To let NIAID evaluate an organization it has funded or is considering funding under a grant or cooperative agreement.
This SOP covers the site visit process for grantees. For contracts, see the Site Visits, Contractor SOP.
NIAID usually conducts site visits after peer review, though there are exceptions. Sometimes we need to conduct a site visit after review but before awarding a grant. Other times we will conduct a site visit after award.
In a site visit, NIAID staff travel to grantee sites for one of the following reasons:
- Clarify statements in an application.
- Verify that an institution is suitable for funding before it can get a grant.
- Correct an institution's conduct or performance on a funded grant.
Before visiting an institution, NIAID explains the reason for the visit, confirms a visitation date, and provides a list of staff who will attend.
During the site visit, NIAID meets key staff and examines an institution's facilities, data, protocols, and accounting records.
- Grants management staff look at project management.
- Program officers look at scientific conduct.
Sometimes grants management specialists determine there is a need for a site visit without a program officer's input, generally in cases where NIAID has evidence of administrative or accounting deficiencies at an institution.
In a reverse site visit, grantees come to NIAID to address concerns about project management or scientific conduct. Applicants give a presentation in support of their project, followed by questions, feedback, and discussion.
NIAID may request a reverse site visit to consult with applicants before they apply for large, complex grants. A successful reverse site visit is not a guarantee of funding—the application still needs to go through the normal review process.
- If NIAID thinks applicants should not submit an application, it will ask them to revise their Specific Aims and schedule another reverse site visit for the revised application.
- If NIAID thinks applicants are ready to apply, it will tell them.
NIAID staff can request site visits and reverse site visits when they identify problems so they can resolve issues of confusion and provide constructive feedback.
- Visits don't satisfy audit, reporting, or oversight requirements.
- Institutions can ask NIAID staff for a voluntary site visit to examine facilities, evaluate protocols, or help with paperwork and management.
After a site visit or reverse site visit, NIAID sends the institution a report that summarizes the visit, describes the issues resolved, and lists any actions the institution must take moving forward.
Foreign institutions follow the same procedure as domestic institutions.
- To request a visit, send a letter to the NIAID staff listed on your Notice of Award.
- For administrative issues, contact the grants management specialist.
- For scientific issues, contact the program officer.
- To get ready for a site visit, do the following:
- Prepare your facilities for inspection.
- Clean up everything.
- Get your documents in order, and make sure they're written in or translated into English.
- Arrange tours and presentations for NIAID visitors.
- Plan an agenda.
- Work with NIAID.
- Include interview time for your key staff, including administrative support for the project.
- Prepare a list of questions for NIAID staff.
- Tell NIAID if you need an English translator so it can bring one if necessary.
- Prepare a feedback session for the end of the site visit.
- Prepare your facilities for inspection.
- During a site visit, do the following:
- Stick to the schedule.
- Make your staff available for questions and discussion.
- Get a debriefing by NIAID staff while they're on site.
- Make any changes NIAID suggests.
- Keep NIAID's site visit report. You don't have to respond—contact NIAID staff directly if you need to follow up.
- For a reverse site visit, do the following:
- Prepare a 90 minute presentation that proves you have addressed NIAID's concerns and answered NIAID's questions. Include evidence to support your statements—don't just give assertions.
- Take notes of interviewer comments, and make whatever changes are necessary to get or keep your funding.
- If you're asked to revise your strategy or aims, stick to the changes NIAID suggests and schedule another site visit after you've made the changes.
- Decide the need for a site visit.
- Before planning a site visit, communicate with grants management staff assigned to the award. Decide with them whether you will visit an organization or a reverse site visit will be sufficient.
- Identify a site visit team, which normally includes program and grants management staff and possibly others whose expertise would be beneficial.
- Work with grantees and grants management staff to make arrangements and set the agenda.
- Write a letter confirming a site visit, including a list of participants and the agenda, and send it to the grantee.
- Meet with PIs and staff to discuss work being done, problems, and other issues related to a grant and meet with research administrators to discuss other grant-related issues.
- Within 30 calendar days, prepare a site visit report summarizing major agenda items, documenting action items, and addressing a grant's status relative to its planned schedule. Submit copies to grants management staff for the official file kept in the Division of Extramural Activities.
- Do not change terms or conditions of grants.
Grants Management Staff
- Together with program officers, identify a need and make arrangements for site visits, determine site visit teams, and provide input into agendas.
- For serious administrative or accounting deficiencies with an institution, check with your branch chief whether to conduct a site visit without a program officer's input.
- Identify the need for a financial evaluation and advise program officers.
- Before a site visit that includes a financial evaluation, provide grantees a list of questions to be addressed.
- During site visits, ensure all business items in your agenda are addressed.
- After site visits, review and contribute to the site visit report. For financial evaluations, prepare a report of findings.
- Ensure receipt of final site visit reports from program officers and file them in electronic grant file.
Grantees with questions should contact their grants management specialist. For more information, see the GMP Management list.
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