Opportunities and Resources
- Develop Prevention Technologies for Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Research Eradication of HIV-1 From Central Nervous System Reservoirs
- NIH Issues a Pair of Opportunities for Administrative Supplements
In The News
- Congress Enacts 21st Century Cures Act
- New Font Guidelines for January 25 Due Dates and Beyond
- News Briefs
- Check Out Our New Set of R01 Sample Applications
- Reader Questions
New Funding Opportunities
“This was a great experience! Very useful to learn more about the NIH and grants process. Also, I really enjoyed networking with other K awardees. Excellent job on this workshop! Thanks [to] all the NIAID staff involved.”--Workshop participant
The Presidential Inauguration is next week, but NIAID’s inaugural career development (K grant programs) workshop took place in November. Approximately 60 Institute-supported K awardees gathered in Rockville, Maryland, for presentations and discussions on topics related to attaining independent research careers, as well as a chance to share their own stories with NIAID.
Participants were welcomed to the workshop by NIAID leadership, including Dr. Hugh Auchincloss, the Institute’s principal deputy director. He gave an overview of NIAID, discussing our mission, budget, and recent scientific advances in HIV, Ebola, and Zika.
Dr. Matthew Fenton, director of the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA), was also present and provided general information about NIAID’s current career development programs and future plans for research training programs.
Talks From Those Who Have Walked the Walk
With the theme of “Fostering Science Leaders,” the workshop featured several presentations from current R01 grantees and other researchers who spoke from experience as former NIAID K awardees.
Reaching Independence: The R01
Many career development awardees use their K grant as a stepping stone to becoming principal investigator (PI) of an R01, NIH’s standard independent research project grant (RPG). But before actually applying for one, you’ll need to plan and prepare well ahead of sitting down to write an application.
Look at the Big Picture
As you strive for an R01, you’ll need to consider the “big picture.” This, according to two workshop speakers, means:
- Answering the “so what?” question; that is, “Will this change public health or clinical practice?”
- Thinking in terms of an overall program, not just a collection of related experiments.
Design Your Career
The big picture concept also applies to designing your career. In his presentation, a workshop speaker proposed that you start at the end. That is, decide what your goal is, then the steps you need to work towards it, and a timeline for achieving them.
For example, identify your ultimate career objective, what the speaker called the “hypothesis.” It could be gaining independence, getting tenure, or becoming chair of your department.
To prove your hypothesis, i.e., reach your career goal, you need “data,” for example, publications and grants. And to get the data, you must have your “aims and approach,” which may include activities like teaching.
As for the timeline, you could, for instance, give yourself six to nine years to achieve all of the above. Be sure to have a timeline in mind since it gives you a visual representation of your plans and how much—or little—time you have. It also alerts mentors to the timing of your future planned grant submissions and a reminder of how much is left on the tenure clock.
Enlist Mentors and Collaborators
Part of your early preparation should be finding and working with people who can contribute to your progress and success as a researcher. Two such groups of people: mentors and collaborators.
One of the workshop presenters stressed that it’s important to have good mentors since they serve as role models and provide information, guidance, motivation, and emotional support. They can also help with career and personal development and be key assets if you are in a multi-disciplinary field.
For tips on making the most of the mentor-mentee relationship, go to Make the Most of Your Mentor in our Postdocs’ Guide to Gaining Independence.
Collaborators can also be vital. Their expertise in an area can complement your own and thus fill gaps you may need to conduct your project. As another speaker stated, finding the right collaborators allows you to extend your science further.
If going from a K award to an R01 seems like a giant leap, you may want to follow a speaker’s suggestion by applying for a small grant (R03) or exploratory/developmental research grant (R21).
That said, the R21 is not intended to be a first-time award for new investigators. Success rates for new PIs are essentially the same for both the R21 and the R01 grants. Learn more at Comparing Popular Research Project Grants: R01, R03, or R21.
Also, rather than responding to NIH’s Parent Announcements, like for the R01 or R21, you might find an NIAID-specific program announcement or request for applications. See a complete list of all NIAID-relevant grant funding opportunity announcements at Opportunities & Announcements, and learn more at Solicited, NIAID-Requested Research.
Contact a program officer for help deciding on an appropriate grant type (e.g., K, R01, R21).
Know Whom to Contact
Whether you’re a researcher who already has a K award and plans to apply for an RPG or you’re a prospective K award applicant, you’ll likely need assistance from NIAID staff at some point.
In the grant realm, you may seek out a program officer, scientific review officer (SRO), grants management specialist, or our research training officer. Many workshop attendees were eager to find out who does what.
You may contact a program officer for help deciding on an appropriate grant type (e.g., R01, R21), advice on preparing a grant application, or guidance on what to do if your application is not funded. Learn more at Know When To Contact an NIAID Program Officer.
Scientific review officers (SROs) organize and run initial peer review meetings, recruit scientists to serve on study sections, and check applications to ensure they are complete, among other responsibilities. Reach out to an SRO if you have questions about the peer review process.
Grants management specialists negotiate and issue all NIAID grant awards, resolve budget and administrative issues for individual grants, and ensure compliance with NIH grants policies. Find out When to Contact an NIAID Grants Management Specialist.
NIAID’s research training officer, Dr. Shawn Gaillard, is part of DEA’s Office of Research Training and Special Programs. She can answer your K-related questions on such issues as eligibility and policy. She is also the main contact for institutional training grants and the Loan Repayment Program.
- Postdocs’ Guide to Gaining Independence
- Career Development Awards (K)
- Career Development Grants SOP
- Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) SOP
- Quick Facts on Career Development Awards
Opportunities and Resources
NIAID plans to commit $1.2 million in fiscal year 2018 to fund three to five awards for a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) on advancing the development of Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs). MPTs are products women can use to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and unintended pregnancies.
Applicants must propose to conduct translational, milestone-driven research that leads to the development of novel MPTs or further the development of existing MPTs.
Candidate products should:
- Be beyond the discovery and feasibility stages and ready to enter the translational stage.
- Address the prevention of two or more STIs, an STI and HIV, or an STI and unintended pregnancy.
Read the Guide announcement, linked below, for examples of research areas of interest and types of milestone-driven studies that this FOA may support as well as research areas that will be considered nonresponsive and therefore not reviewed.
About the Activity Code
This FOA uses the bi-phasic R61/R33 activity code.
For the R61 phase, funded investigators will receive up to two years of support.
Before the R61 phase ends, awardees will submit the R33 transition package, which will include the progress report for the R61. NIH program staff will evaluate the transition package and base their R33 funding decisions on the original R61/R33 peer review recommendations, successful completion of transition milestones, program priorities, and availability of funds.
Investigators who move on to the R33 phase may receive up to three years of support.
Find out more about “The Path to Phase II: Understanding Phased Awards” from our May 4, 2016 issue.
Deadlines and Research Contact
Submit an optional letter of intent by February 15, 2017. Applications are due a month later on March 15.
Direct your questions to Jonathan Glock, NIAID's scientific/research contact for this FOA.
Find complete details in the December 7, 2016 Guide announcement.
Apply for an R01 to study mechanisms of HIV-1 persistence and eradication strategies focused on the central nervous system (CNS) in the context of viral suppression. Eradicating HIV-1 from persistent reservoirs could lead to innovative cure strategies.
NIAID, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are cosponsoring this funding opportunity announcement (FOA), which welcomes basic and translational research from domestic and foreign institutions. Multidisciplinary research teams and collaborative alliances are encouraged but not required.
Your research must focus on CNS HIV-1 persistence, providing a possible foundation for rapid development of innovative therapeutic interventions to eradicate HIV-1 from the brain. Research is needed to specifically target viral reservoirs in the CNS sanctuary because of unique viral or anatomic features in the brain such as the blood-brain barrier and long-lived cell populations that may harbor HIV.
For a list of pertinent CNS-specific research focus areas, see the Research Objectives and Scope section of the FOA.
This opportunity encourages you to use the human specimen resources offered by large NIH-funded HIV-related studies such as the following:
- Multi-center AIDS Cohort Study (MACS)
- Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS)
- CNS HIV Antiretroviral Therapy Effects Research (CHARTER)
- AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG)
- National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium (NNTC)
If you plan research that qualifies as human subjects, your application must address protections and consent as described in the FOA. Learn more at NIAID's Research Using Human Subjects. The FOA does not support clinical trials.
The opportunity uses NIH's standard AIDS and AIDS-Related Due Dates. The FOA opens for applications on April 7, 2017, so the first due date is May 8, 2017.
Read the December 13, 2016 Guide announcement for complete details. Direct your NIAID-related questions to Dr. Diane Lawrence. For NIMH and NINDS, see Section VII. Agency Contacts.
NIH uses administrative supplements to help grantees expand their ongoing projects to address underrepresented aspects of biomedical research. Last month, NIH rolled out two such funding opportunity announcements (FOAs): Administrative Supplements for Research on Sex/Gender Influences and Administrative Supplements for Research on Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations.
The former opportunity will support research on the impact of sex and gender as factors in basic, preclinical, clinical, and behavioral studies. For example, you might increase the sample size of an ongoing project researching biomarkers to improve power for data analysis of sex as a biological variable.
NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health is committing $3 million in fiscal year (FY) 2017 to fund 30 awards.
The latter opportunity will fund research on sexual orientation, gender identity, or being born with disorders of sex development/intersex conditions as influences on health behaviors, risks, and perceptions, as well as access to health services. For example, you could add SGM individuals to a study on disease transmission that currently lacks enough SGM participants to make meaningful comparisons between groups.
The NIH Office of the Director and participating institutes will commit up to $1 million in FY 2017 to fund approximately 10 awards.
For both opportunities, NIAID requires that your current grant award have at least 18 months remaining at the time of your application. Read the FOAs linked above for additional eligibility requirements.
Keep in mind, applications for administrative supplements do not go through peer review. See our Administrative Supplements to Grants and Cooperative Agreements SOP to learn more.
Before applying, contact your ongoing award’s program officer to discuss whether your project matches the criteria described in the FOAs.
Act quickly—the final day to apply for supplements to add research on sex and gender factors is February 13, 2017, and the deadline to apply for supplements to add research on sexual and gender minorities is March 1, 2017.
In The News
In December, Congress passed and the President signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act.
As you may have heard, the new law establishes an NIH Innovation Account, authorizing $4.796 billion to fund several large projects over the next 10 years. Those projects include the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, and the Cancer Moonshot initiative, as well as clinical research in regenerative medicine.
More broadly, the law set NIH reauthorization amounts for the next three fiscal years (FYs) as follows:
- FY 2018 – $34.851 billion
- FY 2019 – $35.585 billion
- FY 2020 – $36.472 billion
See Background on NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle to learn how authorizations correspond with appropriations.
The law also simplifies various administrative processes and codifies several NIH policies. For example, the Cures Act exempts NIH from the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act for voluntary collection of information during the conduct of research. It also authorizes the NIH director to require recipients of NIH awards to share scientific data generated from NIH-funded research.
To learn more about how the bill will impact NIH, we encourage you to read The 21st Century Cures Act—A View From the NIH, a Perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 13, 2016.
NIH just announced new font guidelines for the PDF attachments in grant applications due January 25, 2017, and beyond.
That is soon, but don't worry if you just sent your application or have one in the works. As long as your application meets the old guidelines, it's still acceptable.
The first change expands your options by no longer requiring black body text. NIH still recommends that you choose black or other high-contrast text colors since they print well and are legible to the largest audience.
The second change shortens the list of NIH-recommended font faces to these four: Arial, Georgia, Helvetica, and Palatino Linotype.
Other serif and non-serif fonts are still acceptable if they meet all other size, density, and spacing requirements. Previously, NIH had also recommended Garamond, Times New Roman, and Verdana.
All other font guidelines remain the same. See the full new font guidelines in the January 4, 2017 Guide notice. Learn more about formatting in NIH's Font FAQs.
Remember, legibility is key. Since some PDF converters may reduce the font size from what you used in your source document, always confirm that your final PDF document complies with the font requirements. You don’t want to risk having your application withdrawn from consideration or having a reviewer give you a poor score because key information is illegible.
NIH offers regional seminars for researchers and business officials to learn about the NIH grants process and related policies, covering broad topics like grant writing, peer review, and compliance, as well as special interest topics like public access, research integrity, and foreign collaborations.
The first 2017 NIH Regional Seminar will be May 3 to 5, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The second will take place October 25 to 27, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland. Read the December 15, 2016 Guide notice for registration and hotel information.
The primary resource for technical directions when completing an application is NIH’s Application Form Instructions. Still, instructions for sections like Specific Aims and Research Strategy might not always be as helpful as seeing well-written examples from top-scoring applications.
In that case, turn to NIAID’s Sample Applications & More. As the name indicates, the page provides sample applications and summary statements for a variety of research project grant activity codes.
Recently we added three new R01 applications and summary statements. The new R01 sample applications include the biosketch requirement implemented in 2015, but they precede the implementation of FORMS-D and NIH’s rigor and reproducibility requirements from 2016. We will add samples that include those changes as they become available.
We thank Drs. Chengwen Li, Richard Samulski, Mengxi Jiang, and William Faubion for permitting us to use their applications.
Beyond instructions and examples, you might also want our advice, such as how to Prepare Your Application. Go there to find tips on writing successful Specific Aims and Research Strategy sections.
You can ask us a question at firstname.lastname@example.org. After responding, we may ask your permission to include your question in the newsletter.
“Can reviewers review applications for which they have a conflict of interest?”—anonymous reader
No. NIH’s institutes and centers follow standard procedures to prevent program officers, contracting officer's representatives, peer reviewers, or Council members who may have a real or apparent conflict of interest with an applicant from participating in a peer review.
Members of peer review committees must leave the room during discussions of applications in which they or close associates have an interest that could bias their evaluations. For contract proposals, a conflict with one proposal generally results in the reviewer’s not being able to participate in the review of any proposals responding to the same solicitation.
For more information, read “At the Peer Review Meeting” in First-Level Peer Review as well as the Conflict of Interest in Peer Review SOP.
“How does NIH set research priorities?”—anonymous reader
To assess scientific opportunities and priorities, NIH gets input from a range of sources, including focus groups, the Advisory Committee to the Director, and informal discussions with outside scientists. New laws passed by Congress can also create new research priorities.
Each institute has advisory bodies, such as the AIDS Research Advisory Committee, and an institute's main advisory Council. NIAID's Council is called the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council.
NIAID also convenes ad hoc advisory groups, such as the Blue Ribbon Panel that led to the NIH Strategic Plan and Research Agenda for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiological and Nuclear Threats.
At the NIH level, the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives helps identify areas of emerging scientific opportunities and challenges, manages the process for prioritizing trans-NIH initiatives, and gives priority projects “incubator space” for 5 to 10 years. Read more at NIH's Setting Research Priorities.
- PA-17-114, NK Cells to Induce Immunological Memory to Prevent HIV Infection (R01)
- PA-17-113, Fc Receptor (FcR) and Antibody Effector Function in HIV Vaccine Discovery (R01)
- PA-17-098, Administrative Supplements for Research on Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations (Admin Supp)
- PA-17-100, HIV-1 Infection of the Central Nervous System (R01)
See other announcements at Opportunities & Announcements.