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August 29, 2012

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Unmasking Renewals

In our August 15 article "It’s Never Too Soon to Think About Renewing," we gave you advice on planning your follow-on funding, calling attention to the need to fend off a funding gap.

To keep your research running, you have two main NIH options: renewing existing grants or applying with new applications. Below we give you pointers for creating an effective renewal application. Note that some of the information is specific to R01s.

Before You Leap Into the Future, Consider the Past and the Present

Your renewal is its own application, but it also ties to its predecessor, the award you are renewing.

Blast from the past. Your renewal needs to build on the research you’ve been conducting and be based on the results you’ve obtained.

Though the renewal’s Specific Aims must be new, they will flow from the work you accomplished during your grant.

Note that while your research will stem from your previous award, you did not have to complete all your Specific Aims to be successful. Neither do you have to use all the results from your previous award as the basis for your renewal.

Take stock of your results. We’ve talked about this topic before, but we’ll digress a moment to reflect on the nature of grant support.

Grants give you the freedom to take your research in promising new directions.

An application is a starting point—you could call it an argument—to convince your reviewers that you have a solid plan and can accomplish the work. It may very well not turn out to be your roadmap for four or five years of research.

So it’s fine if at the end of your support you have not completed all the experiments—or even all the aims—you outlined in your original application.

Reviewers don’t necessarily expect that you will have done everything you originally proposed, but they do expect to see important research results in your renewal and appropriate experiments based on those results. Those achievements will inspire confidence that you can continue a productive line of research.

Profit from progress.  The concepts described above underscore the importance of showing progress by highlighting your accomplishments and successes. If the path you took was different from one you had proposed, make sure to explain why the choice you made was the right one.

In your renewal’s progress report section, be sure to include preliminary data that directly relate to your Specific Aims. Including preliminary data unrelated to the proposed new studies may simply distract the reviewer.

Shape up! Your field has surely gained ground since you wrote the application for your grant, so you’ll need to rejuvenate your Significance and Innovation sections with new findings and how they relate to your proposed new studies.

Your reviewers will appreciate a thoughtful discussion of the results you have achieved and those you expect to obtain in the context of recent progress in your field.

And don't forget to add new relevant citations. They help show reviewers that you’re in tune with the latest advances in your field.

Dealing With the Budget Cap

Reviewers will expect you to request enough money to perform the proposed new research, but you do need to pay attention to the budget cap for your renewal.

We expect to continue capping the amount of money you can request for a renewal R01, which for many years has been at 20 percent more than the budget of the previous award.

The cap affects all applications and is part of our Financial Management Plan (you won’t see data on the page when we don't have a budget—read why at Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year, linked below).

Computing the Budget Cap

We base the cap on the direct costs of the last noncompeting award minus the following:

  • Facilities and administrative costs for subawards.
  • Supplements.
  • Equipment.
  • Alterations and renovations.

We then increase that amount by 20 percent.

If you have a simple $200,000 award with no exclusions from the list above, your renewal would be calculated as follows:

  • $200,000 x .2 = $40,000
  • $200,000 + $40,000 = $240,000

For a modular grant if the number is between modules, we round up to the next module. In this example, the cap level would be $250,000.

Here is an example for a $200,000 award with subaward facilities and administrative costs of $5,000 and a $45,000 administrative supplement.

  • Add items that don’t count in the base: $5,000 + $45,000 = $50,000.
  • Calculate base: $200,000 - $50,000 = $150,000.
  • Calculate cap:
    • $150,000 x .2 = $30,000
    • $30,000 + $150,000 = $180,000

After rounding up to the next module, the award cap would be $200,000.

Your grants management specialist will discuss your actual funding level when negotiating your award with you.

Do not try to skirt the cap by requesting a larger budget after the first year. Our grants management staff will scrutinize those increased costs and likely revise your budget downwards, which could compromise your research plans.

While we fully recognize how our budget cap for R01s can put you in a tough spot, you should always request a budget level needed to adequately fund the science.

If you are a new investigator, it's especially important to get advice from your program officer. Typically new investigators receive smaller awards than more experienced grantees, so the cap can be a major problem when it's time to renew your application.

If you need more money because your project has grown, here are some ideas to think about:

  • Submit a new application instead of a renewal.
  • Submit a renewal and another application to fund the additional work.
  • Request more than a 20 percent increase.
    • Be sure to discuss this approach first with your program officer.
    • Keep in mind that PIs don’t often get the additional funds. Your program officer will have to present your case to our advisory Council for its approval, and we must have the funds to pay for your request.

If for any reason you don't get the money you need, you may need to discuss negotiating fewer Specific Aims with your program officer. Read about grant negotiation at Getting a Grant Award, linked below.

Check the Title

Take another look at your title and make sure it still suits the project. While it may be fine to keep the same title, write a new one if it's a better fit.

If you do use a new title, check the box indicating that your application is a renewal on the checklist (the last page) of the grant application and state the old title in your cover letter.  

And if you're lucky enough to have more than one grant, be sure to specify in your cover letter which one you are renewing!

Using those approaches alerts NIH to the fact that the application is a renewal with a new title and avoids potential confusion in the NIH referral office.

Refresher on Peer Review Changes

If this is the first time you’ve used the shortened application, allow extra time to familiarize yourself with the format. See Enhancing Peer Review at NIH, linked below, to learn what changed.

See the November 24, 2010, Guide notice for some policies that changed since your last application.

For an example of a successful renewal application using the shortened format, see Boris Striepen’s application on our R01 Sample Applications and Summary Statements, linked below.

On Resubmitting

Always talk to your program officer to find out the status of your funding.

We generally recommend that you revise an R01 application even if it is nominated for selective pay. Even if your application is approved for selective pay, you may need to wait until the end of the year to get an award.

If in the interim you resubmit and get a worse score, that resubmission won’t hurt the chances of funding your previous application.

As part of your strategy, take into account the length of time it may take from the date you apply to the date you get an award. Read Revise, Don't Wait for Later Funding in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award, linked below.

Burnish Your Image

Funding success is about both science and self-marketing. Gaining recognition primes others to consider you as a leader in your field.

Contemplate what your peers think of your research. Do they recognize the contributions you're making? Have you taken advantage of opportunities to give yourself visibility?

Let the world know about your accomplishments through publications, oral or poster presentations, and conference abstracts.

And here's one more tip: publish well before you apply, so you can list the publication in the application.

Don't delay publishing until your grant is about to end. Results that have survived a journal’s peer review for publication typically carry more weight with study section reviewers than do unpublished findings.

We'll give you more tips on these topics in our next article on staying funded.

Related Links

Financial Management Plan

Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year

R01 Sample Applications and Summary Statements—see Boris Striepen, Ph.D.

Strategy for NIH Funding

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Coming Soon: Clinical Center Resources for Extramural Investigators

It's not often we tell you about a first-of-its-kind opportunity before there's an announcement to respond to, but you'll want to plan for this one in advance.

NIH will soon let you tap into the unique resources of the NIH Clinical Center—including specialty clinics, protocol support, diagnostic tools, volunteers, specimens, equipment, and an array of other services and support for your research—through collaborations with NIH intramural investigators.

How do you prepare?

Start thinking now about projects that make the most of what the Clinical Center has to offer, and identify NIH intramural investigators to partner with (they don't have to be NIAID researchers). 

Then look for a funding opportunity announcement this fall with instructions on applying and constructing your budget. 

The Clinical Center has published information to help you get your bearings:

Right now we're just giving you a heads up so you can get into gear. If you're eager to begin writing an application, check the links above for guidance and contact ClinicalCtrPartner@mail.nih.gov for more details before you set fingers to keyboard.

Once NIH releases the announcement, you'll have at least two months to prepare your application.

Header: Other News. 

And the PECASE Goes To . . .

Just days after Olympic athletes convened for the Games' opening last month, another elite group gathered in Washington, D.C., for its own special event.

Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) visited the White House for a photo op and meeting with President Obama, who thanked them for their research. Read more about this, and hear from some of the honorees at President Obama Honors Early-Career Scientists and Engineers.

PECASE recognizes high-potential leaders who are working at the frontiers of science and are committed to community service. Of this year's 96 recipients, 20 are either NIH grantees or intramural investigators, including these two NIAID scientists:

Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University. Dr. Altan-Bonnet's research focuses on understanding how specialized organelles used for viral replication are built and maintained in cells. Her lab is particularly interested in identifying the common lipid blueprints of replication organelles used by different pathogenic human viruses in order to develop therapeutics that will target their production and stop viral replication. Go to Host-Pathogen Dynamics Group: The Altan-Bonnet Lab @ Rutgers University.

Peter Crompton, M.D., M.P.H., chief, Malaria Infection Biology and Immunity Unit, Laboratory of Immunogenetics, Division of Intramural Research, NIAID. The goal of Dr. Crompton's research is to better understand the nature of the immune response that provides protection against malaria. His areas of focus include mechanisms of naturally acquired immunity to malaria and antibody responses to—and B- and T-cell biology of—Plasmodium falciparum infection. Go to Laboratory of Immunogenetics: Peter D. Crompton.

For information on PECASE and a list of awardees, go to NIH Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Header: Advice Corner.

Keep Commons Accounts Current With Confidence

With so many electronic systems at NIH, it's more important than ever to ensure that your eRA Commons profiles are up to date. If your account is missing information or incorrect, it can stop some electronic forms from processing and you might even miss deadlines as you try to make profile corrections at the last minute.

You should also check that you don't have more accounts than you need; having unnecessary accounts for the same role increases the likelihood that your application or grant information will become associated with the wrong identity.

Complete Your Account

To confirm that NIH has correct information, log in to the eRA Commons and go to the Personal Profile tab. For details, see how To Edit Personal Profile Information.

Too busy to do this yourself? You can Delegate Authority to Another User.

Consider the Quantity

Multiple accounts are necessary when they're associated with different roles, such as signing official and PI. But if you have two accounts for the same role, you should merge them to guarantee that all your award information and history is properly associated with you. To get accounts consolidated, contact the eRA Commons Help Desk.

You might have picked up an extra account if you switched institutions and now have a PI account from both places. Or perhaps you had a trainee account and your institution added a regular PI account later.

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.

"Is the PI of an NRSA Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) required to devote effort with no salary to the grant?"—anonymous reader

Yes. PIs typically set aside 1.2 person months (or 10 percent effort) of a calendar year appointment towards overseeing the training program.

For more information on person months, see NIH's Frequently Asked Questions: Usage of Person Months.  

"Do T32 applications allow for administrative support personnel?"—Tim Yoshino, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Yes, that would fall under training-related expenses. See Training-Related Expenses in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

For more about training grants, go to Training Grants (T).

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated August 29, 2012

Last Reviewed August 29, 2012