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Questions and Answers for RFA-AI-12-021, U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Collaborative Research (R01)

NIH published this RFA in an April 4, 2012, Guide notice.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Revised on September 5, 2012

Should the Specific Aims and Research Strategy sections describe the details for both U.S. and Chinese collaborators' work?

Yes. Applicants should describe the Specific Aims in a one-page attachment, concisely stating the goals and expected outcomes, including the potential impact on the field. In the 12 pages of the Research Strategy, applicants should clearly describe how they plan to achieve the Specific Aims of the project and the organizational structures, roles, and responsibilities of the U.S. PD(s)/PI(s) and NFSC collaborative partners in accomplishing the proposed research.

The RFA instructs applicants to include a description of the collaborative research, detailing the integration of the U.S. and Chinese collaborative efforts.

This same application, including details of the work done by the U.S. PD/PI and China collaborator, will also be reviewed confidentially during the NSFC review process.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Added on August 30, 2012

May I submit my application late?

NIH will not consider accepting late applications for this RFA.

Do early stage or new investigators receive any special consideration?

No. Early stage and new investigators will not receive any special consideration.  

How do I indicate which institute my application should be assigned to?

In the cover letter, applicants should clearly indicate the area of science proposed in the application and the preferred NIH institute. Applicants proposing research involving HIV/AIDS should indicate NIAID as the preference.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Revised on August 30, 2012

Can NIH help U.S. applicants obtain approval from the Chinese government to export biospecimens out of China?

No. U.S. applicants should work closely with their Chinese collaborating investigators, who are responsible for obtaining the necessary approvals.

If the proposed research requires exporting biospecimens from China, U.S. applicants must include the following information in their applications:

  • Type of biospecimens to be exported.
  • Evidence that the applicant has already applied for the required Chinese government approval to export these materials.
  • Indication of whether the work can be completed if the Chinese government does not grant this approval.

In addition, a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) may be needed for exchange of materials between two institutions. Contact the authorized organizational representative (AOR) at both organizations for institutional requirements (e.g., intellectual property issues). Also work with the AORs to address federal regulations for each country (e.g., customs.)

How do a U.S. investigator and a Chinese collaborator create an application?

A U.S. investigator and Chinese collaborator work together to create a joint application that they submit to their respective agencies as follows:

  • The application should be jointly prepared through consultations between the collaborators.  It should specify what role each collaborator will have and where the proposed research components will be executed, along with all the other elements required in the FOA. 
  • Once completed to the satisfaction of both collaborators, the U.S. investigator submits the application to NIH and shares a copy in English with the Chinese collaborator.
  • The Chinese collaborator submits a copy of the U.S. application in English to the NSFC along with all additional components required by the NSFC in Chinese. Specifically:  
    • The NSFC application requires Chinese collaborator to submit the NIH application in English and a research proposal (not only the abstract) translated into Chinese to ensure both research proposals are identical. The budget, biosketch, and other administrative sections of the English application from the U.S. PI do not need to be translated into Chinese. 
    • The title of the Chinese application should be identical to the title of the English application.
    • Applicants should clearly describe in detail how the U.S. and Chinese collaborative efforts will be integrated to accomplish the research proposed in their applications. The English application materials are the basis for scientific merit review by both sides. 
  • It is expected that the Chinese collaborators and their collaborating U.S. PIs will be in close contact so that a copy of the application submitted to NIH will also be available to the Chinese collaborators.   When submitted to the NSFC, this application will be kept confidential during the NSFC review process.

The Chinese collaborator should check the NSFC Funding Opportunity Announcement (in Chinese) for additional information.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Added on August 24, 2012

What is a multi-PD/PI application?

This RFA allows multiple PIs, which means more than one principal investigator at one or more institutions. Each is a full-fledged PI who has responsibilities appropriate to that role. There should be only one U.S. contact PI. Include a leadership plan for a multi-PI application.

May I submit a multiple PD/PI application?

Yes. You may submit a multi PD/PI application, but for this RFA all PDs/PIs should be U.S. investigators and name the Chinese investigator as a collaborating partner.

Should a U.S. applicant include the Chinese collaborator's biosketch?

Though not a requirement, NIH strongly encourages you to provide a biographical sketch for all Senior/Key Personnel.

Which budget format should be used for this RFA, modular or detailed (R&R)?

Applicants in response to this FOA must use the R&R (detailed) budget. If you receive a warning that the wrong budget format is being used, you may ignore it because warnings will not stop the validations process. If the modular budget is used, an error will occur and the application will not pass validations.

Will there be another cycle for this RFA?

At this time, it is not clear if this RFA will be reissued in the future.

My collaborator in China will be working with human samples or vertebrate animals. Should I submit a complete human subjects (HS) or vertebrate animal section in the application even though I will not be doing those studies in the U.S.?

Yes, you must complete the human subjects section in the application if you or your collaborator in China will be doing research involving human subjects. Similarly, if you or your Chinese collaborator is planning to work on animals, you should complete the Vertebrate Animal section in the application.

Applicants and collaborating partners are expected to adhere to NIH regulations for the conduct of research involving human subjects and vertebrate animals.

Is the application reviewed the same way as other R01s, including for preliminary data?

Applications in response to this RFA will be reviewed based on the review criteria in the RFA, not like a traditional R01. As stated in the RFA, "Since a principal aim of this FOA is to attract and support new ideas, a key feature of this FOA is that preliminary data, unlike as in standard R01 applications, are not required for this R01 submission."

Can an applicant submit an application to this program and also as an independent R01 (with a five-year budget)?

No. You cannot submit a closely related application for an independent R01 before a funding decision is made for this application. As explained in the May 15, 2009, Guide notice, NIH will not accept similar grant applications with essentially the same research focus from the same applicant organization.

How important is the China component—namely, do you wait to see if it is funded before reviewing the American component?

The China component is extremely important. The application is incomplete without the China component and would not be peer reviewed without it. U.S. applications and NSFC (Chinese) applications will be received and reviewed independently by NIH and NSFC respectively before funding decisions are made.

Are these R01s percentiled?

No. These R01s are not percentiled because the applications are received and reviewed in response to the RFA. Applications in response to an RFA are usually funded based on the priority score and programmatic importance.

Does the collaborator in China need an NIH Commons user name?


How will a successful applicant be chosen based on the scores in different study sections and countries?

Funding decisions for applications submitted to NIH will be made by NIH based on merit with consideration of the research priorities of the U.S.-China program and in consultation with the NIH-NSFC Executive Secretariat. In the parallel processes conducted by NIH and NSFC, both the U.S. and Chinese applications must be determined to be eligible and responsive to be considered for funding under the program.

Must the PI in the U.S. have an active NIAID R01 and should it remain active until the end of the proposed study?

No. You do not need to have an active NIAID or NIH R01 to be eligible to submit an application in response to the RFA.

May I submit a Letter of Support cowritten and electronically cosigned by the PD(s)/PI(s) of the U.S. institution and the Chinese collaborating partner and cosigned by the authorizing institutional officials?

Yes. Submit the Letter of Support to as a PDF. A scanned copy of hard signatures is acceptable.

Is there a limit to the amount of travel funds that can be requested by the U.S. applicant?

There is no set limit to the amount of travel funds that the U.S. applicant can request. However, the total cost is already capped at $200,000 and the U.S applicant would need to justify the requested budget. Reviewers will also consider whether the budget and the requested travel funds are justified and reasonable.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Revised on August 24, 2012

Do U.S. investigators need to include their Chinese collaborators' budgets in their applications?

No, it is not required. However, NIH encourages U.S. investigators to include this information, as well as a budget for any activities that they plan to undertake in China, as separate, clearly marked attachments to their NIH applications (in English). Use the Other Attachments option on the Research and Related Other Project Information form. Do not use NIH application budget forms for the Chinese budget.

Must I include a data sharing plan?

All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, should include a data sharing plan. Applications should follow the NIH Data Sharing Policy and Implementation Guidance.

For applications proposing research on Parkinson's disease (PD) on U.S. patients:

  • All genetic studies must share data using dbGaP.
  • All laboratory-based PD studies on human specimen and clinical PD biomarker projects, including imaging studies, must comply with NINDS Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program (PDPB) Strategy requirements.
  • U.S. grantees may have to deposit some human biological samples collected under this program into the NINDS Human Genetics DNA and Cell Line Repository as directed by NINDS. They must also share clinical, imaging and biological data using the PDBP Data Management Resource and include a plan for sharing data using that system.
  • When planning an application, U.S. investigators should follow the approval process in China for international sharing of the biological samples and genetic data.

How does NIH review applications?

Applications will not be evaluated for scientific and technical merit in study sections at the Center for Scientific Review. Instead, NIH will assign applications to scientific review groups (special emphasis panels) convened by NIAID, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the review criteria listed in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice. Applicants can see their review assignments in the eRA Commons after they apply.

Each of the participating institutes (ICs) will review applications. NIAID will review all HIV/AIDS applications.

Does the research have to be conducted in both the U.S. and China?

No. U.S. institutions and Chinese collaborators can conduct their research in either country or both. However, the U.S. and Chinese investigators must demonstrate that they are collaborative partners in accomplishing the research. In addition, the U.S. component can be conducted at other foreign sites provided that there is a U.S.-Chinese collaboration in the proposed research.

RFA-AI-12-021 Questions Added on May 30, 2012

What is the purpose of the U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Research Cooperation?

The U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Collaborative Research stimulates collaborative basic, translational, and applied research between investigators from the U.S. and China in allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities and coinfections, cancer, mental health, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.

U.S. and Chinese investigators work together to identify projects that address the research objectives and funding requirements described in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice.

What is NSFC?

NSFC is the National Natural Science Foundation of China. For more information, visit NSFC's Web site in Chinese or English.   

What are NSFC's eligibility requirements for Chinese collaborators?

Chinese collaborators must be current or former NSFC grantees. For a searchable database of funded NSFC investigators (in Chinese), go to NSFC's Internet-based Science Information System.

Potential collaborators and scientists in Special Administrative Regions of China (e.g., Hong Kong) should contact NSFC to discuss their eligibility requirements.

For more details on eligibility requirements for Chinese collaborators, go to the NSFC Funding Opportunity Announcement (in Chinese).

What are NIH’s eligibility requirements for U.S. applicants?

Read the April 4, 2012, Guide notice and note the following:

  • Chinese collaborators must be current or former NSFC grantees.  
  • To be considered for funding, both the U.S. and Chinese applications must be determined to be eligible and responsive by their respective organizations.

May applicants outside the U.S. apply for funding from NIH?

No. Foreign institutions and non-U.S. components of U.S. organizations may not apply for funding.

Applications must list at least one investigator from a U.S. institution as the Program Director/Principal Investigator, and name the Chinese investigator as a collaborating partner.   

May federal institutions apply for funding?

Yes. Note that federal institutions must ensure that their authorizing legislation allows them to receive NIH grants and comply with the terms and conditions of an NIH award.

Contact your agency to find out if it is eligible.

May NIH intramural investigators apply for funding?

No. However, they may apply to a separate U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Research Cooperation.

For more information, contact:

    1. For NCI/CCR PIs (in scientific areas other than HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities), contact Janelle Cortner or David Goldstein.
    2. For NCI/DCEG PIs (in scientific areas other than HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities), contact Marianne Henderson.
    3. For NIAID PIs (in scientific areas other than HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities), contact Mark Pineda and Gayle Bernabe.
    4. For NIMH PIs (in scientific areas other than HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities), contact the NIMH Referral Office at
    5. For NIH PIs working in the area of HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities, contact Bob Eisinger and Joan Romaine.
    6. For NIH PIs working in the areas of Parkinson’s Disease or stroke (in scientific areas other than HIV/AIDS and its comorbidities), contact Peggy Rollins.

What research areas does this initiative support?

This initiative supports research areas outlined in the Funding Opportunity Description in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice. It does not support the following research activities:

  • Clinical trials (because of NSFC’s policy restrictions).
  • Research involving select agents.
  • Cancer studies that do not have an infectious agent or disease component.

May U.S. investigators apply with a pathogen or research area that is not listed in the announcement?

Possibly, depending on the research focus (as indicated for each participating NIH institute) and its relevance to the intent of this initiative.

Before submitting their applications, U.S. investigators should discuss research plans with a Scientific/Research Contact listed under Agency Contacts in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice.

Note, however, that certain restrictions to permissible scientific activities are defined in the announcement.

Does the Chinese collaborator’s NSFC application need to be submitted as part of the NIH application?


Do U.S. investigators need to share confidential or proprietary information with their Chinese collaborators?

Only if they include this information in their applications. PIs concerned about confidentiality or proprietary information should take the sharing requirement into account when deciding what information to include.

Can NIH staff send confidential or proprietary application information to a Chinese collaborator on behalf of an applicant?

No. Only applicants can send this information to their collaborators.

What is the maximum budget that U.S. applicants can request?

U.S. applicants can request up to $200,000 a year in total costs (direct plus facilities and administrative costs) for up to three years.

How much funding can Chinese collaborators request from NSFC?

Chinese collaborators can ask for up to 3 million renminbi over three years.

Can NIH funds awarded under this program support expenses incurred in China but not included in the Chinese collaborator's project expenses?

Yes. U.S. applicants can spend funds in China under this announcement but should justify in their applications why such an expense is needed to complete their research projects. Further, a U.S. investigator's budget should not overlap with that of his or her Chinese collaborator.

Before submitting an application, applicants should discuss budgets that propose to spend funds in China with a Scientific/Research Contact listed under Agency Contacts in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice.

How do U.S. institutions pay for facilities and adminstrative costs for Chinese collaborators?

U.S. institutions do not pay for facilities and administrative costs for their Chinese collaborators. However, they can include items needed at any foreign site (whether in China or elsewhere) as direct costs in their budgets.

Chinese collaborators receive support directly from NSFC.

For more information on calculating facilities and administrative costs on an NIH grant, contact your institution's business office and read Where do I find guidance on calculating facilities and administrative costs? in our Managing a Grant questions and answers.

Are electronic signatures acceptable in the letter of support or other submitted documents?

No. Documents must have original signatures, which are then scanned and submitted.

Are references included in the 12-page limit for the research strategy?


Are preliminary data required for this opportunity?


Will applicants receive feedback from NIH?

Yes, they will receive feedback in the form of summary statements after peer review of their applications.

How will NSFC review applications?

NSFC will review applications from Chinese collaborators using review criteria that match NIH's.

Will reviewers consider the Chinese collaborator’s scientific background when evaluating a U.S. investigator's application?

Yes. Reviewers will evaluate all investigators for appropriate scientific background to conduct the proposed research. 

Should a U.S. applicant include the Chinese collaborator’s biosketch?

Though not a requirement, NIH strongly encourages it.

Must U.S. applicants show evidence of collaboration history with their Chinese collaborators?


Does a U.S. applicant have to hold an active NIH grant?


May a U.S. applicant submit more than one application on different projects, each with a different Chinese collaborator?

Yes, as long as the applications are scientifically distinct.  Note that NIH will not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already reviewed or pending initial peer review.

Whom should I contact if I have a question regarding this announcement?

Contact the appropriate Scientific/Research Contact listed under Agency Contacts in the April 4, 2012, Guide notice.

If you didn't find your question here, we also have general Peer Review at NIAID questions and answers.

Last Updated September 05, 2012

Last Reviewed September 05, 2012