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June 22, 2011

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Other News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

How to Renew Your Grant

This is the twenty-fourth and final article in our New Investigator Series.

In previous articles, we discussed planning, writing, and submitting your application; funding decisions; and options if your application is not funded. In our final article, we look into renewing a grant to continue funded research.

A good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan by answering the questions outlined in the text.

Summary

  • To continue funding, you have two choices: you can submit a renewal or apply with a "new" application. Know the criteria for deciding.
  • Know how much a new application must be different in content and scope from the previous one.
  • To avoid a gap, think about applying one or more review cycles early to gain extra time in case you must resubmit—if you can. Weigh the pros and cons, and ask your program officer for advice.
  • In some cases, waiting to spend more time polishing your application is a better strategy than rushing to meet a receipt date.
  • NIH does not set a time limit for submitting a renewal, but reviewers will probably be concerned by major gaps between projects.

To keep your project funded once the grant ends, you will need to apply for support and undergo initial peer review again. This step is a common failure point for new investigators—one big change: you no longer have the new PI ladder as a leg up.

Many first-time PIs find themselves running out of money especially if they must revise and resubmit (find ideas for avoiding a funding gap in our last article, "Staying Ahead of the Game," linked below).

So it's no surprise that a good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan by answering these questions:

  • Do I want to continue the current project at roughly the same level of resources?
  • When should I apply?
  • How will I maintain funding if I don't succeed on the first try?

Renewal or New?

Your next application could be a renewal or a new one, depending on the science and your plans.

Your situation and the science dictate whether it is more advantageous to renew your grant (submitting a renewal) or apply with a "new" application.

To make this decision, it may help to conceptualize the difference between long-term research goals and Specific Aims, your short-term objectives. If you think of your long-term goals as a bar, your Specific Aims are one segment. Whereas your goals may last a lifetime, you must complete your Specific Aims within the grant award period.

Renewal. Choose a renewal if you want to continue your research toward the same goals you have been pursuing, but with new Specific Aims.

New application. Choose a new application if you are planning a project that works toward new goals, even if you stay in the same field.

In both cases, reviewers judge the merits of the research, its relationship to your previous research, and the impact you have made on your field of science.

If your research has gone well, peer reviewers are likely to give you an edge no matter which approach you take because you have a proven track record, and they know it takes time to build a successful research team.

Still, many experienced investigators feel it is advantageous to apply with a renewal if you have made progress and want to continue the same long-term project. Your peer reviewers take into account what you have accomplished when assessing the merits of your new application.

Here is what we advise.

Apply with a renewal if you . . .

1. Plan to continue your project under the same activity code (e.g., R01), with new Specific Aims.

2. Made progress and accomplished most of your Specific Aims.

  • You didn't have to follow your original Research Plan as long as you made progress (you may have revised your Specific Aims in mid course).
  • It's key that you successfully conducted relevant research, got results, and then used those results to pursue the next set of experiments.

3. Submitted under a request for applications (RFA) and the bullets above apply.

  • If the RFA no longer exists, you can submit an investigator-initiated renewal.
  • Use the parent program announcement; for example, an R01 uses the Parent R01. Read it carefully. You are playing by new rules, for example, new receipt dates, forms, page limits, and review criteria.

Even though you are submitting a renewal, consider changing your title to reflect the new Specific Aims you are proposing.

Apply with a new application if you want to . . .

1. Significantly change or expand the scope of your research. See the next section.

2. Start over with a new idea (if the research is not going well or you have not accomplished several Specific Aims).

  • Though your application needs substantially different aims, it can be a spinoff of the original line of research.
  • Be sure to use a new title.
  • Read our Renewal Funding SOP linked below.

3. Use a new activity code, for example, switch from an R01 to an R21.

4. Apply under a request for applications (RFA). The application is new even if you are continuing the same line of research. Follow all procedures for a new application. Note that this is an advantage of applying under an RFA: since you can use the application again, you get an extra try to get it funded.

If you have used up your one resubmission of your renewal application, talk to your program officer for advice on which if any aspects of the application to consider retaining and read "Application Snag: What to Do if You Get Bad News" linked below.

Here's another approach: split your project into two applications—one for a different set of research goals and one for a renewal to continue the existing project. Be careful not to dilute the original application's quality. In your cover letter, state that you are using this approach.

What Qualifies as a New Application

A new application should be substantially different in content and scope from the previous one, for example, new Specific Aims and a materially different Approach section. Read more in Option 2: Create a "New" Application in our previous article "Your Application Did Not Succeed—What's Next?" linked below.

If you need help deciding which application type to use, talk to your program officer.

Deciding When to Apply

No matter when your renewal application arrives, reviewers expect to see data indicating progress.

Consider whether to apply early rather than wait until the last possible receipt date before you would incur a funding gap.

To avoid a gap, think about applying one or more review cycles early to gain extra time in case you must resubmit. In FY 2010, roughly 36 percent of NIAID's R01 renewals got a fundable percentile on the first try.

But here's the catch: no matter when your application arrives, reviewers expect to see accomplishments. If your work is progressing slowly, it's better to wait to get results that you can describe in the application.

So ultimately your timing hinges on your comfort with your progress and the length of the grant (if you have a three-year award, you may not have enough data to apply early).

Weigh the pros and cons for applying early, and ask your program officer for advice.

Pros

  • If you apply early, you can get earlier feedback on your application.
  • You can gain time to revise and resubmit if needed. A resubmission would not harm your chances of getting funded. eRA Commons keeps both versions; we could fund the earlier one if your resubmission fares worse.

Cons

  • If you apply before your research yields significant results, you could use up the initial goodwill of the reviewers, who may feel your application is premature.
  • Your application will likely be affected by the unknowable payline for the next fiscal year, which can make it harder to plan your strategy. We cannot fund your new grant until just before the old one ends.

In some cases, waiting to spend more time polishing your application is a better strategy than rushing to meet a receipt date, and the delay may have only a small impact on timing of an award. For more advice on timing, go to "A Long Hard Look at Application Timing" in the links below.

Should you face a gap in funding despite your best efforts, you can extend your grant for one year at no cost. See the No-Cost Extension SOP linked below.

No Time Limits . . . But

Another timing issue is: how long can you wait to submit a renewal after your grant ends?

NIH does not set a time limit, but reviewers will probably be concerned by major gaps between projects because the science has likely changed. Take this into account when writing the application, and prepare a new application if the research is dated.

If the research is current with the latest science, address the following points:

  • Explain that your planned research is in sync with the science of your field.
  • State what you have done during the hiatus.
  • Highlight any new preliminary data.

For advice on creating your renewal, including how to deal with the R01 budget cap go to How to Renew Your Application in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Related Links

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Sharing Resources About Data Sharing

At one time or another, you've probably said, "I can use all the help I can get." You've come to the right place if you need to write a plan for sharing final research data, genome-wide association studies data, or model organisms.

We have several resources on our site—SOPs, questions and answers, and sample plans—which we recently updated to include more helpful links.

For example, we now point you to two resources on the NIH Sharing Policies and Related Guidance site:

You'll find links to sample sharing plans at Samples and Examples and more information in the following documents:

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It's Official: Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial U01s Are Electronic

Goodbye paper applications for investigator-initiated clinical trial cooperative agreements! You now get to submit your applications electronically—use the NIAID Clinical Trial Implementation Cooperative Agreement (U01) funding opportunity announcement.

Please request NIAID's approval before you apply. It's an extra step but it works in your favor:

  • Get our assurance that the project is an NIAID priority and we have money to fund it if it scores well enough. 
  • Ask for our input on structuring your project and filling in gaps, an important step for cooperative agreements because you will work very closely with NIAID staff if you get funded.

Learn more at Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Resources and refer to Preapproval Deadlines for Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Applications for timing information.

Header: Other News.

Web Site for NIAID’s Mucosal Immunology Work—Read Up and Speak Up

Visit a new Web site for updates on studies and goings-on of the Mucosal Immunology Group (MIG), a multidisciplinary group of investigators focused on creating effective principles for the following:

  • Collecting, storing, and processing mucosal tissue.
  • Performing cell-based assays to quantify mucosal immune responses.

MIG sets out to standardize protocols for mucosal sample collection, storage, and transportation for use in clinical trials, and standardize assays to measure and characterize the major effector and memory mucosal immune responses in the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.

Go to the HIV Mucosal Immunology Group Web site, where you'll have a chance to read up on the Mucosal Immunology Group Scientific Agenda, take a peek at a table describing the group's Current Research, and submit your ideas about what other research it should conduct or other direction it should head in.

The site is updated often so keep it in your bookmarks and stop by regularly.

Why MIG?

Since the primary route of HIV transmission is mucosal, understanding the role of mucosal immune responses in early HIV infection is crucial to advance HIV vaccines and therapeutics. That work is difficult for the following reasons:

  • Insufficient cell yields from mucosal specimens obtained by noninvasive procedures.
  • Inconsistencies in sampling of mucosal sites.
  • Heterogeneity of mucosal cell populations.

Compounding these challenges, the scientific community lacks proven procedures for preserving immune cell viability and function in archived mucosal specimens.

To confront these challenges head-on, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, HVTN, formed the Mucosal Immunology Group with non-network mucosal immunology experts.

The overarching goal: promote a deeper understanding of the earliest post-vaccination immune response and correlates of protection against HIV infection and disease progression at the primary site of transmission.

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QAs on PEPFAR FOA

Considering an application for the NIH/PEPFAR Collaboration for Implementation Science and Impact Evaluation (R01) funding opportunity?

Check out NIAID's new Questions for Individual Opportunities on that RFA. We published clarifying information and consolidated some of the policies into a question and answer format.

Header: Advice Corner.

You Have Our Preapproval, Right?

Remember to get NIAID's approval before you apply for a conference grant or submit an investigator-initiated application that requests $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year. Learn more in the Conference Awards and Big Grants SOPs.

For other types of applications, read the funding opportunity announcement to see if this requirement applies.

When you apply, attach a copy of the preapproval letter with your application and state in your cover letter that you have done so. See Create a Cover Letter in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

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Try Your Hand at Being a Peer Reviewer

Many actors choose to direct to get a feel of what it's like to be on the other side of the camera. Similarly, many investigators make the jump to peer reviewer to experience a different role in the application process.

Taking this leap provides not only an insider's view of the nuts and bolts of peer review, but also insight into what reviewers want to see in an application, be it the writing or the approach.

That's not all. By being "one of them," you could potentially qualify for continuous submission and extend a valuable service to the scientific community.

If we've whet your appetite enough for you to consider becoming a reviewer, contact Dr. Lynn Rust in NIAID's Scientific Review Program. For more information, see the following links:

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.

"How do I find out if NIAID participates in a funding opportunity?"—anonymous reader

Look for NIAID in the list of “Components of Participating Organizations” at the top of the funding opportunity announcement. Alternatively, you can take a look at our Funding Opportunities List.

Note that even if we don't participate in a particular announcement, we may support a similar area of research. Contact a program officer in that research area—go to NIAID's Finding People for a list of contacts sorted by organizational hierarchy.

In the case of training grants, fellowships, or career development awards, contact our Office of Research Training and Special Programs at AITrainingHelpDesk@niaid.nih.gov.

"Can I replace another investigator as PI on a resubmission?"—Vitaliy Marchenko, Drexel University

Yes. You may assume the role of PI on another investigator's resubmission—just make sure you rewrite the application to reflect that you are now PI and get approval from your business office to make the change.

In your cover letter, note that you took over as PI. If the switch is related to comments from the previous review, explain that in the introduction to your resubmission.

Keep in mind that resubmissions have only one chance to get funded.

"If I am a new investigator, will this switch affect my new investigator status?"—Vitaliy Marchenko, Drexel University

No. If you are a new or early-stage investigator, you still get those benefits—e.g., a higher payline—even if the original PI was an established investigator.

One caveat to consider: reviewers will question a senior investigator who swaps roles with a new investigator. Even if you are an outstanding scientist, such a move might raise concerns about the quality of the science, the significance of the project, and the original investigator's commitment to his or her work.

Allay those concerns by explaining the change in the introduction to your resubmission.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated October 12, 2011

Last Reviewed June 22, 2011