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March 2, 2011

Articles

Reader Questions

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Recent NIAID Funding Blog Posts.

NIH Is Done With Second Resubmissions.

February 7 has come and gone, and with it the opportunity to submit a second resubmission. From now on, you get only one chance to revise and resubmit. (While January 7 marked that last date for many applicants, a small portion could submit until February 7).

For our advice on resubmitting or going in a new direction, go to Part 6. If Not Funded in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

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ARRA Reporting — Not Over Until We Close Out Your Award.

Think ARRA reporting is finished because you’ve spent all your money?

Not so fast. Until NIH closes out your award, your institution still has to report data to FederalReporting.Gov each quarter — even if you didn’t spend a dime.

When your institution does close out your award, keep the following instructions in mind for administrative supplements or revisions to non-ARRA awards:

  • Submit closeout documents for the ARRA portion even if the parent grant continues.
  • Combine ARRA spending data for the same project period into a single, combined Federal Financial Report.

For more information on both your reporting and closeout activities, go to NIH’s Recovery Act Recipient Reporting. Pay particular attention to the references under “Related NIH Guide Notices” — those documents contain specific instructions for the closeout process.

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Move Your Work Forward with NIAID’s “Omics” Resources.

This is another in our series of articles highlighting resources for researchers from NIAID’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID).

NIAID’s “Omics” resources can advance your infectious diseases research and help you identify new targets for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

You can get approved services at no charge and order reagents for a nominal shipping and handling fee. Programs are open to investigators who may be anywhere in the world in academia, government, industry, or a not-for-profit organization (though some products and services have eligibility requirements).

Take a look at what you can do:

  • Access data and analytic tools, for example, to support your work in proteomics and genomics, including functional genomics.
  • Obtain reagents — antibodies, bacterial strains, clones, etc.
  • Request services and collaborative projects related to the following:
    • Protein biomarkers.
    • Sequencing.
    • 3-dimensional structures.
    • Pathogen bioinformatics.

Go to Omics Research Tools and Technologies for links to our programs and contact Dr. Malu Polanski to discuss tapping the potential of these resources.

We’ll train the spotlight on some of these offerings in future NIAID Funding Blog posts.

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Two Acts and the Cost of Select Agent Research.

Have the USA Patriot Act and the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act raised the cost of conducting select agent research?

A report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) analyzes this question, and NIAID did its own evaluation for comparison. The results may surprise you.

Behind the PNAS Report

Published in May, the report studies the results of a bibliometric analysis to determine the two Acts’ effects on select agent research productivity for all projects funded by the U.S. government.

The authors find a two- to five-fold increase in the cost of conducting select agent research as measured by the number of research papers published per U.S. research dollars awarded.

What Goes Up Does Come Down

As you can see below, data from PNAS show a dramatic increase in the cost of select agent (Anthrax and Ebola) research after 2003. After five years the costs drop significantly, though they remain higher than before the two Acts went into effect.

Costs for the control (Klebsiella) show a slight rise after 2002 before returning to the previous level.

Cost for Each Publication — PNAS Data

Cost for Each Publication -- PNAS Data

NIAID’s Methods

Using our electronic Scientific Portfolio Assistant (eSPA), we replicated the results described above using NIH projects only. We conducted additional analyses to determine if other factors may have influenced the increase.

eSPA is a software program that lets us analyze and manage grant and contract portfolios.

After the two Acts went into effect, a significant number of new research projects got off the ground, so we considered maturity of research project as an additional factor influencing the cost. We created portfolios for the same select agents (Anthrax and Ebola) and control (Klebsiella) as the PNAS report but with two defined start dates:

  • Before 2002 (established research).
  • After 2002 (new research).

The different portfolios and start dates were key to our analysis, allowing us to more accurately determine the effect of the two Acts on cost per publication.

Analysis and Results

Our data below show the cost per publication of new and established research. Significantly, we see that established research does not increase in cost after 2002.

As for new research, the cost per publication in both the select agent and control groups is very expensive in the first four to seven years. We attribute some of this to start-up costs since the cost decreases as time goes on.

Note the data on new research costs for the select agent group. Though declining, costs remain higher compared to the control group (a difference of approximately $200,000 more per publication by 2008).

Cost for Each Publication — NIAID Data

Cost for Each Publication -- NIAID Data

Bottom Line

We conclude that the two Acts had no perceived impact on established research projects but may have an impact on new research projects beyond expected start-up costs.

For more information about NIAID’s analysis, please contact Kevin Wright in the Strategic Planning and Evaluation Branch of our Office of Strategic Planning and Financial Management.

Related Links

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Finishing Touches for Your Application.

This is the sixteenth article in our New Investigator Series.

Previously, we wrote about what it takes to get independent support and how to plan and write your application. In this article, we look at what you need to do after you finish writing. 

Summary

  • Conducting a thorough “inspection” of your application is crucial.
  • Go through our checklist to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape.
  • Always include a cover letter, which can cover a lot of bases for you.

When building or buying a house, it’s a good idea to have an inspector check that everything is A-OK before you move in. Now that you’re done writing your application, think of it as a new home that’s ready for a complete once-over.

As the inspector, you should make sure it’s structurally sound and that all the pieces fit together perfectly before you submit it.

To make your life a little easier, you’ll find pointers here on how to proceed.

Note — to get the most out of our advice, you should be familiar with earlier articles in this series, especially on writing to your audience. See the box below for a list.

Related articles:

See the full list of articles in the new investigator series on the Early-Stage and New Investigators portal.

No Room for Cutting Corners

Giving your application a final, thorough review is crucial. Don’t skip this step since it is absolutely critical to submit the best application you can on the first try. Why, you ask? Two important reasons:

  1. You get only one resubmission. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to start over with a new or greatly revised idea.
  2. With today’s shorter summary statements, you’re less likely to get much reviewer feedback that can help you improve your resubmission.

What’s more, with competition being so stiff, you want to put your best foot forward with an application that looks good and reads well. For more on that, read our previous article “Create an Appealing, Blemish-Free Application.”

Check, Please

Start your “inspection” by checking that the main parts of your application are on target and in sync with one another. Allow time to do this because revisions in one section may trigger other changes. For example, if your budget is out of scope, you may need to adjust your Specific Aims, which will change other parts of your application.

Also give yourself some breathing room to make changes from the people you asked to review your application. For details on timing, see Strategy Timelines in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

To help ensure you don’t overlook anything critical, go over the following Checkpoints.

Checkpoint 1. Always keeping in mind peer reviewers’ perception of the application, make sure that:

  • My Research Plan is written so my reviewers can readily grasp my proposal and can explain it to the others.
  • Other reviewers will understand what I plan.
  • I request a review group that will see the topic as high impact and written for them.
  • My tables and figures have clear legends and can be understood without referring to my text.

Checkpoint 2. Putting the application under the microscope, so to speak, ensures that all key parts are on point. Check that:

  • My Research Plan is strong.
  • I emphasize the impact of my project on its field.
  • All my text supports my conclusions.
    • Could a reader use my facts to reach different conclusions? If so, I should revise so there’s no room for argument, or reconsider my idea.
  • A reviewer would believe I can achieve the Specific Aims within the planned budget and timeframe.
  • My budget is within an appropriate range for my career stage, grant type, and research.
  • I explain the significance of the work to scientific research progress and public health.
  • I explain how my project is innovative.
  • I make a strong case for qualifications of the researchers and institutional support.

Checkpoint 3. When checking for consistency, organization, and other items, be certain:

  • I set aside the application for a few days after writing is completed.
  • The material is well-organized with all elements easy to find.
  • I avoid including confidential information in the title or abstract, and mark any other confidential information to remind reviewers.
  • I reference the latest publications and key findings in my field and support key facts with citations.
  • I use topic sentences that clearly state each main point.
  • The application is visually appealing, with white space and elements such as bullets to break up and organize the text.
  • I cross-check all data and information for consistency, e.g., check information that appears on more than one application form, such as key personnel, resource, consortium, and budget.

Checkpoint 4. It’s wise to get a second look from other “inspectors” since they’ll likely spot additional cracks. Ensure that:

  • I get opinions from internal reviewers — peers, mentors, or my department head — who can assess whether my application stands to make a high impact on its field and that I’ve driven home its impact.
  • I ask for opinions on the writing and presentation as well as the content. The more critical they are, the better.
  • I ask my reviewers to be brutally honest as they analyze the strong and weak points of my application’s content and presentation.
  • I have nonexperts in the field read the application to make sure it’s clear and understandable.
  • I allow at least two weeks for my reviewers to read my application and for me to incorporate their suggestions.
  • My changes are consistent throughout the document.
  • I ask my reviewers to score my application using NIH’s review criteria.

Checkpoint 5. After finding the content satisfactory, check that:

  • I conduct a final edit.
  • I enlist friends and colleagues to help since they will probably find lots of errors I overlooked before.
  • I look for consistency, typos, grammatical mistakes, omitted information, and errors in figures and tables.
  • My work is letter perfect.
    • Edit out redundant words and phrases; make the writing concise and informative.
    • Proofread several times on different occasions, and have others proofread as well, including nonscientists with strong English skills.

Note: If you’re running out of time to do all this and cannot meet the application deadline comfortably, consider delaying to the next receipt date, unless it is the last receipt date for the fiscal year. For more information on this, read “A Long Hard Look at Application Timing” in our New Investigator Series.

Take Cover…Letters Into Consideration

After you’ve finished your inspection, you should decide whether you want to write a cover letter. In some cases, it’s up to you to include one (which we recommend), but in the following cases, you have no choice. For R01 applications, you must have a cover letter for:

  • Resubmissions.
  • Genome-wide association studies or those that plan to access GWAS data in the NIH repository.
  • Late applications. Explain the reason for the delay.
  • Corrected applications. Be sure you include a complete cover letter.

Cover Your Bases With a Cover Letter

Start your letter with a brief description and title of your application. Use the format NIH gives you in the SF 424 Application Guide.

You can use a cover letter to cover bases such as excluding reviewers, listing expertise required to review your application, stating you’ve attached approval letters, and requesting assignment from the Center for Scientific Review to a study section and institute (more on this below).

For details and more examples, see Create a Cover Letter in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

It’s a Good Idea to Request an Institute and Study Section

As you finalize your application, we recommend that you request assignment to an institute and study section. If you do not, NIH will make these assignments for you.

NIH’s Center for Scientific Review bases assignments on its referral criteria, relying on referral staff and knowledge-based technologies to make the match. CSR processes more than 60,000 grant applications each year — you, on the other hand, can afford to take more time to make the best choice.

Since you want CSR to read your request, use the following format:

  • List each request as a separate bullet.
  • List positive and negative requests as separate bullets.
  • Include the name of the institute and scientific review group followed by a dash and the acronym.
  • Explain each request in one to two sentences.

When you request a study section, explain the reason it would be a good match.

Frame your request in positive terms. For example, say that a study section has several people who are interested in your area and qualified to judge your work or point out how the science is a good fit.

Write only a couple of sentences — CSR does not want more — describing the areas of expertise needed to review your application and to justify your choice of study section. Choose carefully since it is your responsibility to pick an appropriate study section.

We go into more detail about identifying an institute and study section in our New Investigator Series article, “Your Application Takes Center Stage.”

Related Links

Header: Feature Articles.

Last Call for Town Hall

Make plans to join the March 7 town hall meeting to discuss NIAID's movement towards a leadership group for infectious diseases other than HIV.

At the town hall, NIAID representatives will define “leadership group” and outline how it fits into our broader infectious diseases research effort.

You'll get to comment on the group's primary focus: to develop and implement a comprehensive clinical research agenda to address bacterial antimicrobial resistance. The group will also be able to respond rapidly to emerging infectious diseases, such as pandemic influenza.

The event is the second public meeting we have hosted on restructuring the HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks in 2013 to extend our existing research infrastructure and build capacity for infectious diseases other than HIV/AIDS.

For meeting details, go to the Town Hall Meeting Agenda; for contacts and registration information, visit Restructuring the NIAID Clinical Trials Networks, where you can also keep track of news, sign up for email alerts, and browse presentations from previous meetings.

If you can't make the town hall and want to have a say in where we're headed, leave a comment on NIAID's AIDS.gov blog post, Toward Defining the Non-HIV Infectious Diseases Leadership Group.

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Learn How Computational Science Can Boost Your Research

Do you know how computational modeling may enhance your immunological research?

Find out at the 2011 Summer School in Computational Immunology, held at Yale University from June 11 to 16, 2011.

Supported by NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation as part of its Modeling Immunity for Biodefense program, the school will introduce you to a range of computational methods, such as the following:

  • Gene expression and pathway analysis
  • Deterministic and stochastic modeling
  • Parameter fitting, sensitivity analysis, and model selection 

You don't need computational modeling experience to attend, but you do need to apply by March 18, 2011.

For application instructions, information about travel scholarships, and more information, go to 6th Annual Summer School on Computational Immunology.

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Pack Your Bags for NIH's Small Business Conference

Looking for a spring trip that can also make your business grow?

Head out to Madison, Wisconsin, for the 2011 National SBIR/STTR Spring Conference, where you can build your business network and sign up for one-on-one meetings with federal program managers, conference speakers, and exhibitors.

You'll also learn the ins-and-outs of the federal SBIR/STTR programs and discover how they fit within the "innovation ecosystem."

Register by March 10, 2011, to lock in a discounted rate. To register, get the agenda, and learn more about this event, visit the conference page, Host Wisconsin SBIR.

Header: 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.

"I missed the payline for my resubmission of a renewal. If I submit a new application with different scope and aims, can NIH consider it a renewal of my current grant?"—Yury Miller, UC San Diego

No. After one resubmission you cannot renew your grant and must submit a new grant application. For advice specific to your situation, contact your program officer and other investigators who have been in your shoes.

Also read "Your Application Did Not Succeed—What's Next?" in our New Investigator Series.

"Will NIH broadcast the town hall meeting about reconfiguring its clinical trials networks?"—anonymous readers

No, but we will post a meeting summary and the presentations at Restructuring the NIAID Clinical Trials Networks.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated October 11, 2011

Last Reviewed March 02, 2011