals, or new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and to drought.

History also teaches us the greatest advances in medicine have come from scientific breakthroughs, whether the discovery of antibiotics, or improved public health practices, vaccines for smallpox and polio and many other infectious diseases, antiretroviral drugs that can return AIDS patients to productive lives, pills that can control certain types of blood cancers, so many others.

Because of recent progress — not just in biology, genetics and medicine, but also in physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering — we have the potential to make enormous progress against diseases in the coming decades.

As you know, scientific discovery takes far more than the occasional flash of brilliance — as important as that can be. Usually, it takes time and hard work and patience; it takes training; it requires the support of a nation. But it holds a promise like no other area of human endeavor.

The President challenged scientists to “use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation,” adding:

So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom, talking and showing young people what it is that your work can mean, and what it means to you. I want to encourage you to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in science fields and a teaching certificate at the same time. I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent — to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.

He also spoke of the need to “create research opportunities for undergraduates and educational opportunities for women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields, but are no less capable of inventing the solutions that will help us grow our economy and save our planet.

I recommend taking the time to watch, listen to or read his entire presentation.

Clearing Up Confusion about Supplement Length and Budget Limits

Recovery.gov - NIGMS InformationI’d like to address several questions about supplement length and budget limits that were submitted after my last post on requesting Recovery Act administrative supplements.

Supplement Length

You can request a Recovery Act administrative supplement for the remaining active period of a current award. The supplement should not exceed two years if you have more than two years remaining on your award.

Please note that after July 15, 2009, NIGMS will only consider requests for one-year supplements. Also note that you can invoke a no-cost extension (NCE) of your grant through the Commons when your grant is within 90 days of its end date. This applies only to the first request; subsequent ones must be reviewed by NIGMS.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

Situation Approaches
Your award is within 90 days of its end date in Fiscal Year 2009 You may invoke a one-year NCE through the Commons and then submit an administrative supplement request with the same end date as the NCE
Your award end date is in FY 2010 If your grant is already in an extension, you should request support not to exceed the current end date. If you think you need additional time as you approach the 2010 end date, you can request another extension and another administrative supplement.If your grant is active but not in an extension, you can in your supplement request state your intent to invoke an extension and request support through the projected end date.

NOTE: Your institution is responsible for processing the NCE at the appropriate time.

Budget Limits

Formally, you may request any amount for an administrative supplement that fits within the scope of the parent grant and can be justified accordingly. In practice, this means that supplement awards are almost always much less than annual budgets.

As for equipment, $100,000 is a longstanding threshold. But in today’s world, there are many examples of equipment used by a single lab that cost north of that amount, and we will carefully consider such requests. We look at the total amount requested, whether it’s for one piece of equipment or several.

Tips for Requesting Recovery Act Administrative Supplements

Recovery.gov - NIGMS InformationAs you may well expect, we’ve had a vigorous response so far from grantees inquiring about submitting requests for the Recovery Act administrative supplements funding opportunity.

We think we’ve set up a pretty good system to expeditiously process requests—once they are complete.

If you’re thinking about submitting a request, you should know:

1. A complete package on the first submission makes everyone’s life easier, and

2. We have our own NIGMS-specific requirements.

Our experience to date is that submissions need to be clearer about:

1. How the proposed activities fall within the current aims (i.e., are not a change in scope), and

2. The money stuff—other current and pending support, including Recovery Act requests; current status of funds and expenditure plans.

We also need a brief (25-word) summary of the proposed activity that indicates its public health relevance, as appropriate. HHS intends to post this text on its Recovery Act Web site. Some examples are in our guidance document.

I get many questions about whether there is a deadline for administrative supplement requests. We need your submissions by July 15, 2009 for FY2009 funding consideration. Please don’t wait until the last minute to send us your materials. Getting them in early is in everyone’s interest.

NIGMS Home Page Now Easier to Navigate

I’m pleased to announce that the NIGMS Web site has a new look, making it easier for you to navigate.

New features include a large, center area with rotating “slides” and prominent links to our most popular pages, including the NIGMS Recovery Act site. You can quickly find the latest funding opportunities or search for them. Also, “bookmark and share” links let you easily share our Web material with others.

The new layout retains the site’s current tabbed navigation, but we plan to change this when we overhaul the site later this year.

Screenshot of NIGMS Home Page

I welcome your feedback on the new design and your ideas for the complete revamp. You can send your comments to webmaster@nigms.nih.gov.

Your Grants and the Draft Stem Cell Guidelines

Comment on NIH Draft Stem Cell GuidelinesNIH’s draft guidelines for human stem cell research (link no longer available) are now published in the Federal Register for public comment (link no longer available) within the next 30 days. I encourage you to read them and submit your comments.

Here are a few key points about the draft guidelines:

  • They allow NIH funding for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and no longer needed for that purpose.
  • They describe the conditions and informed consent procedures required during the derivation of human embryonic stem cells used for NIH-supported research.
  • They support continued research using adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.
  • They do NOT allow NIH funding for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from other sources, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, parthenogenesis and/or IVF embryos created for research purposes.

If you currently have a grant, have a pending competing grant application, have an application for an administrative supplement, or are planning to submit an application involving human stem cells, you should read NIH Guide NOT-OD-09-085. It describes the status of ongoing research using human stem cells and how NIH will handle stem cell applications—including those in response to Recovery Act funding announcements—while the guidelines are being finalized.

Use the “Post a Comment” or e-mail links above to send me your questions about these grant policies.

Answering Your Recovery Act Questions

Recovery Act Logo - Recovery.govWelcome to the new Feedback Loop site, the place to get NIGMS news as it happens.

For this first post, I want to update you on NIH and NIGMS Recovery Act funding plans and opportunities. If you have questions about administrative supplements, revisions or two-year R01s, you should read the FAQs we just posted on the NIGMS Recovery Act Web site.

We want this resource to be as useful as possible, so I encourage you to let us know if you have questions that aren’t answered in our FAQs or in the NIH FAQs we link to. One way to do this is by submitting a comment to this post.

Also be sure to visit our updated NIGMS Recovery Act guidance document. It includes information on three recent NIH notices:

We plan to make new Feedback Loop posts about once a week and focus on one or a few topics each time, so you can quickly get the information you need. We’ll also organize previous posts by topic so you can easily find them.

If you would like to get new content automatically, you can sign up to receive it by e-mail or RSS feed. Of course, you can change your subscription options at any time.

Please tell your colleagues about the site and encourage them to subscribe, as well.