NIAID Funding News May 21, 2015

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Comparing NIAID and NIH Data for R01, R21 Grants

In case you missed it, Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research, wrote Looking at Recent Data on R21 and R01-Equivalent Grants, which compares application and award data between the exploratory/developmental research grant (R21) and R01-equivalent mechanisms. Dr. Rockey identified a trend of increasing numbers of applications and awards using the R21 mechanism.

This led us to wonder, what do the R21 and R01 numbers look like at NIAID?

So, we took a look at application, award, and success rate data for the R01-equivalent and R21 mechanisms at NIAID to construct the table below, which substitutes NIAID-specific data for the NIH-wide data given in Dr. Rockey’s post.

Note: In this article, we consider R01-equivalent grants to include the R01 and R37 mechanisms, which matches the approach taken by Dr. Rockey.

 Statistic FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Number of R01-equivalent grant applications 2,740 2,558


Number of R01-equivalent awards 526 406 470
Success rates for R01-equivalent applications 19.2% 15.9%


Number of R21 grant applications 2,025 2,069 2,259
Number of R21 awards 442 343 407
Success rates for R21 applications 21.8% 16.6% 18.0%

One difference between NIH and NIAID is that NIH, from FY 2012 to FY 2014, received approximately twice as many R01-equivalent applications as R21 applications and awarded roughly 2 1/2 times as many R01-equivalent grants as R21 grants, whereas NIAID received only 22 percent more R01 applications than R21s and awarded only 18 percent more R01 awards than R21 awards. One possible explanation for the difference is that not all ICs accept investigator-initiated R21 applications, thus a larger proportion of R21 applications are submitted to NIAID than the average IC.

Dr. Rockey reported that the proportion of competing research project grants (RPGs) that were R21s remained stable from FY 2012 to FY 2014. The data from NIAID show slightly less stability over the past three years, although at NIAID competing R21 awards make up a larger percentage of RPG awards (about 10 percent more than NIH as a whole).

NIAID’s R01 and R21 paylines reached a low point in FY 2013; as a result, investigators who applied that year experienced lower success rates than they would have the year before or after. Similarly, NIH-wide success rates were lower in FY 2013 than in FY 2012 and FY 2014.

While NIAID’s R01-equivalent success rates are in line with all of NIH, our R21 success rates are noticeably higher.

This detail about success rates shouldn't determine the mechanism to which you apply since, as we outlined in the May 22, 2014, article “Early Insights From FY 2014 Application Totals,” your decision to apply for an R01 or an R21 should be driven by your research and proposal, not by an assumption that one or the other is less competitive. See R21 or R01 in the Strategy for NIH Funding for additional advice.

To learn more about how NIAID calculates and uses paylines, percentiles, and success rates, read NIAID Paylines in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

HIV Researchers: Check Out NIH-PEPFAR Collaboration FOAs

To help combat HIV/AIDS in low resource settings, NIH published two funding opportunity announcements (FOAs)—an R01 and a companion exploratory/development (R21) grant—on NIH-PEPFAR Collaboration on Implementation Science for HIV: Towards an AIDS-Free Generation.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched in 2003 and is heading into its third phase, which focuses on continued sustainable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The R01 and R21 FOAs seek implementation science research projects that will have a high impact on controlling the HIV epidemic and provide evidence for best programmatic practices in African countries where PEPFAR is active.

Implementation science is an interdisciplinary area of health research focusing on best methods to improve the uptake, implementation, and translation of research findings into routine and common practices.

To be eligible, applications must include at least one program director/principal investigator (PD/PI) affiliated with an institution from the following countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Rwanda, and/or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The FOAs encourage multiple PDs/PIs for study teams and applications from early-stage investigators in Africa, particularly those who are affiliated with the institutions collaborating with the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) or the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI).

As for priority research areas, here are some examples:

  • Identifying and Targeting "Hotspots"
  • Neglected and Hard to Reach Populations
    • Specific Issues for Adolescent Girls and Young Women
  • HIV Care Continuum
    • Tuberculosis Specific Issues for the Care Continuum
    • Maternal Child Health Specific Issues for the Care Continuum

Applications may propose analytical work using existing databases and should address 1) the challenges that PEPFAR encounters in implementing HIV/AIDS prevention (see the Research Objectives section of the FOAs) and 2) treatment and care programs for antenatal, infant, pediatric, adolescent, and adult populations in eligible African countries.

Within the countries of focus, research is expected to be conducted in regions or populations with high prevalence and incidence of HIV/AIDS, with a particular focus on neglected and hard-to-reach populations with low service coverage and a potential for high impact, for example, pediatric populations, adolescent girls and young women, high-risk men, and sex workers.

Priorities should reflect those of the country and also produce results that are generalizable across PEPFAR programs. Studies of particular importance are those that use existing clinical, administrative, or programmatic data to study resource allocation and ways to maximize impact.

Note that applications proposing basic laboratory-based research or clinical trials testing unlicensed drugs or products or unproven interventions will be considered not responsive and will not be reviewed.

For full details, read the April 24, 2015, R01 and R21 Guide notices. The application deadline for both FOAs is July 28, 2015.

If you have questions, contact Melanie Bacon, NIAID's scientific/research contact for the FOAs.

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R01 Opportunity: Innovation for HIV Vaccine Discovery

If you have strategies for how to identify novel HIV vaccine concepts and targets, we want you—and your innovative, high-risk, high-impact research ideas.

Through this R01 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), your project may answer critical questions related to HIV vaccine discovery. We expect your research to explore and test novel hypotheses to significantly impact the design of immunogens or immunization strategies. This may eventually lead to an effective HIV vaccine that provides protection from either acquiring HIV or an ongoing infection.

You can receive up to four years of support, but funding after the second year depends on your initial success. This award uses a "Go/No-Go" approach for that decision:

  • In your application, you must state the goals you plan to achieve by the second year progress report. We'll fold these goals into your Notice of Award as a requirement.
  • If you achieve the goals ("Go"), you'll get funding for years three and four as planned.
  • If you're unable to achieve the stated goals ("No Go"), we'll negotiate a reduced budget for the third year and close out the award.

See the Responsive Areas of Research section of the FOA for examples of appropriate research topics.

For full details, read the April 20, 2015, Guide notice. Optional letters of intent are due June 29, 2015. The application deadline is July 29, 2015.

Header: Other News.

Don't Let the NIH Business System Shutdown Shut Down Your Actions

As you may already know, the NIH Business System shutdown will delay some of NIAID’s award actions in May and June, as detailed in the May 7, 2015, article “NIH Business System Downtime May Affect You.” However, the shutdown will not hinder our ability to receive and evaluate information from applicants and grantees.

Investigators and business offices: Continue sending us material as usual, including grant applications, Just-in-Time information, and progress reports.

During the downtime, NIAID will do as much preparatory work as possible to ensure that we can quickly complete the anticipated backlog of grant actions. As we play catch-up, expect short turnaround times for requests from NIAID staff.

From now until the end of the fiscal year, it’s imperative that you not wait in responding to our requests, otherwise you may further delay your funding.

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Learn About the Chimpanzee Research Use (CRU) Reporting System

Editor's note added on November 20, 2015: See the November 18, 2015 NIH Director Statement, "NIH Will No Longer Support Biomedical Research on Chimpanzees."

For those of you planning to use chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) or biomaterials from chimps in research, be aware that NIH just implemented the Chimpanzee Research Use (CRU) Reporting System, a new part of the eRA Commons.

Here's our summary of NIH's new grant process regarding chimps:

  • eRA automatically identifies applications that may indicate use of chimpanzees in the project and flags them.
  • When your assigned IC considers funding your application, the new CRU Reporting System emails you and your signing official. You must resolve the chimpanzee flag to receive funding. The email describes three possible paths to resolve the flag:
    1. If your project doesn't involve the use of chimpanzees or chimpanzee biomaterials as defined in the November 25, 2013, Guide notice:
      • You use the CRU Reporting System and check a box to certify that your project does not involve chimpanzees or chimpanzee biomaterials. NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) reviews to confirm.
      • If OLAW agrees with your assessment, there's no substantial delay to your award.
    2. If your project meets the exemption criteria listed in the November 25, 2013, Guide notice:
      • You use the CRU Reporting System to indicate that your research meets the exemption criteria and provide a justification.
      • Again, if OLAW agrees that your research meets the exemption criteria, there's no substantial delay to your award.
    3. If your research involves chimps and doesn't meet the exemption criteria:
      • You use the CRU Reporting System to complete the CRU Reporting Form.
      • The CRU Panel will consider your form and check if your proposed use of chimps meets NIH's criteria and principles. They recommend a decision to the Council of Councils.
      • The Council of Councils recommends a decision in turn to the NIH IC director.
      • This process adds about four months to the award cycle if you meet NIH's due date.

For a table of CRU form due dates, review dates, and more details on the process, see the April 27, 2015, Guide notice.

We've added the key Guide notice links to Check for Limits on Your Planned Animal Species or Source in How to Write an Application Involving Research Animals.

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Stay Informed of Changes Between NIH Grants Policy Statement Updates

NIH recently updated its NIH Grants Policy Statement (NIHGPS). NIH updates the NIHGPS every year or two. At any time between NIHGPS updates, NIH may enact new policies that aren't written into the NIHGPS. When that happens, you will need to follow the new policies even if the NIHGPS hasn't yet been updated. Which begs the question, how do you stay abreast of new policies?

Read NIH Guide notices, communicate with your business office, and go to Stay Informed About Policy Changes and News for NIAID and NIH websites and email distribution lists.

For a summary of these latest changes, read NIH's Summary of Significant Changes to the NIH GPS for March 2015 Version and note that all of the changes listed in this document were already in effect by the time of its publication.

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News Briefs

An Additional Instruction for PIs Switching to RPPR in FY 2015. If you submitted a paper PHS 2590 progress report or a paper competing renewal application in FY 2014 and the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) you send in FY 2015 will be your first RPPR, then list the publications you previously reported on paper in addition to those from the latest reporting period in your RPPR. This will ensure that NIH systems such as My Bibliography and RePORTER automatically store award-publication associations from the previous periods of your grant. See the April 10, 2015, Guide notice for more details.

ASSIST Available for R01s, U01s, and Most K Awards. As announced in the April 30, 2015, and May 1, 2015Guide notices, you can now use Application Submission System and Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST) to complete and submit R01, U01, and most K award applications. You may recall that ASSIST previously expanded to R03 and R21 grant applications in January. ASSIST will expand to more grant mechanisms in July, as seen in the Target Timeline for Single-Project ASSIST Support.

Change to Language of Molecular Mechanisms of Combination Adjuvants (MMCA) U01. Prospective applicants to the MMCA (U01) funding opportunity announcement RFA-AI-15-005, take note: The instructions in the Research Strategy of the February 10, 2015, Guide notice have been revised, as described in the May 8, 2015, Guide notice.

RFI Seeks Status of Medical Countermeasures for Radiation Injury. In an effort to address the need for radiation/nuclear medical countermeasures (MCMs), NIAID is soliciting information about the current status of MCMs for treating ionizing radiation injury, biomarkers of radiation injury, and biodosimetry devices that can be used or deployed during or following a radiation/nuclear incident. Read Request for Information (RFI): Development of Radiation/Nuclear Medical Countermeasures, Predictive Biomarkers, and Biodosimetry Devices for full details. Responses are due by May 26, 2015.

Header: Advice Corner.

Applying With a Modular Budget: What’s It Worth?

About half of NIAID investigator-initiated R01 grant applications are submitted with modular budgets, but that doesn’t mean your decision to apply with either a modular or detailed budget should come down to a 50-50 coin toss.

Before You Start Tabulating

Assuming you’ve already chosen a funding opportunity and have begun designing your Research Strategy, take time to check on a few key budget items.

First, find out whether the equipment you need is available through your institution, or whether non-NIH funds are available to purchase new equipment.

Next, ask for your institution’s salary rates. Typically salaries make up 60 to 80 percent of an application’s direct costs. While NIH sets a cap for PI salary, the costs of other researchers, like postdocs and graduate students, are typically set by your institution.

Guidelines for Choosing Which Budget to Use

If you are at a domestic institution, applying for an R01, R03, R15, R21, or R34 grant, and your budget request is for no more than $250,000 in annual direct costs, then you are required to apply using a modular budget (i.e., a budget set out in increments of $25,000). Note that the $250,000 threshold does not include consortium F&A costs.

Applications that do not meet all of the above conditions—domestic institution, eligible grant mechanism, and under the direct cost threshold—are required to use the Research and Related (R&R) Budget Component form.

Also, some program announcements and requests for applications require either a modular or detailed budget, regardless of the total budget amount requested. Check the text of the funding opportunity announcement to be sure.

So where does your choice come in?

As you design your research proposal, tabulate a rough cost estimate. If you are above but near the $250,000 annual direct cost threshold, consider ways to lessen your expenses. Maybe you have a low-priority Specific Aim that can be dropped or a piece of equipment you could rent rather than buy new.

What’s the Payoff?

There are two main benefits to applying with a modular budget.

Ease of Applying

When you submit a modular budget, you provide only a direct costs total for each period—no individual budget items are necessary. Just make sure that your total is a multiple of $25,000 and does not exceed $250,000.

You must also complete the Personnel, Consortium, and Additional Narrative justification forms, in which you explain the basis of your costs.

To see an example of a successful modular budget, read the sample application “Structural controls of functional receptor and antibody binding to viral capsids.”

Conversely, the detailed budget requires that you provide costs for the Senior/Key Personnel, Other Personnel, Equipment, Travel, Participant/Trainee Support Costs, Materials and Supplies, Publication Costs, Consultant Services, ADP/Computer Services, Subawards/Consortium/Contractual Costs, Equipment or Facility Rental/User Fees, Alterations and Renovations, and any other direct costs, such as patient care.

In your accompanying budget justification, you must explain any significant increases or decreases from the initial year budget and tie your requests to Specific Aims.

For an example of a successful detailed budget, check out the sample application “Broadly protective (universal) virus-like particle (VLP) based influenza vaccine.”

Scrutiny from Peer Reviewers

Reviewers look to see that the budget, irrespective of total size, fits with the proposed studies. Some projects (e.g., clinical research, projects using nonhuman primates) are inherently more expensive than others.

Reviewers carefully consider all of the information in front of them, but historically, modular budgets tend to get cut less frequently. We’ve seen reviewers slash detailed budgets when cost items weren’t adequately justified by their Research Strategy and Specific Aims.

No Impact on Scoring

We have no evidence that there is a relationship between the size of an application's budget request and its overall impact/priority score or percentile. Nor have we seen a greater success rate for applications using a modular versus a non-modular budget.

Instead, the benefits of a modular budget are those stated above—ease of applying and a lower potential for reviewer-recommended budget cuts.

Think carefully about the costs of your proposed research and choose the approach that's appropriate for your needs. Don't hesitate to request a large budget, so long as you can accurately and thoroughly justify all portions of the request.

Related Resources

Header: Reader Questions.

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

“My R01 is in a no-cost extension period and I've applied for a renewal. If funded, the project dates will overlap. Will my current R01 be automatically terminated?”—Nancy Breslin, Harvard University

Yes, the R01 in the no-cost extension period will end when the new grant is awarded. The renewal is a continuation of the activity.

R01 awards typically have carryover authority, so any unspent funds will be carried over to the new segment. You can check your Notice of Award to confirm if your award has carryover.

If you do not have automatic carryover, follow the procedures listed in the Carryover Requests SOP.

“Can I apply for a loan repayment award and a K08 award simultaneously?”—Amanda Martinot, Harvard University

Yes, you can apply for (and receive) a loan repayment award and a career development award concurrently.

See Loan Repayment Programs and Career Development Awards (K) for additional resources.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Content last reviewed on May 7, 2015