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May 25, 2011

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Other News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Getting and Managing Your Grant

This is the twenty-second article in our New Investigator Series.

Previously, we wrote about planning your grant, applying for funding, and resubmitting if your application is not fundable. In this article, we look at what to do if your application succeeds.

Summary

  • Have your documentation in order and send it in on time.
  • Work hand-in-hand with your business office and make sure they have what they need to keep you funded.
  • Understand your terms of award and follow them.
  • Stay on top of reporting and legal requirements.
  • Know your options for making changes, requesting more time, and adding funds.
  • Monitor your spending.
  • Keep in touch with NIAID staff and use the Research Funding site.

Rely heavily on your institution's business office to guide you along the way.

By now it's been months since you submitted your application. After a long wait, you finally get the good news: you're in line for an award!

After the party dies down, make sure you're geared up and ready to roll. Rely heavily on your institution's business office to guide you along the way, and make sure you know what it needs to help you manage your grant and the responsibilities that come with it.

Also equip yourself with an understanding of what goes into managing your grant. Read on for our advice about securing your award, meeting administrative and legal requirements, making changes to your grant, requesting more money and time for your project, finding the right people to help you out, and using our Web resources.

This article doesn't walk you step-by-step through all the actions you need to take to manage your grant—we're only hitting the high spots so you are aware of what's entailed. See our Related Links for instructions and details on process.

Before You Get Your Award

You may have to negotiate reductions in funding, removal of Specific Aims, bars to award, or other administrative issues that crop up.

Until you get your Notice of Award, don't take anything for granted (pun intended). You may have to negotiate reductions in funding, removal of Specific Aims, bars to award, or other administrative issues that crop up.

First things first: send everything NIH and NIAID ask for and only what we ask for.

To make your award as soon as we can, we need all your documentation—e.g., just-in-time information, assurances, certifications, facilities and administrative rate, and any other items necessary to process your grant.

This entails a lot of paperwork to ensure compliance with NIH rules and regulations. Help us by omitting extraneous or unnecessary information.

Also make sure your business office endorses everything you send, even if it delegates some submission roles to you.

Checklist. At this point, make sure:

  1. I send just-in-time information through the eRA Commons.
  2. I resolve any bars to award through my program officer.
  3. I have no other administrative issues that prevent me from receiving my award.
  4. If I already started my research within 90 days before receiving my award, I have detailed records of all allowable expenses so I can charge them to my forthcoming grant.
  5. I contact my grants management specialist if I have a problem or delay in completing any of the actions above.

Negotiate Your Level of Support

Before we can issue your Notice of Award, we need to set your budget and terms. NIH calls this process a grant negotiation, but there are no horses to swap or mediators involved.

For most awardees, negotiation consists of reviewing your budget, making sure everything is still appropriate, and possibly adjusting your funding level based on our financial management plan or your level of other support.

If reviewers reduced your project's scope, timeline, or budget, you have the following options, in NIAID's order of preference:

  • Revise your project to conform to the reviewers' recommendations.
  • Request that NIAID's advisory Council restore funds, years, or Specific Aims.
  • Decline funding.

Get advice from your program officer and work with your grants management specialist to choose the option that works best for you.

After You Get Your Award

Read your Notice of Award for your project's start and end dates, your terms and conditions of award, and how much you will receive.

Once you are cleared for takeoff, read your Notice of Award to find out your project's start and end dates, your terms and conditions of award, and how much you will receive for current and future years. You'll also get a Notice of Award at the beginning of each budget period, but this one sets the standard.

If this is your institution's first NIH award, also read the Welcome Wagon Letter linked below. The document contains a wealth of helpful information about managing your award.

Contact your business office with any questions you have, and feel free to check in with your grants management specialist to follow up. Also keep tabs on NIH policy changes at our Top Policy Changes linked below—terms may change as your grant proceeds.

Don't Be Restricted

Do you have a restriction on your award?

Resolve the situation as soon as you can. Restrictions can take weeks to lift even after you send NIAID the information we need. Until then, you have your award but cannot do any of the restricted activities or access restricted funds.

Stay on Top of Your Rules and Reporting Requirements

Keep abreast of your due dates for reporting administrative information from your grant.

As your work proceeds, keep abreast of your due dates for reporting administrative information from your grant. These standard reports come on top of any scientific reporting you need to do, e.g., for data sharing and public access. See Standard Reports on NIH-Funded Grants linked below for a table that summarizes the most common reports.

Your business office is responsible for sending these reports for you and your subawardees, though it may delegate some responsibilities to you. Any delay may hold up your award, and a lapse in compliance may force NIAID to terminate your grant.

You'll want to have a symbiotic relationship with the people in your business office who submit your reports—they rely on you for your institution's funding, and you rely on them to make sure you keep that funding, i.e., by meeting all your requirements. If one of you falters, both fail.

Also check that you understand your institution's special rules for investigators who receive federal funding. Many of those rules stem from federal laws and regulations, and NIH may suspend funding for noncompliance.

Checkpoint. At this point, I check that I:

  1. Know what my business office needs from me to submit the following reports:
    • Federal Financial Report and cash transaction data.
    • Annual Report on Possible Research Misconduct.
    • Subaward Report, if I plan to spend $25,000 or more on a subaward.
    • Audit Report, if my institution spends $500,000 or more a year of federal grant money in any fiscal year.
  2. Give myself enough time to complete my annual progress reports.
  3. Record information needed for invention reporting.
  4. Ask what other reports my institution needs to send.
  5. Know when all reports are due.
  6. Follow up with my business office as needed to make sure reports go through on time.
  7. Have a plan for renewing my IACUC and IRB approvals, if applicable.
  8. Confirm my institution's formal policies for the following actions:
    • Responding to allegations of research misconduct.
    • Handling financial conflicts of interest.
    • Hiring foreign workers using grant funds.
    • Securing data against breach.
    • Engaging in any unlawful activity on my grant.

Go Where the Science Leads You

Talk to your program officer about whether it makes sense to modify your research.

As your work progresses, do you discover something new and exciting? Do your plans work out differently than you expected?

Talk to your program officer about whether it makes sense to modify your research.

Though you have to get NIAID's prior approval to change your Specific Aims or alter other peer-reviewed, Council-approved activities, you should always get an assessment of your options—regardless of whether your science is leading to a dead-end or a major breakthrough.

Also keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to expand your project's scope through a competing supplement (a revision of your grant). Apply for one of these competing awards only after you have talked to your program officer about your scientific needs and discussed the fiscal and policy implications with your grants management specialist.

Get Prior Approval for Some Actions

Contact NIAID as soon as possible and at least 30 days in advance, earlier if your actions constitute a change in scope.

Obtain our prior approval before you add foreign sites, change key personnel or grantee organization, make major renovations, or take any action listed in our Prior Approvals for Post-Award Grant Actions SOP. Contact NIAID as soon as possible and at least 30 days in advance.

Send your request earlier if your actions constitute a change in scope, like shifting the research emphasis from one disease area to another or adding human subjects to a grant where none previously existed.

Also request prior approval for the following activities that might signal a change in scope:

  • Conducting animal or human subjects research in a way other than what was approved by Council.
  • Adding or removing key personnel.
  • Using a new technology.
  • Purchasing equipment worth more than $25,000.
  • Rebudgeting more than 25 percent of the total costs of your award.
  • Transferring work to a foreign organization.

If you can't make a clear determination about whether your action fits the bill, contact your grants management specialist to discuss your idea before you do anything.

Watch Your Spending

Make sure your expenses are allowed, reasonable, and justified for your grant.

Don't leave it to others to monitor your expenses. When working with your grant funds, ask yourself:

  • Am I pacing myself?
  • Am I spending all my money in the first month or two of the project?
  • Am I not spending the money fast enough?

Make sure your expenses are allowed, reasonable, and justified for your grant. NIAID takes your spending pattern into account when considering whether to continue funding your project.

For those of you who have more than one grant, keep expenses separate. You cannot charge the same expense on multiple grants, use one grant's funds to pay for equipment you intend to use on another grant, or "cross charge" expenses between two grants.

Work with your business office to develop a consistent system for managing expenses, and consult with colleagues or your grants management specialist on strategies that ensure you conform to NIH accounting rules.

Request More Time and Money if Necessary

Consider taking advantage of some policies designed to give you the breathing space you need.

If you're managing your expenses properly but still find yourself short on funds, or if you're behind schedule as you enter your final year, consider taking advantage of some policies designed to give you the breathing space you need.

You can request an administrative supplement to add money for a purpose that falls within the scope of your research.

Before you go this route, work with your business office to rebudget funds or tap into unobligated balances. If you can't find a solution that way, contact your program officer to assess whether your scientific need is sufficient to warrant an administrative supplement.

You may also want to think about asking for research supplements to support underrepresented groups, people returning to work from family responsibilities, and those with primary caregiver duties. These targeted supplements afford you a chance to add valuable staff to your project.

As you're winding down your grant, decide whether a no-cost extension can help you finish your work and assemble your closeout documents. With a no-cost extension, you can hold onto your grant for up to 12 months after the scheduled end date though you don't get any more money.

Consider a Seminar or Site Visit

To make sure you have the hang of grants management, think about attending a grants management seminar. NIH and NIAID run them all over the U.S. and around the world. Your grants management specialist can tell you more about when we're coming to your area, and we publicize many seminars in this newsletter.

You may also want to request a site visit where NIAID staff come to your institution and take a look at your facilities, protocols, and administrative processes. You'll have a chance to ask questions and will receive a report after the visit with a list of any actions to take, if any.

Site visits are not audits and don't fulfill any statutory requirements. They are a good way to build relationships with NIAID staff and make sure your project is headed in the right direction. Check with your business office about whether your institution will entertain a visit before you broach the subject with your program officer.

Keep in Touch With NIAID Staff

Though you rely on your institution's business office to pilot your grants management efforts, stay in contact with NIAID staff.

Though you rely on your institution's business office to pilot your grants management efforts, stay in contact with NIAID staff.

Consult with your program officer on scientific matters. These people can advise you on data and model organism sharing, public access rules, changes in protocol and scope, and progress reporting. They are also your first point of contact if you want NIAID's assistance in publicizing your research findings and accepted publications through news releases and other communications.

For everything else, go to your grants management specialist. NIAID has one assigned to every application, whether funded or not, old or new, expired or renewed.

Contact this person at least once a year, even if just to say hello, and always get in touch if you can't meet a deadline or you have any question that your business office does not handle or cannot answer.

Whenever you do get in touch, include your grant number in your correspondence and have it handy if you make a phone call.

Use the Research Funding Site

Take a look at the information we have on our site, starting with the Related Links below.

If you can't find what you need on our Web site, feel free to email our Web writers at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov. Keep in mind that this team can't speak about your specific grant or comment on another institute's practices.

To keep up with the news, sign up for email alerts on topics of your choosing—go to NIAID Email Alerts Subscription Center. Also stay informed about Top Policy Changes linked below.

While you have to take care of your administrative responsibilities, keep the science at the top of your mind. We will have more about staying funded and moving your research forward in our next articles.

Related Links

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Contribute Your Knowledge to NIH's Planned H3Africa Genomics Initiative

As it plans the H3Africa (Human Heredity and Health in Africa) initiative to enhance genomic research in Africa by African scientists, NIH wants to hear what you know about the following items:

  • African biorepository and bioinformatics infrastructure and expertise.
  • Groups that have this expertise and want to work on the H3Africa project.

Responses are due by Sunday, May 29. For details and instructions, read the following April 29, 2011, Guide notices:

Separator line

Act Now for Supplement Supporting Global Women's Health

If you are conducting international research, here's a supplement to help you improve the health of women and girls abroad. Applications are due next month—June 24—so you'd better start writing if you're interested.

The lengthy title—Administrative Supplements Funding for Planning Research in Support of the Global Health Initiative and Other Critical Health Interventions Focused on Women's and Girls' Health and/or Gender Equity—sums up the goal of these one-year opportunities, but there's much more to know.

A few key highlights:

  • For NIAID, supplements are slated for active R01, R21, and T32 grants to stimulate future applications on translating effective interventions into community- and population-level programs and services.
  • Proposed research should advance the health of women and girls, be host-country driven and geared towards implementation science, and encompass as many Global Health Initiative (GHI) principles as possible.
  • Priority goes to 1) research areas such as malaria and tuberculosis, and 2) GHI program countries, for example, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.
  • NIH will not accept applications for AIDS-related research or research on an AIDS-related grant.
  • Grants in the last year of funding or under a no-cost extension are not eligible.

Find complete details in the May 11, 2011, Guide notice.

Separator line

Put NIAID's Data Tools in Your "Omics" Toolkit

This is the latest in a series of articles highlighting resources for researchers from NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID).

Did you know NIAID provides powerful tools for data analysis at no charge?

Our Bioinformatics Resource Centers offer integrated "omics" datasets, bioinformatics tools, and services to support your research on NIAID Category A, B, and C Priority Pathogens and Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.

You can access the centers through a shared Web portal. Go to Bioinformatics Resource Centers to learn more.

Also take a look at our Systems Biology Program, whose data, protocols, and computational and statistical models we make public.

Already, the program has produced a prediction tool for type 3 secretion proteins and experimental protocols for high throughput technologies—with more molecular network analysis tools and data sets to come. Go to Systems Biology for Infectious Diseases Research for details on this program.

Don't forget about sequence, related data, and open source bioinformatics tools available from our genomic sequencing centers. Visit the Genome Sequencing Centers site for more information on that.

Consider other NIAID-sponsored data and analytic tools that can give your omics research some extra oomph—see Omics Research Tools and Technologies and contact Dr. Malu Polanski to discuss tapping the potential of any of these resources.

Header: Other News.

Get NIH Podcasts On-the-Go

NIH is producing podcasts with insights, tips, and advice on grant-related topics.

Go to All About Grants Podcast for new podcasts as they are released, subscribe through iTunes, or catch the podcast RSS using your favorite software.

Header: Advice Corner.

Waiting for Your Program Officer to Respond? Here's What to Do

Most of you have no problems communicating with your program officer, but if you do have difficulty getting a response within the timeframe you need, here are some actions to take.

Check that you go through the following steps before you do the actions above:

  • Confirm you have the right person.
    • If you have a grant, check the Commons.
    • If you do not have a grant, go to Finding People or see the contact information in the funding opportunity announcement or Guide notice.
  • Clearly explain why you are getting in touch and describe what you want.
  • Follow up your phone call with an email, or follow up your email with a phone call.
  • Provide additional contact numbers and email addresses if you have them.
  • Convey a sense of urgency or provide a time or date by which you need a response.

Expect to wait longer than normal if you try to contact your program officer immediately after the release of a funding opportunity announcement or Guide notice. We get a spike of inquiries whenever we publish new opportunities or policies, and it takes time to respond to each person who gets in touch.

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.

"If my application includes a knockout mouse that’s not commercially available, should I get a letter of support and provide a biosketch for the investigator?"-- Kai Zhang, Texas Tech University

We very strongly advise you to include a letter of support so reviewers know you will have the resource—they will be skeptical if you do not. If the person is only supplying the resource, you don't need a biosketch.

"What happens if I submit a nonmodular grant application that includes a 3 percent escalation for future years?"—several readers

While you may request 3 percent, NIAID's Financial Management Plan allows us to fund an escalation of up to only 2 percent. If your application is selected for funding, NIAID will adjust your budget as needed to comply with fiscal requirements.

"Can I request a PI salary that's higher than the salary cap?"—Margo Gladys, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center

Yes. Though we do not pay amounts beyond the cap, in future years the cap may be raised—possibly retroactively – so you should give yourself a chance to cover as much salary as you’re allowed to.

We suggest you keep your salary expectations in line with the salary cap. Generally, the limit rises very little from one year to the next, if at all, and your institution can always use its own money to pay beyond the NIH limit.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated October 06, 2011

Last Reviewed May 25, 2011