Funding News Edition: July 21, 2021 See more articles in this edition
While more than 80 percent of NIH’s Budget is spent on extramural research, mostly through competitive grants to research institutions around the country, about 10 percent supports intramural projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in NIH’s own laboratories. Within NIAID, the Division of Intramural Research, Vaccine Research Center, and Division of Clinical Research are responsible for making scientific discoveries to promote the development of new vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics to improve human health in the areas of allergic, immunologic, and infectious diseases.
NIAID encourages collaboration between extramural and intramural researchers. However, because intramural researchers are government employees, additional rules and regulations apply to their involvement on research projects supported by NIH grant funding.
Know NIAID’s Priorities
Before we delve into the procedures for establishing an extramural-intramural collaboration, you should know how to discern the scientific topics and research areas of most interest to our intramural scientists.
General descriptions of our laboratories’ concentrations are listed at Division of Intramural Research Laboratory Descriptions and Research Conducted at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC). You can click on each laboratory to read a longer program description and review major project areas. We index intramural Investigators' Research Areas as well.
You might also use NIH RePORTER’s Advanced Projects Search feature to display active intramural projects at NIAID (and use “Search Criteria” then “All Search Fields” to further limit the results) and the Publications Search feature to find journal articles and other research products associated with those projects.
Additionally, NIAID’s Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office (TTIPO) maintains a list of Recent NIAID Technology Development Licensing and Collaboration Opportunities for industry partners to develop and commercialize discoveries made in our intramural laboratories.
Roles To Play
Intramural investigators may participate in grants and contracts in a number of ways, including
- Serving as unpaid consultants
- Contributing to the conceptualization, design, execution, or interpretation of a research study
- Acting as the project leader of a project within a program project (P01) grant
- Having primary responsibility for a Specific Aim within a standard research project grant (R01)
- Developing a major database for an extramural collaborator
- Participating in a multi-institutional collaborative arrangement with extramural researchers for clinical, prevention, or epidemiological studies
Intramural scientists cannot serve as a principal investigator (PI) on an NIH grant or contract while still employed by NIH, unless specifically allowed by a given funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Also, while intramural scientists may write a description of the work to be performed by intramural, they may not write an extramural applicant’s grant application or offeror’s contract proposal.
As noted at Collaborations Between Extramural and NIAID Scientists, NIAID may convert a grant to a cooperative agreement if activities performed by intramural staff amount to substantial involvement.
Mitigating Ethical Concerns
Intramural staff participation in extramural grants and contracts have potential implications for conflicts of interest, ethics, technology transfer, intellectual property, publication, and the exchange of research materials. Our Intramural Scientist Collaboration on Extramural Funded Grants and Contracts SOP details various oversight processes put in place to guard against compromising situations, such as a requirement that the intramural scientist’s division director provide signature approval for the collaboration.
Intramural scientists may not receive a salary, travel expenses, or other funds from NIH-funded grants or contracts. Further, NIH grant or contract funds cannot be used to support any aspect of intramural activities.
Individual FOAs and contract solicitations may also impose special instructions, eligibility requirements, or other limitations on government involvement.
NIH Clinical Center Opportunity
While in most cases you’ll search for collaborators to work on your funded grant, NIH occasionally issues FOAs aimed at bringing together extramural and intramural scientists.
For instance, you may know of the companion FOAs Pre-Application: Opportunities for Collaborative Research at the NIH Clinical Center (X02) and Opportunities for Collaborative Research at the NIH Clinical Center (U01). NIAID plans to participate in the U01 FOA that the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is preparing to reissue. In combination, the FOAs help extramural investigators gain access to the NIH Clinical Center and leverage its diverse resources, expertise, and infrastructure to test promising laboratory- and animal-based discoveries with potential for advancing disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
The previous version of the U01 FOA required the intramural investigator to act as a PI or collaborator on the grant but not serve as the contact PI; the next iteration of the FOA is likely to as well.
General Tips on Collaborating
Of course, intramural staff aren’t the only potential collaborators for your planned research projects. Read our guidance at Build Your Team and Team Roles and Agreements for general advice on recruiting expert consultants and collaborators to complement, and not overlap with, your expertise and experience.