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April 28, 2010

News Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

News Articles

It's More Critical Than Ever to Request a Study Section and Institute

In this era of very tight paylines and only one resubmission, it's vital to have your application reviewed by the right study section on your first try.

With a little leg work, you can boost the chances that your application reaches its most suitable audience.

If you do not request assignment to a study section, NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will do it for you, but sometimes applications end up in a sub-optimal study section where they fare poorly in peer review.

When that happens, PIs must decide whether to resubmit to the original study section or find a more appropriate one. If they go the latter route, the first time the new group sees the application is the PI's last chance to get it funded.

CSR bases assignments on its referral criteria, relying on referral staff and knowledge management techniques to make the match.

Given the emphasis on multidisciplinary applications and emerging science, it's becoming more difficult for CSR to identify the best study section. With a little leg work, you can boost the chances that your application reaches its most suitable audience.

Meet Your Match

When you request assignment to a study section in your cover letter, you help ensure that the best and most appropriate people review your application.

Look for a study section where some members know you or your collaborators' work and potential. If a study section member's work is relevant, cite it in the Bibliography and References Cited section of an electronic application. (Do not name anyone in your cover letter—if you request a reviewer, that person will be barred from reviewing your application.)

The more familiar the study section is with your work, the more likely your application will be reviewed by people with appropriate expertise. If a study section seems right and you don't recognize anyone, read some papers by the members to make sure, or ask a program officer or scientific review officer for advice.

Whether or not you request a study section, state in your cover letter the expertise needed to understand and review your application.

NIH policy also allows you to list people who should not review your application and the reason (for example, they are competitors). Be sure to inform the scientific review officer as well.

Read more about what to include in Create a Cover Letter in the Strategy for NIH Funding. Search for a study section on the Center for Scientific Review main page, or go to CSR Study Section Roster Index.

For guidelines and formats for making a request and an example of an acceptable one, go to Requesting an Institute and Study Section in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Targeting an Institute

Some of the same principles hold true for requesting an institute. Though you do not have to make this request, an assignment to an institute that is enthusiastic about your research may improve your funding chances.

To learn where your application might fit, contact an NIAID program officer and ask these questions:

  • Does the application fit any of our funding opportunity announcements or other areas of interest?
  • Do we use an activity code (e.g., K22) you want to apply for?
  • Do we have Institute-specific criteria for referring an application here?

If not interested in an application's science, some institutes would not fund it even if it ranks within the payline (NIAID does not have this policy).

For more information, see It’s a Good Idea to Request an Institute and Study Section in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Learn more about the assignment process in Ensure You Get the Right Assignments in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

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ARRA Success Stories—Tell Us Your Tale

Let us know how ARRA has helped your research, your lab, your colleagues.

Have you benefited from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?  Let us know how ARRA has helped your research, your lab, your colleagues.

After you fill out our short form at How Have ARRA Funds Helped You?, we will feature your story on our ARRA Success Stories page.

Thanks again to those who have already shared their stories showing how ARRA is making a difference.

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Take a Hard Line Approach to ARRA Reporting

The White House has redoubled its efforts to get award recipients to provide accurate reports on time.

Take extra care with your ARRA reporting through FederalReporting.Gov.

The White House has redoubled efforts to get award recipients to provide accurate reports on time.

It's going so far as to give NIH's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, permission to terminate and suspend awards, reclaim funds, and "further intensify [its] efforts to improve reporting compliance" with ARRA.

Should you worry?

Not if you're on top of your work, which seems to be the case. According to the last numbers we received from NIH, the compliance rate for NIAID grantee institutions is high—a testament to your diligence.

That's great news, and we urge you to keep it up.

Though we do not help you with FederalReporting.Gov requirements, we have information about your responsibilities. For help, go to Special Reporting Requirements on What You Need to Do if You Get Stimulus Funds.

For more instructions and news about compliance, see NIH's Recovery Act Recipient Reporting and HHS's Recovery Act Recipient Reporting Readiness Tool.

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NIH's xTrain: All Aboard!

Starting January 1, 2011, use xTrain to submit appointment forms and termination notices for NIAID training, fellowship, and career development awards.

Get ready to board xTrain.

NIH requires you to use this eRA Commons module starting January 1, 2011, to submit appointment forms and termination notices for training, fellowship, educational, and career development awards.

Though xTrain is a must for several grant types, NIAID grantees use it for only the following:

Some trainees are already familiar with xTrain since NIH opened it up to Commons users last year. If you're just jumping on board and don't have a Commons account, be sure to get one by asking your institutional business official to register you.

You should also review instructions and training resources on the xTrain Web site. Find out more in the March 30, 2010, Guide notice.

Opportunities and Resources

Cures Acceleration Network Awards: We CAN

Starting with its sunny-side acronym, CAN—the Cures Acceleration Network—aims big: to speed the development of new drugs, biologics, and devices for the most troublesome or neglected diseases.

The legislation gives NIH new authorities but does not provide additional dollars. We'll let you know more as soon as we have more information on that front.

CAN is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform legislation that President Obama signed into law on March 23.

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Get a Supplement for Your Work at a PEPFAR Site

If you're researching HIV/AIDS at a PEPFAR-funded site, here is your chance to get a one-year administrative supplement of up to $500,000 for your NIH grant.

NIH will fund about 35 supplements to conduct HIV/AIDS implementation science research. See the April 5, 2010, Guide notice for more information.

Advice Corner

Mind Your Financial Conflicts of Interest

NIH may take punitive action against institutions that fail to follow the rules.

You've heard it before, but it's so important that we're giving you another reminder to take financial conflicts of interest seriously.

Key points to remember include:

  • Your institution is responsible for tracking and mitigating or eliminating conflicts. As we wrote in our January 13, 2010, article "Protect Your Funding—Look Out for Financial Conflicts of Interest," NIH may take punitive action against institutions that fail to follow the rules.
  • When submitting a new application, don't describe financial conflicts of interest. Your institution sends us a report assuring us that it has mitigated or eliminated conflicts before you spend any grant funds.
  • Reports go through the Financial Conflict of Interest Module in the eRA Commons. For more on that, read last year's Funding Newsletter article "Submit FCOI Reports in the Commons."

NIAID just needs to know that conflicts don't bias your research. For more details, see our Financial Conflicts of Interest for Awardees SOP and check out the tutorials at the bottom of that page.

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Reader Questions

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

"Is a medical license required for K22 and K23 awards?"—Francisco J. Leyva, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

NIAID requires that you have a medical license for a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) but not for a Research Scholar Development Award (K22).

"At the end of an F32 grant, may a fellow take equipment (i.e., laptop computer) purchased with the award?"—an anonymous reader

Generally, the grantee institution decides what to do with supplies and equipment purchased for research purposes.

But check with your business office to see what your institution does since different institutions are subject to different rules from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), called cost principles.

For more information, read the equipment and supplies section of the NIH Grants Policy Statement. Also see OMB's Grants Management Circulars and the Code of Federal Regulation's 45 CFR 74.35 and 45 CFR 74.34.

"I am applying for a K23 grant and meet the current training qualifications for responsible conduct of research. Could you tell me if my plan for continued training is appropriate?"—Maile Young, University of California, San Diego

This is a peer review issue, so we can't comment on what reviewers would determine as acceptable. However, you may want to read the section on Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research in the Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) program announcement.

We cover the points your plan must address in our Responsible Conduct of Research: Training SOP.

If you have additional questions, contact our Office of Special Populations and Research Training at

"If I apply for and receive an R21, am I still eligible to apply for a mentored K award?"—Jordan Lake, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

Yes. You can apply for a mentored career development award—K01, K08, K23, or K25—if you receive an exploratory/developmental research (R21) grant.

Keep in mind, however, that if you receive a mentored K award, you cannot get a salary from the R21 until the last two years of the K award. In addition, you need to devote nine person months to the research proposed in your career award.

Find resources in Career Development Awards in our Advice on Research Training and Career Awards and on our Training and Career portal.

New Funding Opportunities

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated January 12, 2012

Last Reviewed April 28, 2010