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March 31, 2010

News Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

News Articles

R01 Paylines Rise, Possibly Final

Last week, R01 paylines inched up to the 10 percentile for established investigators and the 16 percentile for new investigators.

We are still calling these interim paylines, although they could become our final paylines for the fiscal year.

As we've told you before, this year it is especially difficult to set definitive paylines. Read more in our next article and "A Budget Uptick for FY 2010" and "What's Happening With Paylines?" in our previous issues.

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Compressed Scores, Another Complexity for Paylines

Score clustering creates distortions that can blur the payline picture.

Looking at scores coming out of peer review this year, we're seeing an increase in score clustering, which happens when reviewers assign many applications the same overall impact score.

This trend is making it more difficult for us to set and implement paylines.

We don't know for sure why reviews result in clustered scores, but several factors are likely at play.

First, reviewers now vote in whole integers instead of tenths, so fewer points on the scale mean more ties.

And when reviewers are in consensus on scientific merit, scores—especially better scores—can pile up at round numbers; more on that later. Historically, reviewers have tended to give applications in their study sections increasingly better scores, a phenomenon known as score creep, which exacerbates score compression.

Distorting the Breakpoints

Whatever the cause of score clustering, its effect is to blur the payline picture by distorting percentiles. Let's see how that works.

NIH began percentiling to spread out scores across all the possible ratings. But when reviews result in many tie-scored applications, the next score jumps several percentile points.

Here's an example (assume our R01 payline is the 10 percentile).

In one study section, overall impact scores are clustered at 20, which translates to the 9 percentile. That study section has 8 ties, all of which get a percentile of 9. Because of that clustering, 21, the next score, skips a point to a percentile of 11, which is above the payline. Hence the distortion.

In contrast, when few applications score at a given level, several scores can get the same percentile. For example in the same study section, overall impact scores of 13 to 15 all translate to the 2 percentile.

Lately, we have seen a disproportionate number of overall impact scores at 10, 20, and 30. In the first two review cycles of this fiscal year, approximately 3 percent of applications reviewed by CSR received a score of 20. See the illustration below.

Illustration of Recent Score Distributions

Illustration of score distributions. The spikes in the illustration are summarized above.

Multiply the scenario described above for several study sections, and you can see the uncertainty we face when calculating the number of awards we will have at a given percentile.

Hitting a Moving Target

For paylines, it's harder to pin down a number when scores bunch together. Large numbers of clustered applications could easily shift the payline a point or so later in the fiscal year, which we cannot foresee today.

For these reasons we do not expect to have final paylines until after we see the peer review outcomes of applications going to May Council.

Read more about other factors that are making it difficult to set final FY 2010 paylines in our January 13, 2010, Funding Newsletter article "What's Happening With Paylines?"

Learn more about how percentiling works, the effects of score distribution, and the moving three-review-cycle window on percentiles at Understand Paylines and Percentiles in Strategy for Funding Decisions in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

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New Plans for Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trials

R34 planning grants will be optional; some investigators will be able to submit a milestone-driven R01.

After a lengthy examination of our policy, we designed a new approach for investigator-initiated clinical trials: the R34 planning grant will be optional, and we will support implementation awards through R01s in addition to cooperative agreement U01s.

Here are the key features:

  • A planning grant (R34) will be an option for investigators who need a planning period funded by NIAID.
  • We will require a U01 for a clinical trial we define as high risk, and applicants are ready to start the research.
  • If a clinical trial is not high risk and the investigators are ready to start, applicants will submit a milestone-driven R01 application.
  • Applications must respond to the NIAID funding opportunity announcements; they will be reviewed in NIAID.

Whether or not you have had an R34, you must show you are ready to begin the clinical trial. Criteria for readiness will depend on the level of risk to participants.

You will continue to need our preapproval for all three application types—R34, U01, and R01—before you may apply.

We expect to issue new NIH Guide notices shortly for the Institute-specific program announcements.

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In Line for Award? Get Your Documents in ASAP

If you are unable to give us your just-in-time documents in time, we may remove you from our funding list.

More so this year than any other, NIAID needs your prompt response if we ask for documentation necessary to make your award.

Get your just-in-time documents together right away if your application is anywhere near our payline, and send them to us right away if we contact you. For more on that, see Prepare Your Just-In-Time Information in Part 5. Assignment and Review in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Late paylines have compressed our schedule for negotiating and making awards. On top of that, noncompeting applications plus new ARRA awards have added to the workload crunch.

As we did last year, NIAID has brought in temporary help to alleviate some of the strain. Nevertheless, the next six months will be difficult.

If you are unable to give us your documents in time, we may remove you from our funding list. There's just no other way to complete our business by September 30, as required by law.

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Stay on Top of ARRA Policies

Recently, we've seen a lot of policy activity on the ARRA front.

Here's a brief summary of the hubbub with links to pages that can tell you more.

Pay Attention When Submitting Your Financial Report

Combine ARRA administrative supplements and revisions into one Federal Financial Report. Keep ARRA reports separate from your parent grant's.

The following information applies only to financial reporting documents that you submit at the end of your ARRA grant.

  • If you have a non-ARRA grant with more than one ARRA administrative supplement or revision (competing supplement):
    • Combine the ARRA portions into a single Federal Financial Report after the last supplement or revision ends.
    • Be sure to keep this information separate from your parent grant's financial reporting information.
  • If you have an ARRA supplement to an ARRA grant, keep all your information together and submit one report at the end of your project period.

To read about this in more detail, see the March 17, 2010, Guide notice.

Avoid Quarterly Reporting Problems

NIH released guidance to help you sidestep common errors when you file your quarterly report through FederalReporting.gov.

The guidance also tells you how to correctly identify your award number on a noncompeting application (It's more complicated than you might think).

See the March 19, 2010, Guide notice for more information. Your business office should have already received an email from NIH explaining what to do.

Go to NIH's Recovery Act Recipient Reporting site for instructions, FAQs, and other resources to help you navigate the process. Though we offer some advice at What You Need to Do if You Get Stimulus Funds, NIAID is not involved in your quarterly reporting.

No-Cost Extensions—Tread Lightly

You can take one no-cost extension—we will approve additional extensions in extremely dire circumstances only.

If you have an ARRA award and haven't already spent your money, do so as soon as possible.

Though we do not expect you to take a no-cost extension for your ARRA grant, you have the option as a term of award. Keep in mind that we will approve additional extensions in extremely dire circumstances only.

For more on NIH's no-cost extension policy for ARRA awards, see the March 17, 2010, Guide notice.

Extra Information for Summer Supplements

Don't forget that for summer supplements, your progress report has to include special information for each person your grant supported.

To get the details, see Scientific Progress Reporting on Administrative Supplements Providing Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Educators, or read the March 17, 2010, Guide notice.

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CSR College Brings New Approach to Peer Review

College of CSR Reviewers gives people a chance to be involved in peer review without the travel and time commitment required of study section members.

Though not part of basketball's March Madness, a new "college" is nonetheless focused on scoring and teamwork.

The College of CSR Reviewers from NIH's Center for Scientific Review brings together experienced peer reviewers to evaluate larger, more complex grant applications under an editorial board framework.

Launched last December, the College offers two principal benefits. For reviewers, a chance to be involved in peer review without the travel and time commitment required of study section members. For CSR, a ready resource for matching reviewers and applications.

In a process akin to journal reviews, reviewers have two weeks to evaluate one grant application in their area of expertise (they can expect up to 12 applications a year for two years). For each proposal, they conduct the first stage of a two-stage review, an approach already used for multidisciplinary research applications. To find out more, see Frequently Asked Questions.

Since announcing the College, CSR has enrolled its freshman class of reviewers. See the list of Members.

More invitations to join are slated to go out later this year. As a College reviewer, you'll receive an honorarium and may be eligible for continuous submission, as described in the October 1, 2009, Guide notice.

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Let Us Know How You Like the New Application Forms

Your comments will help us write initiatives that make it easier for you to fit your proposal into the shorter page limits.

Have you used the new application forms? Give NIAID your feedback at jsacchetti@niaid.nih.gov.

Your comments will help us write initiatives that make it easier for you to fit your proposal into the shorter page limits. We'll also pass along your comments to staff at the eRA Commons.

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Keep the Error Correction Window Open? Have Your Say

You have until April 19, 2010, to submit your comments.

Attention grant applicants: the future of the error correction window is on the line.

NIH, along with CDC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is thinking of closing the window permanently but wants your input before taking action.

As you might know, the window gives you time after a due date to address errors or warnings that result from eRA Commons validation. Though usually two business days, NIH extended it to five for receipt dates on or before May 7, 2010. See the January 8, 2010, Guide notice for more on that.

Now imagine if you didn't have this cushion. How would it affect you? If eliminated, how quickly—or slowly—do you think agencies should implement the change?

Gather your thoughts and send your feedback because NIH is considering getting rid of the correction window within the year. You have until April 19, 2010, to submit; use the Request for Comments form.

For further details, including the rationale behind the proposed change, see the March 18, 2010, Guide notice.

To learn more about Commons validation, read Next Step: eRA Commons Validation in Strategy for a Successful Submission in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Opportunities and Resources

Get Funding for Research Beyond U.S. Borders With FP7, MEPI

These opportunities offer funding for research projects abroad.

Do you want funding for research projects abroad? Maybe these opportunities will help.

EU Lets In U.S. Investigators

After years of restrictions on U.S. access to European Union research funding, the door has cracked open.

You now have some opportunities to get support for investigator-initiated research or research partnerships with investigators in the EU through its Seventh Framework Programme, also called FP7.

U.S. investigators can apply for health and biomedical research funding from the following programs:

  • Ideas—supports individual investigators in cutting-edge frontier research.  You have to perform your research in an EU country.
  • Cooperation—supports collaborative projects between research teams. You have to partner with an EU investigator.

The EU's change in policy is the fruit of a 2008 agreement between NIH and the European Commission. For more on that, see NIH's letter to Science magazine, "European Union and NIH Collaborate."

Medical Education Partnership in Sub-Saharan Africa

For those who want to expand the models of medical education in sub-Saharan Africa, we have good news.

If you're at a foreign institution, you can get up to $2,000,000 in annual total costs over five years for projects that fall under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Or, you can receive up to $500,000 in annual total costs over five years for work on other areas of research, such as women's health or environmental concerns. See The Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) for more information.

Our Foundations List Has More

Don't forget about NIAID's List of Foundations and Other Funding Sources. We have links to non-NIH opportunities, including those in other countries.

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ARRA Opportunities Are Fewer, But You May Still Find Funding

You still have a few chances to get ARRA funding, but deadlines are fast approaching.

We're coming down ARRA's home stretch, and while submission dates have passed for many opportunities, you still have a few chances to get ARRA funding.

If the following funding opportunities interest you, act now—deadlines are fast approaching.

Be a Pathfinder

If you have a truly innovative way to increase diversity in the biomedical research workforce, think about The NIH Director's ARRA Funded Pathfinder Award to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce (DP4).

You can get up to $2 million in total costs over three years, but keep in mind that you have to look at new approaches to studying workforce diversity, not pursue ongoing research.

Last Call for Supplements

If you want a one-year ARRA administrative supplement, get your request to NIAID by April 16.  That goes for summer intern supplements, too.

For instructions, eligibility, and other general information, go to Details on NIAID's ARRA Administrative Supplements.

Keep Checking the List

It may still be worth your time to check NIAID Participation in NIH ARRA Opportunities, which has all of NIH's opportunities (not just NIAID's). Though ARRA is winding down, NIH may come out with new ways to get funding.

We also send out Email Alerts for opportunities—choose NIAID and the Economic Recovery Act (ARRA) when you Subscribe.

Advice Corner

Reader Questions

Feel free to send us a question at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov. After responding to you, we may include your question in the newsletter, incorporate it into the NIAID Research Funding site, or both.

"Must biosketches of collaborators have PMCID numbers for their publications?"—an anonymous reader

You must use a PMCID number for a publication if NIH funded the research, and the paper is covered by the Public Access Policy—go to NIH's Determine Applicability.

NIH's Public Access Frequently Asked Questions notes that the policy applies to subagreements such as those between a grantee and a collaborator. Read more in our Public Access of Publications SOP.

"After submitting an application, how long does it take to get Commons approval?"—an anonymous reader

Commons validation may take up to 24 hours. Read Next Step: eRA Commons Validation in Strategy for a Successful Submission in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

See Check Submission Status for details on how to monitor your application's progress.

"Does NIAID offer any programs like the NIH Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration?"—Stephanie Panichello, The George Washington University

Unfortunately, we don't have live training for domestic applicants or grantees. However, all our best advice is online in our tutorials.

As a new investigator, you may want to start with the New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding. For more detailed grant writing help, see the Strategy for NIH Funding, one of our All About Grants Tutorials.

In case you spot them in a search, NIAID also holds NIH Grants Policy and Management Training Workshops, but they are geared to the unique challenges that foreign grantees face. You'd probably do best with the online tutorials we mention above.

New Funding Opportunities

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated January 12, 2012

Last Reviewed March 31, 2010