Beware the New NIH Appendix Policy and How to Navigate the Changes

Trying to navigate changes in NIH grant application policy can be a daunting task. Moreover, when these policy changes bypass the radar of applicants, the result can be an unwelcome outcome. This was the case most recently for many grant applicants who did not follow the new NIH policy limiting the types of appendix materials allowed for applications with due dates on or after January 25, 2017. This policy was first advertised last August to allow sufficient time for applicants to absorb the change. Unfortunately, many of the grant applications assigned to NIGMS came in for the January 25 receipt date with non-compliant appendix materials, resulting in their withdrawal by NIH. We at NIGMS are very aware of the pain and frustration felt by applicants and institutional authorized officials when applications are withdrawn. In the hope of minimizing the number of withdrawals due to non-compliant appendices for upcoming receipt dates, here are some important reminders:

  1. Under the new policy, almost nothing is allowed as appendix material unless specifically requested in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
  2. The few remaining materials that are still allowed are very specialized and do not apply to most FOAs.
  3. If the FOA you apply for is one that does allow or specifically requests certain types of appendix materials, be sure to include only what is allowed. If you include any additional materials, your application will be considered non-compliant and will almost certainly be withdrawn.
  4. Do not use application sections that have unrestricted page limits (e.g., the Other Attachments section) as a surrogate location for appendix materials that are no longer allowed because this also will result in your application being withdrawn as non-compliant.
  5. Lastly, be sure you are reading the most up-to-date versions of the FOA and SF424 instructions, as the materials that are and are not allowed in an application may have changed from previous versions.

One of the best resources to help you stay on top of new and upcoming changes is the Notices of NIH Policy Changes on the Office of Extramural Research website—please check this site frequently. And, as always, NIGMS program and review staff are available to answer any questions.

Webinar for Students and Fellows Interested in NIGMS’ Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program

UPDATE: The video and slides from the PRAT Program webinar have been posted.

We’re hosting a webinar for potential applicants to the PRAT Program on Tuesday, March 28, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. EDT. PRAT is a three-year program providing outstanding laboratory research experiences in NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP), access to NIH’s extensive resources, mentorship, career development activities and networking. The program places special emphasis on training fellows in basic biomedical research areas including cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, computational biology, immunology, neuroscience, technology development and bioinformatics.

The next receipt date for applications is October 3, 2017.  Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or postdoctoral fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2018). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.

To attend the webinar, join the Skype meeting shortly before 12:00 p.m. EDT and enter the conference ID 8368072. You can also attend by phone by calling 301-480-4255. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.

We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.

NIH Staff Participating in March 28 Webinar

Jessica Faupel-Badger, Director, NIGMS PRAT Program

Kenneth Gibbs, Program Director, NIGMS

Erika Ginsburg, NCI Authorized Organization Representative/Signing Official

Webinar for RISE Program Applicants

UPDATE: The slides from the RISE Program Applicants webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an institutional RISE grant application, you might have questions about the funding opportunity announcement and data tables required for the upcoming May 25 receipt date. We’ll be available to discuss these topics during a webinar on Thursday, April 6, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. EDT. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter meeting number 624 498 694 and the password “RISE2017.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-877-668-4493 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the RISE program.

NIGMS Staff Participating in April 6 Webinar

Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity:

Anissa Brown, Program Director

Luis Cubano, Program Director

Shiva Singh, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch Chief

Office of Scientific Review:

Rebecca Johnson, Scientific Review Officer

Division of Extramural Activities:

Susan South, Grants Management Specialist

Webinar for MARC U-STAR Program Applicants

UPDATE: The slides from the MARC U-STAR program applicants webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an institutional MARC U-STAR grant application, you might have questions about the funding opportunity announcement and data tables required for the upcoming May 25 receipt date. We’ll be available to discuss these topics during a webinar on Wednesday, March 22, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. EDT. You may send questions to me before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter meeting number 624 460 843 and the password “NIGMS.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-877-668-4493 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.

NIGMS Staff Participating in March 22 Webinar

Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity:

Sailaja Koduri, Program Director

Luis Cubano, Program Director

Shiva Singh, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch Chief

Office of Scientific Review:

Rebecca Johnson, Scientific Review Officer

Division of Extramural Activities:

Lori Burge, Grants Management Officer

Webinar for Bridges Applicants

UPDATE: The slides from the Bridges Webinar and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions have been posted.

Are you preparing an institutional Bridges to the Baccalaureate or Bridges to the Doctorate grant application? If so, you may have questions about the funding opportunity announcements, data tables and FORMS-D package required for the upcoming September 25 receipt date.

We’re offering a webinar for Bridges applicants on Thursday, August 18, from 1:15-2:45 p.m. EDT. You may send questions to us (Mercedes Rubio or Patrick H. Brown) before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event. If you’re away from your computer, you can access the webinar from a mobile device or listen to a voice-only option by dialing 1-888-390-0690 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the participant passcode 6253723.

We look forward to talking to you about the Bridges programs.

NIGMS Staff Participating in August 18 Webinar

Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity:

Alison Gammie, Director

Shiva Singh, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch Chief

Mercedes Rubio, Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program Director

Patrick H. Brown, Bridges to the Doctorate Program Director

Sailaja Koduri, Program Director

Office of Scientific Review:

Brian Pike, Acting Chief

Rebecca Johnson, Scientific Review Officer

Division of Extramural Activities:

Justin Rosenzweig, Grants Management Specialist

Five Reasons to Submit a Cover Letter with Your Grant Application

I recently attended a scientific meeting where I had the opportunity to talk with investigators at all stages of their scientific careers. I was surprised to learn that many didn’t know that they could submit a cover letter with their electronic grant application. Here I briefly explain some reasons to provide a cover letter, including situations that require one.

1. Suggest a particular review group for your application.

The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) assigns applications to scientific review groups (SRGs), but sometimes an application could be a scientific match for more than one study section. In a cover letter, you can request assignment to a particular study section and explain why you think that study section would be the best fit. Appropriate assignment requests are honored in the majority of cases. Study section descriptions, recent study section rosters and the NIH RePORTER database of funded grants can help you identify an SRG suitable for your application.

2. Suggest a particular institute or center (IC) for funding your research.

Your research might be relevant to the mission of more than one NIH IC. You can use a cover letter to suggest that your application be assigned to a specific IC. The NIH RePORTER database is a good place to investigate the types of research supported by different ICs. Before making a request in a cover letter, you should also consult with program officers at the IC to determine whether your application would be an appropriate scientific match.

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Webinar to Answer Your Questions About the New Research Training Tables

UPDATE: The webinar slides and answers to frequently asked questions are available.

NIGMS Staff Participating in March 8 Webinar

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

Dick Okita, Program Director, Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

John Laffan, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

Lisa Newman, Scientific Review Officer, Office of Scientific Review

If you’re preparing an institutional training grant application, you might have questions about the new research training tables required for receipt dates on or after the one coming up on May 25. We’ll field these questions during a webinar on Tuesday, March 8, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST. You can send questions to me or post them here before the webinar.

The revisions reduce the number of tables from 12 to 8, minimize the reporting of individual-level information and extend the tracking of trainee outcomes from 10 to 15 years. Table 8A must also be used to prepare annual progress reports. Table formats, instructions and samples are available on the NIH website.

To access the webinar, visit https://face2face.nih.gov/hope.mabry/7GZSC5SY Exit icon and click “OK.” If you’re away from your computer, you can access the site from a mobile device. You can also listen to a voice-only option by calling 1-888-390-0678 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering access code 50106.

We look forward to talking to you about the new training tables.

Impact Score Paragraph in Summary Statements, Plain Language in Public Sections of Grant Applications

Extramural NexusThe August issue of NIH’s Extramural Nexus includes two announcements that might interest you.

Impact Score Paragraph in Summary Statements

Starting with September grant application reviews, reviewers will include a summary paragraph to explain what factors they considered in assigning the overall impact score. This should help investigators better understand the reasons for the score.

Plain Language in Public Sections of Grant Applications

The director’s column talks about the importance of communicating research value in your grant application.

Your grant title, abstract and statement of public health relevance are very important. Once a grant is funded, these items are available to the public through NIH’s RePORTER database. Many people are interested in learning about research supported with taxpayer dollars, so I encourage you to be clear and accurate in writing these parts of your application. Reviewers are being told to expect plain language in these sections.

The Nexus column includes links to these helpful resources: