You Will Still Use Cover Letters, but Not for Assignment Requests

In March, we told you that Policy Changes Accompany the FORMS-D Changeover. One of those changes, the new PHS Assignment Request Form, merits further discussion.

Beginning with applications due on or after May 25, 2016, you have the option of completing the new PHS Assignment Request Form. On this form you can:

  • Identify any NIH institutes or centers as an awarding component, both positively ("assign to") and negatively ("do not assign to").
  • Make study section or special emphasis panel requests, both positively and negatively.
  • List potential reviewers in conflict and explain why.
  • List scientific expertise needed to review your application.

The form is not a requirement—you could even choose to complete only one of the fields listed above and leave the rest blank.

Keep in mind, if you list potential reviewers in conflict, acceptable explanations are conflict of interest, competitor, or long-standing scientific disagreement. Ultimately your scientific review officer (SRO) will decide whether to exclude reviewers.

Read for our full advice on how to approach your assignment request.

As before, you must have a cover letter for the following applications:

  • Resubmissions
  • Approvals to submit. For applications requiring our approval to submit, state that you have attached a copy of the NIAID acceptance letter to the PHS 398 Cover Letter attachment for:
    • Grants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year
    • Conference Grants (R13 or U13)
    • Investigator-initiated clinical trial planning and implementation awards
  • Generation of data per the NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy. State that studies will generate large-scale human or nonhuman genomic data as detailed in the NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy.
  • Corrected applications. Include a complete cover letter if you did not pass validations and submitted a corrected application.
  • Late applications. See the Late Applications section in Submission Policies.
  • Continuous submission. Indicate that you are a member of an NIH study section qualified to submit at a nonstandard time.
  • Video. Indicate that you plan to send video files later. Read more at Plan Ahead for Video.

You can also still use the cover letter to:

  • Point out requests for applications and program announcements. State the title if you're responding to an initiative.
  • Note special areas. Note the involvement of human subjects, select agents, or other areas with special requirements.
  • Note a subaward that will be active for only some of the grant's years.

For more about cover letters, see Cover Letter Attachment. In the past, only NIH's Division of Receipt and Referral and SRO would see your cover letter, not the reviewers or program officer. The same will be true of the new PHS Assignment Request Form.

Content last reviewed on May 4, 2016

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