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May 29, 2013

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles. 

Step Two to a Winning Application: Find Your Niche

This article is the second in our Ten Steps to a Winning R01 Application series, which we are updating. For our first installment, go to Step 1: Conduct a Self Evaluation.

In this next step, we help prepare you to find a research niche in your field where you can make the greatest impact.

Your niche is a specialized corner of your field where you could conduct research for the next, let's say, 10 years. (To determine whether you have the expertise needed to apply in a research field for an R01, see Step 1: Conduct a Self Evaluation.)

Finding your own niche takes you on a quest:

  • Locate the most promising research needs and opportunities in your field.
  • Assess whether you have the skills to make an impact.
  • Look at the other players and judge whether you can compete.

Two potential means of achieving these objectives are networking with people who are in the field and searching the literature online.

In the Related Links section below, we give you links to useful research tools.

Look Wide, Dig Deep

In your general field of science, you should strive to work in a unique area (for example, understanding the immune evasion of TB) where you can create important new knowledge and maximize your impact in the field.

To home in on one, learn all you can about your broader field (e.g., host defense against bacterial infection).

Network: talk to colleagues and meet new people at scientific meetings to get ideas for opportunities in your field. Listen to the buzz and brainstorm ideas you have with the experts.

Take notes as you gather information about the research interests of people in your field, keeping in mind some of them may end up as your reviewers.

As you interact, be sure to make an impression, so people will remember you. For example:

  • Request something: advice, collaboration, a reagent.
  • Inquire about the other person's work.
  • Ask questions about the field.
  • Follow up with an email.

You want to begin networking as early in your career as you can. That way, you can start matching your experience, interests, and abilities with opportunities in science.

After you have some ideas to follow, review the literature to check out your findings and glean ideas for hot topics in the field. See what research has been done and what remains to be done in your area of interest. Filling a previously unfilled knowledge gap is generally a good approach to designing a project, assuming the underlying question is an important one.

Along the way, allow yourself to benefit from serendipity: follow new scientific leads even if they take you in a surprising direction. Think about whether a paradigm-shifting discovery in a related field can be applied to your own area of research.

Assess Your Competitiveness

Just as you scrutinized your field in light of your qualifications, you'll do the same for your niche.

Ask yourself: do I have the skills to make an impact in this area? For the research needs and opportunities you uncover:

  • Determine whether you have the knowledge and resources to pursue them.
  • Get opinions on that judgment from people you respect.
  • Make sure your strengths match up with potential projects that can move the field forward.

It's also important to carve out your own space, so explore opportunities in underdeveloped research areas.

While it's usually a good idea to bypass crowded areas where it's hard to compete with established investigators, make absolutely certain that the area is important to your field—some niches are untouched because they are not considered significant.

 

In making your decision, get help from colleagues, mentors, and an NIH program officer.

Also get feedback on your ideas by giving a talk about your work at scientific conferences or at other universities as a guest lecturer. This will help to develop your niche and get critical analysis of your ideas before you start your application.

Not only that, it will help expose you and your ideas to the broader scientific community, including colleagues who actively serve as reviewers on NIH grants. If these experienced reviewers have an opportunity to discuss your ideas with you, it may help you better understand how your application might be perceived in peer review.

After settling on a research niche to develop, you'll be well served by a plan that focuses on a broad goal you'd like to accomplish during the next five to ten years.

Then you can divide those different goals into discrete projects you can accomplish within the four or five years of a grant. Those objectives will become your Specific Aims, which we cover in the next step.

Related Links

Strategy for NIH Funding

Find publications

Find funded projects, experts in your field, their publications and grants, and study sections that reviewed their applications

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Contribute to Research on Drug Resistance

Preventing and managing clinical antimicrobial drug resistance is of principal interest for NIH and for NIAID in particular. A recent funding opportunity announcement (FOA) targets this research priority.

Consider applying if your research can add to the understanding of biological and pharmacological factors underlying the effectiveness of concomitant or sequential drug regimens used against drug-resistant infectious diseases.

Proposed studies should include collaborative approaches designed to investigate the interactions between host, drug combinations or sequential drug administrations, and pathogen in affected tissues.

While studies on drug regimens are the primary focus of this initiative, you may also propose research on an individual drug that is currently used clinically as single-drug therapy for a particular diagnosis of drug-resistant disease.

Note that this FOA will not support research on new targets, models, or on HIV/AIDS.

Applications are due July 30, 2013. For more details, read the April 18, 2013, Guide notice.

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OBSSR Can Boost Your Big Data Education

"Big data" is becoming a big deal. If you're looking to develop a short course on big data strategies or tools, or other innovative methodologies for behavioral and social science research, NIH's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) may have a funding opportunity for you.

Methodological areas of interest include, but are not limited to study design, data collection, measurement, data analysis and visualization tools, modeling and simulation (aka "systems science methodologies").

You may include online courses, and you have to address behavioral and social sciences research questions. Your application needs to include learning objectives, measures of success, and plans for disseminating course materials to the broader scientific community.

Read more details and instructions in the May 3, 2013, Guide notice, and note that personnel costs are not capped. The deadline is July 3, 2013, but the Guide may soon publish a notice that extends the application and review dates.

For this opportunity, "big data" means "large, diverse, complex, longitudinal, and/or distributed data sets generated from instruments, sensors, Internet transactions, email, video, click streams, and/or all other digital sources available today and in the future."

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New FOAs Support HIV Prevention Packages

HIV researchers, your interest may be piqued by two new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) supported in part by NIAID: Methodologies and Formative Work for Combination HIV Prevention Approaches, which uses the R01 activity code, and a companion FOA that uses the R21 activity code.

Why is combination prevention needed for HIV?  More than three decades into the global HIV pandemic, it is clear that  no single intervention for prevention currently available is capable of bringing it under control.

But there is growing recognition among researchers that using a combination of biomedical, behavioral, and structural interventions—grouped into “prevention packages"—stands a much better chance at reaching at-risk populations and ultimately reducing HIV transmission.

However, the scientific and logistical complexity involved in developing, testing, and implementing  these combined intervention approaches presents a considerable challenge.

To help address this complexity, NIAID is participating in these two FOAs, which take a step back from the whole prevention package approach and allow smaller teams to work on different components of the packages.

These components include:

  • Identifying indicators that can be used to assess exposure to prevention interventions.
  • Enhancing the understanding and use of existing datasets.
  • Advancing intervention development, testing, and implementation.

These FOAs complement the 2008 and 2010 Methods for Prevention Packages Program I and II FOAs initiated by NIAID in collaboration with NIMH, which promoted forming multidisciplinary teams to develop combination research strategies for HIV prevention in key populations and settings.

Read more about the current opportunities:

Optional letters of intent are due August 3, 2013. Applications are due September 3, 2013. If you have questions, contact Dr. David Burns in the NIAID Division of AIDS Prevention Science Program.

Header: Other News. 

News on Budget, Paylines, Salary Caps, and Stipends

Though we are still operating under a continuing resolution and a tight budget situation, we're able to share more information related to FY 2013 funding.

We published an interim payline for Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) awards at an overall impact score of 13.

As with all interim paylines, this is a conservative level so we can issue some awards without overcommitting our funds. We may raise the payline later in the fiscal year.

For a list of published paylines, go to NIAID Paylines.

See our Financial Management Plan for details on how we're funding new, renewal, and noncompeting awards.

Salary cap and stipend levels haven't changed since last fiscal year—you can find that information at PI Salary Cap and Stipends.

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Get the Latest on Research Supplements

We've added a topic on research supplements to our NIAID email alerts. Sign up to receive updates on opportunities for all supplement types: diversity, reentry, administrative, and others.

For additional information on supplements, see Research Supplements.

Learn more on how to subscribe and check out our other email alert categories at the NIAID Email Alerts Subscription Center.

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DAIT Seeks a Senior Policy and Management Professional for OPPOSI Chief

Consider joining NIAID as chief of the Office of Program Planning, Operations, and Scientific Information in our Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT).

In this senior position, you'll report directly to the DAIT director and oversee strategic planning, portfolio analysis, policy development, scientific management, and financial reporting.

You'll also prepare Congressional testimony, review all DAIT initiatives, and work closely with key staff across NIAID to ensure DAIT's operations, communications, and program priorities align to fund the best science.

For more information, read the USA Jobs announcement and note: you may apply only if you are a federal employee, former federal employee, or VEOA-eligible. The application deadline is June 1, 2013.

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News Briefs

P01 and U19 Applications Go Electronic. September 25 will mark the first receipt date for electronic submission of program project (P01) and research program (U19) applications using NIH’s ASSIST system. NIH will soon publish new announcements for all P01 and U19 funding opportunities that have deadlines on or after that date. For more information, read Prepare for Electronic Submission in our Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application.

Update on Hurricane Sandy Relief Administrative Supplements. If you are interested in the Sandy-related opportunities we mentioned in our last issue, note that for the administrative supplement FOA the second application due date has been changed from January 14, 2014, to September 27, 2013. For details, see the May 16, 2013, Guide notice.

Header: Advice Corner.

When In Doubt, Go With the FOA

Apply the following principle any time you see a discrepancy between an NIH funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and any other reference:

Go with the FOA.

The instructions in published FOAs in the NIH Guide always supersede the instructions in the SF 424, PHS 398, and parent program announcements for an activity code. Be sure to check the FOA for any exceptions (e.g. page limits).

It's also your official source for submission deadlines.

If you have questions about the FOA, get in touch with the appropriate contact listed under the section titled “Agency Contacts.”

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.

"What if a small business applicant responds to an SBIR/STTR funding opportunity announcement, scores within the payline, but is then acquired by a large company (more than 500 employees) before receiving its award? Does it have to withdraw its application?"—Elizabeth Rogers, NIH, NIAID, DMID

Yes. Under this scenario the applicant would no longer be classified as a small business and therefore no longer eligible for an SBIR/STTR grant. The applicant should withdraw the application and could try to submit under a different mechanism.

"Can I use your sample applications as part of a training course I run?"—anonymous reader

The text in these sample applications are copyrighted. You may use them only for nonprofit educational purposes if the documents remain unchanged and the PI, the grantee organization, and NIAID are credited.

Header: New Funding Opportunities. 

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated May 29, 2013

Last Reviewed May 29, 2013