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January 15, 2014

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Step Eight to a Winning Application: Define Resources

This article is the eighth in our Ten Steps to a Winning R01 Application series, which we are updating.

In this step, we explore assessing your needs and how you will access the resources required to conduct your planned research. As with previous articles in this series, we are keeping to the Iterative Approach to Application Planning.

Take Stock

Convincing your reviewers of your project's feasibility is just as important as wowing them with the project’s innovation and potential impact in the field.

A key part of "yes we can" is access to needed resources, especially major pieces of equipment. See NIH's definition of equipment.

If you are a new investigator, your reviewers will expect you to have fewer resources at your disposal, compared to more established researchers, but they will also expect you to complete all the work you propose.

As you design your Specific Aims and experiments using our iterative process, you'll factor in the resources you'll need (both those at hand and those you request in the application), while staying within the limits of your targeted budget.

Fill In the Blanks

As you plan your experiments, you'll come to realize your resource needs, particularly expensive equipment (e.g., costing over $10,000) and then take these steps.

In your application, describe your institutional support, e.g., space, equipment, and facilities. Your department chair can tell you which resources and level of support your institution will furnish, so you can then figure out what pieces are missing.

Also state how the scientific environment in which the research will be done contributes to the probability of success.

1. See what equipment you can share with other investigators.

Try to gain access to large equipment by sharing it with other investigators at your institution or by sharing the cost of buying it.

2. Explore options to access core facilities that provide services and expertise.

Consider whether you can access core facilities at your or a collaborator’s institution to meet your needs for a major piece of equipment and expertise.

If that works, you can avoid having to purchase the equipment and using time to set it up during the grant award period.

Reviewers often view the shared resources approach favorably since you will be working with established facilities with demonstrated results. When appropriate, include letters of support in your application that ensure access to core facilities and shared resources, and stipulate whether access will be provided as a fee-for-service. Make sure to include any facility user fees in your budget.

3. See if you can find a collaborator who has the equipment you need, and determine whether you can work out a feasible arrangement.

Sharing equipment has benefits, especially if costs are shared, but there can be downsides. For example, if your collaborator's lab is located far from yours, transporting samples may be a problem if the samples are infectious, temperature sensitive, or fragile.

Also, you might not want to be dependent on a collaborator’s machine that you'll need for several hours a day, every day.

Reviewers may also be less than enthusiastic about a project that is heavily dependent on resources that are ultimately beyond your control.

4. If the options listed above don't pan out and you're new to your institution, look to your start-up funds to see if you can afford a major purchase.

Take into account other expenses you may need to pay for.

  • For example, do your start-up funds pay for office supplies and support services? In some places, facilities and administrative costs pay for those items so find out your institution's arrangements.
  • Inquire about policies for access and payment of stipends to graduate students. Is there a training grant, e.g., an Institutional Research Training Grant (T32), which can pay the stipend of students who want to work in your lab?

5. Request money in the application to buy the equipment.

This approach is always fine for items such as reagents or small pieces of equipment or other items not usually shared.

But asking NIH to pay for a major purchase is trickier, so we will give you some tips.

  • Be sure the equipment is absolutely essential and be able to provide a justification.
  • Take care that your reviewers would not expect your organization to have the equipment, e.g., because it's unique to your project.
  • If your institution has such equipment, but you cannot have (sufficient) access to it, explain why that is the case.
  • Use this rule of thumb to gauge reviewer reaction: if you will be using the equipment at least half-time, they'll likely feel the request is justified.
  • Justify the request in your application by explaining why you need the equipment for your research and why you cannot get it any other way.

Should you end up buying the equipment, keep in mind that you will also need to budget for shipping costs, accessories, a maintenance contract, and repairs.

You should also be aware that if you move to another institution, you may not be able to take your equipment—or your funds—with you. That decision is made by your current institution since it is the legal grantee.

It's a good idea to get advice from experienced investigators before deciding whether to request funds for a major purchase.

Related Links

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

FOAs Intertwine International Collaborations and Infectious Diseases Research

NIAID's longstanding International Collaborations in Infectious Diseases Research (ICIDR) Program continues with two new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).

Both cover the same topic and are cooperative agreements, but one is a U01 (for single projects) while the other is a U19 (for multiple projects). Read below to see why we're offering two options.

FOA Objectives, Requirements

In a nutshell, the FOAs seek collaborative research on infectious diseases (excluding HIV/AIDS) that are endemic in resource-constrained international settings.

Collaborations must include, at minimum, a lead investigator from a U.S. institution and one from a foreign institution located in a country defined by the World Bank as low-income, lower-middle-income, and upper-middle-income economies. See World Bank List of Economies (October 2013).

That said, applicants may include additional collaborations with other developed countries as well as with more than one eligible foreign country.

Note these other key points:

  • Each U.S. and foreign lead investigator must have:
    • A primary appointment at his or her respective institution.
    • A significant role in designing, implementing, monitoring, and administratively managing the research projects.
  • The majority of ICIDR-supported research must be conducted at one or more sites in an eligible foreign country and have an emphasis on field and clinical studies of endemic diseases.
  • NIAID plans to make five to eight awards between the two initiatives.

Why Two FOAs?

Having two FOAs with different activity codes (U01 and U19) allows applicants different ways to structure their application, depending on the scientific project they propose.

The U01 supports single projects, while the U19 supports multiple projects plus shared core resources. This also allows investigators to either include the administrative and capacity building portions of the application into a single project (U01) or consolidate them into an administrative core within the U19.

Activity codes and application components aside, the two FOAs have the same features such as matching direct cost caps and percentage commitment for the PIs and key personnel.

If you decide to apply for the U19, you may want to check out our Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application and other resources in the Multiproject Awards, P01, P30, P50, U19 section of the Other Grant Types portal.

Where to Find More Information

Get full details, including areas of research interest and application instructions, in the November 27, 2013, Guide notices for the U01 and U19.

For both opportunities, optional letters of intent are due February 7, 2014. The application deadline is March 7, 2014.

If you have questions about the FOAs, contact NIAID's Dr. Polly Sager.

Delve Into Diversity-Related FOAs

After reading our November 20, 2013, article "Increasing Efforts to Increase Diversity," your interest may have been piqued.

If that's the case and you want to get involved, you'll find this welcome news: the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that make up the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program were published last month.

For complete details, read the December 19, 2013, Guide notices for the following:

Applications for all three FOAs are due on April 2, 2014.

Note: NIH held a preapplication Webinar yesterday and will post an archived recording on the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce Web site in the coming weeks. The site currently has program- and FOA-specific Frequently Asked Questions you may find helpful.

Two New Big Data Funding Opportunities

If you're eager to play a role in moving big data to knowledge, pay attention to two new funding opportunities.

These initiatives come from NIH's Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program, NIH's effort to develop new approaches, standards, methods, tools, software, and competencies to improve your use of data sets and databases that are too large or complex for conventional biomedical research approaches.

Create LINCS

For those who are adept at administering and managing data, you might want to consider this opportunity to become the data coordination and integration center (DCIC) to bridge BD2K efforts with those of NIH's Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS).

Through the LINCS program, NIH is generating large-scale data sets and signatures that describe human cellular responses to different types of perturbations. But it needs a DCIC for:

  • Consistent annotation of data and tools generated within the LINCS program.
  • Inclusion of relevant non-LINCS perturbation data into the LINCS resource.
  • Integration of relevant data, signatures, and tools to allow for seamless exploration of LINCS output by a broad range of biomedical researchers.
  • Linkages to outside knowledge bases, data portals, and resources; support training in perturbation-data science skills.
  • Innovative access and query tools to disparate databases hosting multiple data types.
  • Ways to get the resulting tools and resources into the hands of a broad range of biomedical researchers.

As the DCIC, you'll get up to $3 million in direct costs each year to research innovative ways to access and analyze massive and diverse data sets, coordinate LINCS programmatic activities, educate the community about LINCS activities, and train researchers on how to use LINCS to study a broad range of biomedical problems.

Read the December 4, 2013, Guide notice for details, including instructions, a list of possible research topics, and information on the LINCS program and how it relates to BD2K.

Applications are due March 19, 2014.

Index Discoveries

If being DCIC isn’t exactly what you're looking for, consider a different opportunity to develop, test, and validate models for a centralized data discovery index (DDI) your colleagues can use to find and cite biomedical big data.

Under this cooperative agreement, you'll work closely with NIH to conduct outreach, fund small pilot projects, and organize task forces to study questions related to access, discoverability, and citation of biomedical data.

You can receive up to $2 million in direct costs each year for up to three years.

Read the December 13, 2013, Guide notice for details on eligibility, scope, and project requirements. Applications are due March 6, 2014.

More About BD2K

To speak to an NIAID program officer about either of these funding opportunities, contact Alison Yao in our Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID).

If you're interested in learning more about BD2K, read our August 21, 2013, article "Big Data: Web Site, Workshop, Funding Opportunity."

Also see more BD2K Funding Opportunities and Notices.

Header: Other News.

News Briefs

Use Reissued Career Development FOAs. Planning to submit an application for a career development award (K)? Be sure to use the reissued funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), which are listed in the December 18, 2013, Guide notice. If you're interested in the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00), read that section of the notice for changes to the program.

Transition Away From Class B Dogs for Research. After October 1, 2014, you may not use or purchase dogs from Class B ("random source") dealers for NIH-supported research. Instead, use other legal sources such as USDA Class A dealers, privately-owned colonies, or client-owned animals. Learn more in NIH's December 17, 2013, Guide notice.

Header: Advice Corner.

Consider Multiple Points Before Making the Multiple PI Switch

Ponder long and hard if you're thinking of going to or from a single to multiple PI award. You have several points to weigh, so consider carefully.

As part of your deliberation, you should get your program officer's input and be aware of the following:

  • NIH's multiple PI policy states: "If the arrangements proposed by the grantee, including the qualifications of any proposed replacement or addition, are not acceptable to the NIH awarding IC the grant may be suspended or terminated."
  • You'll need to:
  • NIAID staff will scrutinize your request:
    • As with any change of PI, they will review the qualifications of prospective PIs, look for changes in scope, and check for any issues that would affect your ability to accomplish your Specific Aims.
    • If going from a single to multi-PI award, staff will evaluate your Multiple PI Leadership Plan, which must be included in your application and outline the research responsibilities of each PI.
    • If going from a multi-PI to a single PI award, they will assess whether you can continue your research without the other PIs' talents and resources.

See the Change of Principal Investigator SOP for details on making this move, and read Team Science in Part 2 of our Strategy for NIH Funding for advice on collaboration.

Header: Reader Questions.

Feel free to send us a question at After responding to you, we may include your question in the newsletter, incorporate it into the NIAID Research Funding site, or both.

"For fellowships, could the purchase of computers, laptops, or tablets be considered allowable direct costs?"—Phoebe Grigg, University of California, San Francisco

These purchases would be allowable expenses when purchased with facilities and administrative costs (F&A). Whether they are allowable direct costs on a fellowship grant is up to your institution. Check with your office of sponsored programs to determine your institution's policy.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated January 15, 2014

Last Reviewed January 15, 2014