A crowd of people

New NSF-approved formats for biosketch, current and pending support required beginning June 1

The newest National Science Foundation (NSF) Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) takes effect June 1, 2020. The most significant changes involve NSF-approved formats for the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support sections, both of which will now have to be in NSF-approved file formats: either SciENcv or NSF fillable-form PDF.

SciENcv integrates with ORCID so that biographical sketch information can be imported directly from ORCID, eliminating some manual entry of information in multiple places. The NSF fillable forms do not integrate with ORCID.

NSF requests that principal investigators start using the new formats now (even for proposals that will be submitted before June 1), so that they can identify potential issues. Feedback about the process should be emailed to policy@nsf.gov.

NSF’s Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support pages include links to the fillable forms as well as FAQs. Visit the SciENcv site for video tutorials and FAQs.


Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons license.

Blackboard with the word "UPDATE" written on it. An outstretched hand holds an alarm clock in a space between the "P" and the "D" in the word update.

NSF updates research community on COVID-19 response

Jean Feldman, head of NSF’s policy office, gave a COVID-19 update as part of a panel discussion hosted by the National Council of Research Administrators (NCURA) on March 25. As described below, she addressed several of the questions most frequently being fielded by her office. For detailed responses on these and other FAQs, visit the NSF COVID-19 webpage. A new set of questions and answers was posted on March 26, with a specific section on Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grants.

Are NSF proposal deadlines being extended?

Many deadlines have been extended, but these are being decided and announced on a one-by-one basis. As of March 27, 15 deadlines are listed on NSF’s Impact on Deadline Dates webpage.

Can we continue to charge salary costs to our grants while non-essential research has been curtailed?

Grant recipients can continue charging salaries, stipends and benefits as long as these payments are consistent with their home institution’s policies. However, you should not assume that supplemental funding will be available to continue salaries when research activities can be restarted. In other words, you might end up with a budget shortfall down the road. If you anticipate this happening, you should contact your program officer.

Can universities donate personal protective equipment that was purchased with grant funding?

This is typically an unallowable expense, but funding agencies have discretion to approve such donations. Contact your program officer to see if it will be allowed. If you plan to donate now and then use university funds later to replenish your supply, work with your Grants & Contracts accountant to very carefully document the donation and replacement process.

How are award decision timelines being impacted?

The award process is currently continuing as normal; panels that were scheduled have gone ahead (virtually). Over time, delays may occur, but it’s too soon to predict those now.

Feldman encourages principal investigators and research administrators to contact their program officer or the Policy Office (policy@nsf.gov) with questions. Please also refer to Miami’s Research and Innovation COVID-19 and Your Research Program webpage, and in particular, the Agency and COGR Guidance webpage.


Photo by geralt via needpix.com, used under Creative Commons license.

A fountain featuring Atlas supporting the world on his shoulders.

NSF proposals to require new current and pending support format beginning June 1

Columns and arches in Union Station.

National Science Foundation’s latest Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) has been released and takes effect for proposals submitted on or after June 1. One of the more notable changes in the new guide is a requirement for information about current and pending support (CPS). CPS information is used by reviewers to assess the “capacity of the individual to carry out the research as well as to help assess any potential overlap/duplication with the project being proposed.”

The new PAPPG includes a requirement that CPS information be submitted in an NSF-approved format. The two approved methods for generating CPS information in an approved format are through SciENcv and through a fillable-form PDF. Both of these options are still in development, with no definite word on when we’ll be able to take a look.

NSF has released an FAQ document on the topic, which explains that CPS information formatted in ways other than the two approved methods will not be accepted. In fact, submitting a CPS PDF prepared in any other way will generate an error message.

Most of the remaining FAQs focus on the content of the current and pending information, rather than the format. I’ve summarized some of the most relevant information here:

  • Gifts should not be reported in CPS. However, an item or service given with an expectation of a time commitment from a researcher is not considered a gift; it’s an in-kind contribution. Ask your Research & Sponsored Programs representative if you need help determining whether something is a gift or an in-kind contribution.
  • In-kind contributions with an associated time commitment should be included in CPS (even if the contribution is not to be used on the proposed project).
  • Start-up packages should not be included in CPS.

Federal funders are increasingly concerned with accurate reporting of CPS information. Falsely reported information can be a serious matter. If you have any questions on what should be reported, please contact your Research & Sponsored Programs representative.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Associate Director of Proposal Development, Office of Research & Innovation, Miami University.

Photo of Atlas fountain by Pauline E via geograph.org.uk. Photo of columns and arches by takomabibelot via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license.

Large stack of paper

NIH to transition to Forms-F grant application forms and instructions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will require applicants to use a new set of forms and instructions for proposals due on or after May 25, 2020. The changes appear to be very minor. The most substantive change, in PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information, involves the separation of the current “Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children” attachment into two attachments: “Inclusion of Individuals Across the Lifespan” and “Inclusion of Women and Minorities.” Miami’s grants.gov interface, Cayuse 424, will automatically update to the new forms for applications with due dates after May 25, 2020. While we expect that many applicants won’t even notice the changes, Research & Sponsored Programs staff will be available to answer any questions that arise.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Research & Sponsored Programs, Miami University.

Paper stack image by Egle_pe via Needpix.com. “Coming soon” image by Mian Shahzad Raza via Pixabay. Both used under Creative Commons license.

A fish ladder

FastLane and Research.gov to be unavailable November 8-12

"Road Ahead Closed" sign on a street, flanked by orange traffic cones.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a notification that FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable beginning at 8:00pm ET on Friday, November 8 through 6:00am ET on Tuesday, November 12.

During this time, NSF will be migrating its business applications to a “modern and flexible” platform. The work will include an upgrade of the alpha-numeric character set used by FastLane and Research.gov to correct text errors — particularly those associated with special characters — that may appear in proposals and project reports.

As a federal agency, NSF is closed on Veterans Day, and the migration was scheduled for the Veterans Day weekend to minimize the impact of the unavailability of the two systems for PIs, research administrators, and NSF staff.

NSF advises that there will be no access to FastLane or Research.gov during the maintenance window. No proposals can be prepared or submitted, nor can project reports or cash requests be submitted. Information and documents that are entered into either system prior to the migration will be accessible following the migration. This includes in-progress proposals and project reports.


Road closed photo by The Local People Photo Archive via Flickr.  Fish ladder photo by Oscar_Huebner via Pixabay. Both used under Creative Commons license.

A teacher listens while a young student reads aloud from a book.

Insights about applying to Spencer Foundation emerge from program officer visit

Roey Ahram, Spencer Foundation Associate Program Officer, visited Miami on October 3.

At the invitation of Dean Michael Dantley, Spencer Foundation’s Associate Program Officer, Roey Ahram, spent October 3 with Miami’s College of Education, Health, and Society. Ahram gave a detailed presentation in the morning and met with individual faculty members to discuss their research throughout the afternoon.

Ahram explained that Spencer is interested in education broadly defined and wherever learning occurs from birth through adulthood. They are responsive to education researchers’ needs, and as Ahram explained it they, “fund whatever the field thinks we should fund.”

Ahram described the Foundation’s areas of interest, including creating and sustaining equitable education spaces, emphasizing the foundation’s view that “learning is a social justice process.” Another area of interest is innovative research approaches. Ahram explained that Spencer funds across the full range of educational research approaches and that the Foundation believes more research on the methods themselves is needed. Other areas of interest include learning and flourishing and high-quality teaching and leaders.

The Spencer Foundation funds three types of grants:

  • Field-building activities (including conferences and mentoring)
  • Training fellowships for dissertations and post-doctoral work
  • Tenure-track faculty, and field-initiated research

A great deal of Ahram’s presentation focused on field-initiated research, which would likely be of most interest to Miami faculty. Please refer to the Spencer website for more details.

As Ahram explained, the Spencer Foundation is deeply interested in reflecting the diversity of educational researchers, as well as learners and educators, in the proposals they fund. He indicated that, historically, Spencer has supported primarily West Coast, Northeast, and large R1 Midwestern universities and colleges. They specifically want to diversify their geographic reach, which may make this an ideal time for Miami faculty to consider applying. If you’re interested in submitting a proposal to the Spencer Foundation, contact Amy Cooper to get started. Staff from University Advancement are available to help with relationship building and even writing and editing.

Ahram offered the following four tips for grant-seekers:

  • Start with a question.
  • Know your audience. Reviewers for Spencer research grant proposals include, at minimum, a subject expert, a research method expert, and a generalist.
  • Align the sections of your proposal. Ahram suggests specifically stating in the research methods section, “I’m answering my research question by . . .”
  • Learn from feedback. For full proposals, Spencer provides detailed reviewer comments. While Spencer grants are becoming ever more competitive — with some having as low as a 5% funding rate — resubmissions are faring better and better.

What makes a Spencer application stand out? Ahram says well-done literature review and methodology sections are critical, with a research question clearly driving the research. He emphasized that the methodology should include a well-articulated analysis plan, joking that “you’ll need more than T-tests!” Applicants should also justify their choice of analysis method with citations. See the “Resources and Tools for Applicants” section of the Spencer website for details.

Spencer program officers are also education researchers themselves and Ahram’s area of interest is special education. He stated that program officers are happy to discuss project ideas with applicants, but aren’t permitted to review proposal drafts. Finally, Spencer is looking for diversity in proposal reviewers; contact a program officer to volunteer.


Written by Amy Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Research and Innovation; Brian Furnish, Assistant Vice President, Corporate and Foundation Relations; and Carrie Powell, Director of Development for the College of Education, Health, and Society, Miami University.

Photo of Roey Ahram by the Spencer Foundation. Photo of Urban Leadership Intern Madison Cook with students by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.

NSF gives more researchers a reason to use SciENcv

A hot topic at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) in August was the Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv), a new electronic system that helps researchers create and maintain their biosketches. SciENcv was conceptualized by an interagency working group that included the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), along with several other federal funding agencies.

SciENcv reduces the administrative burden of submitting a proposal by serving as a repository of information on expertise, employment, education, and professional accomplishments. It will be linked with ORCID identifiers and databases, such as PubMed. A biosketch created with SciENcv can be tailored to meet the requirements of various funding agencies without the researcher having to worry about formatting.

According to Jean Feldman, head of NSF’s Policy Office, NSF is working with NIH to use SciENcv as a format for creating an approved biosketch. The next version of NSF’s Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) will require researchers to use an NSF-provided template or SciENcv, both of which include mandatory tags that are recognized by NSF’s online submission system, research.gov. A PDF must be generated from one of these two sources or the biosketch will be rejected by research.gov. (Note that while Miami currently uses Fastlane to submit proposals to NSF, we will eventually be switching to research.gov.)

Actual development of the SciENcv system has been led by NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which has many SciENcv resources, including a tutorial, available on their website. As Miami moves to research.gov for NSF submissions and SciENcv becomes more prevalent, OARS will offer training as needed.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Photo of Jean Feldman by NSF.

 

Samples from a lab experiment sit on a lab bench.

NIH revamps their Rigor and Reproducibility webpage

NIH has added new resources to their Rigor and Reproducibility webpage. According to NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer, “the webpage now reflects policy updates and explores new resources, all in a simple and easy to read manner. And, better yet, these changes do not reflect any additional requirements or forms!”

Lauer shared news of the redesign in a December 13 Open Mike blog post. The main focus of the redesigned page is clarifying what is meant by “scientific premise” of grant applications. Lauer points out that the original NIH definition of the term referred to the rigor of the prior research used to support the proposal, rather than just referring to the hypothesis or rationale for the proposed study.

The Rigor and Reproducibility page links to four subpages, including relevant guidance, application preparation resources, training materials, and links to notices, blogs, and other resources. The application preparation resources may be of most interest to Miami faculty, as they include examples of the rigor of some funded proposals, tools for enhancing or clarifying the rigor of your application, and examples of plans for authenticating chemicals, plasmid DNA, antibodies, and cell lines.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Photos by Miami University Photo Services.

Metamorphosis Cocoon Close Up

Changes to NIH R15 mechanism are coming

Mike Lauer addresses an audience as part of a panel discussion.
NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Mike Lauer (right), says changes are coming to the R15 program, but reaffirms NIH’s commitment to the funding mechanism.

With their focus on engaging students in meaningful research experiences, National Institutes of Health’s Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA, R15) are a popular mechanism for Miami University principal investigators. These grants are designed for institutions receiving less than $6 million per year in NIH support (currently the case at Miami) and emphasize enhancing the research environment at eligible schools.

I attended an NIH Regional Seminar in mid-October. Held semi-annually, these seminars clarify federal regulations and policies and highlight current areas of special interest or concern. The R15 grant mechanism was highlighted in the plenary session presented by Mike Lauer, the NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research. Lauer hinted at upcoming changes to the R15 program, but emphasized that the NIH commitment to the R15 program will remain the same.

One change that Lauer made clear is that the current practice of the NIH maintaining a list of institutions ineligible for AREA grants will be discontinued. It will become an institution’s responsibility to affirm eligibility based on the level of NIH funding over the last 7 years. OARS will be developing a template letter to cover this requirement.

In spring 2018, the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) issued a specific call (PAR-18-714) for R15 proposals with an emphasis on providing biomedical research experiences primarily for undergraduate students. While graduate students shouldn’t be excluded, they are not the focus of this call.

In a seminar breakout session on R15 grants, the presenter, Tracy Waldeck, Director of the Office of Extramural Policy and Review (OPER) for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated that other NIH institutes and centers will be signing on to participate in this call. The current call lists all the institutes and centers that have signed on to participate, some as recently as October 31. Waldeck also alluded to an upcoming announcement about changes to the AREA grant program. OARS is monitoring the situation and will share news as it becomes available.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Cocoon photo via Max Pixel, used under Creative Commons license. Photo of Mike Lauer by Ernie Branson and Rich McManus for the NIH, public domain.