Five MIRA Myths

Our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program is still relatively new, so it’s not surprising that NIGMS staff frequently hear misconceptions about it. This post dispels five common MIRA myths.

Myth 1: Once an investigator is awarded a MIRA, the budget will never increase.

MIRA budgets may increase. At the time of the competing renewal application, a principal investigator (PI) may request an increase in funding. MIRAs with modest budgets that have been very productive and score very well could receive budget increases. Study sections will be asked to look at budget requests, and NIGMS staff will make determinations based on the reviewers’ recommendations and available funds.

Myth 2: Early stage investigators will receive more funding for their labs if they get an R01 than if they get a MIRA.

A MIRA PI who is an early stage investigator (ESI) has a higher probability of receiving more NIGMS funding than a non-MIRA ESI. Most ESI MIRA investigators receive $250,000 in direct costs per year. A recent analysis found that the vast majority of ESIs who have received an NIGMS R01 are initially awarded $200,000 or less, and most do not go on to receive a second NIGMS R01 during the first five years of their initial award. Thus, the total NIGMS funding for most relatively new investigators is higher with a MIRA.

Myth 3: MIRA discourages collaborative research.

NIGMS strongly endorses collaborative research, and this extends to the MIRA program. However, the MIRA concept is based on the idea that NIGMS will provide support to individual investigators’ research programs. Collaborators are expected to work together because of their mutual interest in a problem. The collaborator, in most cases, will support his or her efforts with independent funding, not through a subcontract from the MIRA. In cases where a collaborator’s efforts are well-justified, essential to the research program of the MIRA and cannot be supported by the collaborator, a consortium agreement can be included in the competing application.

NIGMS also encourages scientifically productive international collaborative research efforts. However, NIGMS will only provide funding for a foreign consortium arrangement when the collaboration is essential to the PI’s research program, represents a unique scientific opportunity and cannot be supported by the collaborator.

Myth 4: MIRA PIs cannot apply for administrative supplements.

MIRA PIs are eligible for Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research and may be eligible for other types of administrative supplements, such as equipment supplements offered by NIGMS through notices in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. In rare situations, NIGMS may provide a supplement for a piece of equipment that could not have been anticipated at the time the application was submitted.

Myth 5: MIRA PIs cannot apply for NIGMS training grants or conference grants.

MIRA PIs are eligible to apply for grants that support research resources, training, workforce development or diversity building, clinical trials, selected cooperative agreements, SBIR/STTRs, conference grants and the portion of a center grant or a P01 that is strictly a core. In addition, a MIRA PI may receive grants from other NIH institutes or centers, although when making funding decisions NIGMS always considers an investigator’s other support, as described on our Funding Policies page.

More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is on the MIRA page.

Meeting Showcases Innovations in Biomedical Graduate Education

NIGMS Symposium on Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education

NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch addresses attendees at the symposium, which is available on videocast.

On April 11, more than 150 people from across the country (plus many via videocast) participated in the NIGMS Symposium on Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education. The goals of the meeting were to convene stakeholders to continue the momentum for positive change within the biomedical graduate education community and to showcase innovative experiments and approaches in Ph.D. training.

The morning session featured presentations highlighting the training expectations of graduate students, institutional approaches to reshaping graduate education programs and attributes employers look for when hiring early career scientists. These talks converged on the theme of ensuring that graduate education equips Ph.D. students with the scientific and professional skills they need to be successful in their careers.

After a presentation focusing on assessing the effectiveness of educational innovations, the speakers in the afternoon session described a variety of experiments in graduate education that are currently under way in various settings. The nine innovations featured in this session were augmented by an additional 32 posters presented during the lunch period.

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Webinar on Training Grant Supplements

NIGMS Staff Participating in the February 8 Webinar

Jon Lorsch, Director, NIGMS

Alison Gammie, Director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Shiva Singh, Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Kris Willis, Program Director, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

Lisa Moeller, Grants Management Officer

UPDATE: To join this meeting, visit Webinar on Administrative Supplements to T32 Grants, PA-16-060 and click “OK.” The site is compatible with mobile devices. For a voice-only presentation, call 1-888-469-2151 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the access code 8911526.

We’ll field your questions about the recently announced Availability of Administrative Supplements to NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grants during a webinar on Monday, Feb. 8, from 3:15-4:15 p.m. EST. Details about how to access the webinar online will be available soon. You can send questions to me ahead of time.

Since announcing this funding opportunity, we’ve received many inquiries. The following points address most of the common questions:

  • The supplement is designed to provide support for the development and implementation of curricular activities aimed at providing graduate students with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting reproducible and rigorous research.
  • To be eligible, your training grant must be active through at least June 30, 2018. Thus, training grants that might have received outstanding priority scores and are expected to be renewed effective July 1, 2016, are NOT eligible.

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Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education

A major overhaul of how we educate graduate students in biomedical research is long overdue.

Science has changed dramatically over the past three decades. The amount of information available about biological systems has grown exponentially. New methods allow us to examine the inner workings of cells with unprecedented resolution and to generate expansive datasets describing the expression of every mRNA or metabolite in a system. Biomedical research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and the questions we seek to answer are more and more complex. Finally, as the scientific enterprise has expanded, Ph.D.s have pursued increasingly diverse careers in the research and development, education and related sectors.

Despite these major changes, we educate Ph.D. students in biomedical research in essentially the same way as we did 25 or more years ago. As Alan Leshner put it in a recent editorial Exit icon in Science magazine, “It is time for the scientific and education communities to take a more fundamental look at how graduate education in science is structured and consider, given the current environment, whether a major reconfiguration of the entire system is needed.”

Problems related to the reproducibility and rigor of scientific studies Exit icon are likely driven in part by the inadequacies of an outdated system for educating our trainees. When nearly any student can sequence hundreds of millions of bases of DNA in a few days, does it make sense that all of our students are not given a significant amount of training in quantitative and computational analyses? And as we delve into more complex biological systems, shouldn’t students be receiving in-depth training in rigorous experimental design and data interpretation before they embark on their thesis work?

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Outcomes Analysis of the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program

We recently analyzed outcomes of the NIGMS Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (referred to here as the Diversity Supplement Program or DSP), which provides investigators holding active NIGMS research grants with supplemental funds to support scholars from groups underrepresented in biomedical science. Using a public search approach, we could track a large proportion of participants—but not all—through doctoral training and into various careers. We assessed the educational and career outcomes for undergraduate, graduate student and postdoctoral participants supported by supplements between 1989 and 2006, and we encourage you to explore the report.

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Funding Opportunities for Predoctoral Training

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

Jointly Sponsored Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Predoctoral Training Program in the Neurosciences (T32)
(PAR-15-178)

Purpose: Prepare predoctoral students for independent research careers in the neurosciences
Letter of intent due dates: 30 days prior to the application due date
Application due dates: June 10, 2015; May 25, 2016; May 25, 2017
NIGMS contact: Stephen Korn, 301-496-4188

Availability of Administrative Supplements to NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grants (Admin Supp)
(PA-15-136)

Purpose: Request supplemental funds to existing predoctoral training grants to develop and implement curricular activities to enhance rigor and reproducibility in research and broaden training activities to better prepare students for a variety of scientific career paths
Application due date: April 30, 2015
NIGMS contact: Shiva Singh, 301-594-3900

Funding Opportunities: Administrative Supplements for Equipment; Pathway to Independence Award; Big Data Training

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

NIGMS Program of Administrative Supplements for Equipment
(PA-15-089)

Purpose: Request supplemental funds to existing NIGMS-funded R01, R37, P01, and U01 grants for the purchase of single pieces of equipment whose direct costs are between $50,000 and $250,000
Application due date: March 3, 2015
NIGMS contact: Anthony Carter, 301-594-0943

NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00)
(PA-15-083)

Purpose: Help postdoctoral researchers complete mentored training; transition to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions; and launch competitive, independent research careers
Application due date: Standard dates apply
NIGMS contacts:
Oleg Barski, PPBC, 301-594-3827
Paula Flicker, CBB, 301-594-0828
Michelle Hamlet, GDB, 301-594-0943
Stephen Marcus, BBCB, 301-594-2987
Michael Sesma, TWD, 301-594-3900

Biomedical Big Data Training

  • NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Enhancing Diversity in Biomedical Data Science (R25)
    (RFA-MD-15-005)

    Purpose: Provide undergraduate students from underrepresented groups hands-on exposure to big data research experiences; obtain professional training and skills in big data science

Letter of intent due date: February 19, 2015
Application due date: March 19, 2015

  • NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Biomedical Data Science Training Coordination Center (U24)
    (RFA-ES-15-004)Purpose: Develop a network of scientists involved in biomedical big data science and produce a discovery index that serves as a primary source for personalized access to publicly available biomedical data science educational resources
  • NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative Research Education: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Data Management for Biomedical Big Data (R25)
    (RFA-LM-15-001)Purpose: Develop an open, online educational course that covers a comprehensive set of topics related to the management of biomedical big data
  • NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative Research Education: Open Educational Resources for Sharing, Annotating and Curating Biomedical Big Data (R25)(RFA-LM-15-002)

    Purpose: Develop open educational resources that cover concepts, approaches, relevant use cases and requirements for sharing, annotating and curating biomedical big data

Letter of intent due date: February 17, 2015
Application due date: March 17, 2015