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June 19, 2014

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Getting a Response From Your Program Officer

You're trying to get a hold of your program officer but are having no luck. What should you do? We provide suggestions here as well as a few key points to keep in mind.

Be Aware of New Phone Numbers

Staff in our three program divisions—DAIDS, DAIT, and DMID—have recently moved to a new location,* which means they have new addresses and phone numbers.** Both should be reflected in your program officer's NIH Enterprise Directory (NED) entry (NIH's electronic Yellow Pages).

You should also be able to find updated phone numbers in your Commons account.

That said, take note. Some program officers may not yet have updated their NED entries, and we are still in the process of updating numbers for the Commons.

Therefore, if you call and find that the number doesn't work, email (those addresses haven't changed) or try calling your program officer's division using its main number. Someone there should be able to direct you to the person you're trying to reach.

  • Division of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (DAIDS)—301-496-0545
  • Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT)—301-496-1886
  • Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID)—301-496-1884

*All NIAID staff currently in the Rockledge area will move to the new location at 5601 Fishers Lane by this November.

**Program officers who use their direct office number (rather than one for their division or branch) as their primary line will have new phone numbers.

Ask Yourself Two Questions

Do I have the right person? Check your Commons account to make sure the program officer for your grant award or application hasn't changed. The name on a summary statement or Notice of Award might not be for the person currently assigned, so your call or email may have to be re-routed, which causes delays.

Do I have the person I need? Before you email or leave a voicemail for your program officer (or even after while waiting to hear back), ask yourself: Am I certain he or she is the person I need to answer my question or resolve my issue?

Remember, you should reach out to him or her for scientific, funding, and programmatic matters related to NIAID funding. Learn more about When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer.

You should contact someone else for other issues, such as:

  • Administrative elements of your grant award, i.e., negotiation, reporting, budgeting, and management: check with your grants management specialist.
  • Questions about a funding opportunity announcement (FOA): touch base with the scientific/research contact listed in the FOA. Keep in mind, however, that this contact might have to refer your question to a program officer likely to be assigned your application.
  • A specific topic or service covered on an NIAID Web site: look for contact information for the people who coordinate the activity in question.

Know That Certain Times Are Busier Than Others

Program officers are always busy, but they're likely to be busier at certain times of the year. During these periods, you may need to wait a bit longer than usual for a response.

For instance, right after NIH publishes a FOA, program officers—not just the scientific/research contacts listed—get inundated with inquiries, which take time to address.

Also, around this time of year, program officers are busy meeting internal deadlines for end-of-fiscal-year activities and attending study section meetings, so they may not be able to answer you immediately.

If, however, you are trying to resolve a bar to award or other pressing issue that affects you getting funding, your program officer should be in contact with you as soon as possible. In such cases, it's a good idea to copy your assigned grants management specialist on your email so he or she can do what's needed on the grants management end.

Get a Response and the Information You Need

Help your program officer help you get a timely response by following these tips.

  • Be crystal clear.
    • When emailing or leaving a voicemail:
      • Provide your grant number.
      • Fully explain why you are getting in touch.
      • Clearly describe what you want—and when you need it. If it's urgent, say so.
        • Give a time frame in your email's subject line so messages are read in a timely manner. For example, “Urgent question for R15 application due June 25.”
  • Follow up, provide alternate contact info.
    • If you emailed, follow up with a phone call, and vice versa.
    • Give additional email addresses or phone numbers, if you have them, so your program officer has other ways to get in touch with you.

If you don't get a response within the time you need it, try these alternate paths:

Related Link

Communicating With NIAID—How to Get Help

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Develop Sample Sparing Assays for Immune Monitoring

A new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) could be for you if you can help meet its objective: to accelerate the development and validation of sample sparing assays that can be applied to studying the human immune system in health and disease.

Your proposed study should focus on developing novel assays that can monitor immune function using small volume samples (e.g., blood, other biologic fluids, tissue biopsies) derived from human subjects.

We encourage applications that include multi-parameter measurements and/or technologies that integrate assessments of distinct aspects of human immune function.

The sample sparing assays developed through this FOA:

  • Must address challenges, gaps, or unmet needs in the study of human immune responses, and provide clear advantages over existing assays.
  • Are expected to add valuable tools for immune monitoring strategies leading to better understanding of immune responses in general, as well as for monitoring immunologic changes associated with disease prevention, remission, or progression and responses to treatment.
  • Will have broad application in the Programs and Networks of NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation and our Division of AIDS' HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Networks. The Institute will make descriptions of assays and associated data available to the scientific community through the Immunology Database and Analysis Portal (ImmPort).

If you are funded, be aware that by the end of your project period, you'll be expected to have: 1) developed a new or significantly improved sample sparing assay, 2) conducted assay validation studies in primary human cells (human cell lines are not sufficient), biologic fluids, or tissue, and 3) provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) or protocols and relevant data sets for the research community.

For complete details, including research scope and what to include in your application, read the June 2, 2014, Guide notice.

Optional letters of intent are due August 26, 2014. The deadline for applications is September 26, 2014.

Header: Other News. 

Coming in FY 2015: New NIH Policies to Correct Sex Imbalance in Preclinical Research

In the next fiscal year (starting October 1), NIH will start phasing in new policies to address sex imbalance in basic cell and animal laboratory research.

It’s been more than 20 years since the NIH Revitalization Act was passed, requiring that women be included in NIH-funded clinical research. Yet no requirements have been in place to eliminate sex imbalance in the preclinical research that is the precursor to a clinical trial.

This, in turn, means there has been a dependence on male animals and cells in research studies, which can obscure important sex differences that could impact clinical studies.

NIH will roll out policies on what should be included in applications and progress reports to address sex differences. It is also developing guidelines for reviewers to use when they evaluate applications.

For details on this topic, read the following:

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News Briefs

Small Business Omnibus Receipt Date Looms. The next deadline for Omnibus Solicitation of the NIH for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grant Applications is August 5, 2014, for non-AIDS and September 7, 2014, for AIDS applications. For application instructions, see the SBIR and STTR parent funding opportunity announcements.

CSR Offers Prizes for Ideas to Reduce Bias During Peer Review. NIH’s Center for Scientific Review is offering prizes of $10,000 and $5,000 for ideas to detect potential bias in peer review and strengthen reviewer training to enhance impartiality and fairness. The deadline is June 30, 2014. Only U.S. citizens, residents, and entities are eligible for the prizes. Learn more at The NIH Peer Review Challenge.

Change in Domestic Animal Welfare Assurance Renewal Criteria. Public Health Service (PHS) awardee institutions must now have current PHS funding to renew domestic Animal Welfare Assurances. Previously, current funding was not a requirement for renewal. See the May 29, 2014, Guide notice for full details.

Header: Advice Corner.

When NIH Accepts Late Submissions

Next time you are up against an application deadline, you may become curious about our late submissions policy. In short, the policy is this: with only a few exceptions, NIH does not accept late applications.

There are, however, several valid reasons why an investigator-initiated application may be submitted late and accepted by NIH.

Natural Disaster

NIH issues special Guide notices when a natural disaster occurs. In this circumstance, your delay should not exceed the duration of time your organization is closed.

Be sure to explain the specific reasons for the delay in your cover letter.

Personal Tragedy

In the event of a personal tragedy, e.g., sudden severe illness of the PI or an immediate family member, you will need to include an explanation in your cover letter.

Service on an NIH Advisory Panel

A perk to serving on an NIH panel is that you may be eligible for late submission for applications due on standard receipt dates. Recent temporary or ad hoc service that required a commitment of time that could have been used to prepare an application may be an acceptable reason for late submission.

If you are eligible and choose to take advantage of this policy, be sure to explain the nature and period of your service in your cover letter.

In addition, you may qualify for continuous submission, which allows you to apply late for R01, R21, and R34 grants. To qualify, you must be on the list of Applicants Eligible for Continuous Submission.

System Errors on Government Web Sites

We advise you to submit your application well ahead of its due date, in case you run into technical difficulties.

Suppose you cannot successfully complete the submission of your application, despite following NIH’s Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues. In that case, documentation is key. Contact the appropriate help desk immediately, over the phone and in writing, and maintain a record of the steps you take to resolve the problem. Contacting your program officer is not a substitute for contacting the appropriate help desk. See our March 5, 2014, article "Have a Grant Application Submission Question? Ask a Help Desk" for further instructions.

Once the issue is resolved, you need to make note of it in your application’s cover letter.

Keep Us In the Loop

Regardless of the reason, before submitting a late application, contact the scientific review officer and program officer listed in the FOA ahead of the due date.

The window to apply late for regular standard submission/receipt dates is two weeks while the window to apply late for expedited standard submission/receipt dates is one week. In general, NIH does not accept late applications for requests for applications (RFAs) and program announcements reviewed in an institute (PARs) with special receipt dates.

The decision to accept a late application ultimately lies with NIH’s Division of Receipt and Referral in the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). No one can provide you advance permission for a late submission.

For the record, heavy teaching burdens, ongoing illnesses, and laboratory relocations have all been rejected by CSR as valid reasons for late submission. You really are limited to the situations listed above.

Finally, be aware that your institution’s business office may have its own internal deadlines and processes for submission. All correspondence should go through your institution’s business office. If your institution is the source of your delay, NIH will not accept a late submission.

This article covers the rules for late application submission. If you submitted your application on time but need to add supplementary, missing, or corrected information after a receipt date, follow the instructions at If You Need to Send Late Materials After Submitting.

Related Resources

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Check Out Web Updates Due to the New Submission Policy

As we promised in our April 17 article “Big News on Application Submission Policy,” we’ve completed our initial wave of updates with new advice and instructions.

Most of our updates were in Part 6. If Not Funded of the Strategy for NIH Funding. For example, Options if Your Application Isn't Funded was thoroughly rewritten, laying out a variety of new options along with our advice and caveats. We took a similar approach when revising Approaches for Staying Funded to cover those options. Strategy for Staying Funded discusses reusing an unfunded application.

Other SOPs, pages, and Q&As were also edited. We removed references to the old policy and linked to NIH’s new resources such as Frequently Asked Questions and NIH Policy on Resubmission Applications.

Over time, we’ll add more advice on some topics as we hear how things go for applicants.

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.

"In my competing application, what is the correct citation format for a new publication available online but not yet in print?"—Debbie McCollum, University of Illinois

That depends on whether or not the publication is subject to NIH's Public Access Policy. So first you'll need to Determine Applicability.

If the paper falls under the public access policy and you authored or supported it, you will write either the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID), a valid NIH Manuscript Submission System reference number (NIHMSID), or "PMC Journal - In Process" at the end of the full citation. Follow the instructions in the How to Cite section of Include PMCID in Citations.

If the paper does not fall under the public access policy, write "Epub ahead of print" instead, followed by the corresponding URL or PubMed ID (PMID) if available.

"Do the title and PI of an animal protocol have to match the title and PI name on the grant?"—anonymous reader

No. Neither the title nor the PI name on the animal protocol needs to match those of the grant.

For more on the standard information to include, see Write Your Protocol in our tutorial How to Write an Application Involving Research Animals. The most important aspect is that IACUC-approved activities and animal details match what you proposed in your application.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated June 19, 2014

Last Reviewed June 19, 2014