A student researcher takes blood from the finger of a research participant who is walking on a treadmill. The students mentor supervises.

Changes to NSF and NIH policies and procedures are forthcoming

A researcher holds a bird that will be banded.
Researchers working with vertebrate animals need to be aware of recently increased scrutiny by the NIH.

 

Below is a summary of changes in policy and procedure being implemented at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The NSF Policy Office has a long history of being responsive to the grant community. In response to comments from investigators and research administrators, the NSF is making a number of changes in its policies pertaining to preparation and award administration. Full details can be found in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG)but the changes that will have the most impact Miami University researchers are summarized below:

New proposal types and clarification on proposal types

  • Letters of Intent, preliminary proposals, full proposals, and invited proposals, oh my! Guidance on what to include in these different types of NSF proposals will now be outlined in the revised PAPPG. Special attention is given to what needs to be included in the new, separate section on Collaborator & Other Affiliation Information.
  • Look for two new proposal types to be implemented:
    • Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science (RAIS): RAIS will replace NSF INSPIRES to promote interdisciplinary science and education.
    • Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI): The GOALI program is expanding beyond Engineering to promote university-industry partnerships focused on solving basic research questions. Look for this cross-cutting program in many of the NSF Directorates.
  • Historically travel grants have supported international travel for students supported by NSF funds, while supplements — such as those for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) — have been used for domestic travel. Going forward, however, NSF travel grants will cover both foreign and domestic travel for students.

Defining participants

According to NSF policy, it is up to the institution, not the NSF program officer, to classify participant support. At Miami, we use the NSF definition of participant support recently adopted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB): “Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects” (PAPPG).

The revised PAPPG will aid in clarifying the difference between an undergraduate participant (such as an REU student) and an undergraduate researcher. However, if you are uncertain how to classify any student, please contact your OARS representative for assistance.

Finally, just a note on food for participants. If a participant receives funds for individual meal compensation, those funds should be budgeted under “Participant Support.” Funds for meals provided for conferences/workshops, should be budgeted under “Other.” Contact your OARS representative if you need assistance making this distinction.

Changes to NSF forms

  • The 4,600 character limit will be removed from the Project Summary. Instead, the Project Summary will be limited to one printed page using appropriate font size and type.
  • Guidance on “Collaborator & Other Affiliation information” will be updated in the revised PAPPG.

Financial considerations

  • NSF has adopted a 10% de minimis facilities and administration (F&A) rate for foreign subcontractors. Domestic subcontractors may used their Federally-negotiated F&A rate or may use the 10% de minimis rate, if they do not have a negotiated rate.
  • Use of an F&A rate less than the institution’s negotiated rate is considered by NSF to be cost share, which is unallowable for a majority of NSF programs. Using the NSF budget template provided by OARS will ensure you are using the correct F&A and fringe benefit rates.
  • NSF guidance on implementation of the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can be found in their list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Additional information

A final draft of the revised PAPPG will be posted to the NSF website in October 2016, with changes to be implemented January 2017.

If you’d like to learn more about NSF grant administration and programs, consider registering to attend the upcoming NSF Grants Conference being held November 14-15 in Pittsburgh, PA.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

A number of changes have recently come out of the NIH Office of Extramural Research. Many of these changes have an impact on post-award accounting and reporting. The most helpful things for grant writers are the new NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts and the General Application Guide for NIH. These new guides offer streamlined overviews of NIH programs, open solicitations, and step-by-step instructions on preparing NIH proposals and reports.

Other changes to NIH policy and programs include:

New funding programs

The Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) program was announced by President Obama during his 2015 State of the Union address. The focus of this initiative is to take fundamental research and apply it to a specific cohort of individuals to produce individualized care. Funding programs for PMI can be found here.

Form updates

  • The new Forms D are in effect for proposals submitted on or after May 25, 2016. The new forms include:
    • A new section on authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources in order to meet requirements for rigor and reproducibility.
    • New questions regarding enrollment of human participants (enrollment type, dataset source, participant location, etc.)
    • A PHS Assignment Request Form to help determine under which institute or center a proposal should be reviewed
  • Newly specified font types including Arial, Garamond, Georgia, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, and Verdana. All font types should be 11 points or larger.

Compliance issues

eRA Commons and technical/financial reporting

  • As of June 12, 2016, eRA Commons usernames are required for primary mentors on Mentored Career Development proposals. If you need to register a PI, co-PI, investigator, sponsor, or mentor with eRA Commons, please contact your OARS representative.
  • While registration is not required for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral candidates at the proposal stage,  once a project is funded and work by those personnel is supported by NIH funding, they must be registered with eRA Commons so that PIs can complete technical (annual and close-out) reports. Contact your OARS representative to register individuals with eRA Commons.
  • New guidance on completing the Research Performance Program Report (RPPR) will be published this October. The new guidance will cover completing and submitting the Final Progress Report (FPR), the Final Invention Statement & Certification (FIS), and the Final Federal Financial Report (FFR). Please remember that all financial reports must be submitted by Miami’s Grants & Contracts office, and should not be submitted by the PI.

Additional information

If you’d like to learn more about NIH grant administration and programs, consider registering to attend the upcoming NIH Regional Seminar being held October 26-28 in Chicago, IL.


Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Treadmill research photo by Scott Kisssell, Miami University Photo Services. Bird photo also by Miami University Photo Services.

Shows the growth pattern of the SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell line.

New NIH guidance emphasizes rigor and reproducibility

A pair of hooded rats stands on a flat surface.

Recently the NIH published new guidance on rigor and reproducibility in the NIH application and review process.  This new guidance, which goes into effect for applications due January 25, 2016 and later, emphasizes rigor, reproducibility, and transparency in the NIH grant application process.  What does this mean for grant applicants?  Basically it means paying attention to details and making it clear to reviewers that you have done so.

The new guidance has little effect on the structure and content of the application. However, it does put the onus on the researcher to clearly communicate attention to rigor and reproducibility throughout the application.  Additionally, the guidance encourages a robust peer review and gives special consideration to the use of both males and females in biomedical research, as well as to authentication of key biological and chemical resources.

Outlined below are the areas most significantly affected by the new guidance:

Scientific premise of proposed research

While there has always been the expectation that researchers describe the strengths and weaknesses of prior research critical to the application, it is now expected that this description include attention to the rigor of the previous experimental designs as well as to consideration of appropriate biological variables (e.g., sex differences in subject pool) and authentication of key resources (e.g., cell lines, speciality chemicals).

Scientific rigor in experimental design

Not only should previous research be scrutinized for accuracy and precision, but the proposed research should also be robust and unbiased, including full transparency in detailing the experimental design.  As always, researchers in the field should be able to read and replicate the experimental design in order to extend the findings and advance the field.

Consideration of relevant biological variables in experimental design

Often overlooked in both animal and human subject study designs are biological differences between females and males.  Researchers must justify subject pool demographics and demonstrate understanding of potential sex-based differences in biological function, disease processes, and treatment responses. (Learn more about what it means to consider sex as a relevant biological variable in this post on the NIH blog, Extramural Nexus.)  In addition to sex-based differences, other crucial variables include age and weight, as well as current and previous health conditions.

Authentication of key biological and chemical resources

Key biological and chemical resources should be verified since resources can vary over time and between suppliers.  Researchers must demonstrate quality and quantity of resources, ensuring design replicability.

To learn more about enhancing rigor and reproducibility in the NIH grant application and review process, visit the NIH Office of Extramural Research.


Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Hooded rat photo by Jason Snyder via Wikimedia Commons. SH-SY5Y cell line photo by Reid Offringa via Wikimedia Commons. Both used under Creative Commons license.

 

An analog barometer. Discernable text: Change/740/750/760/770/980/990/1000/1010/1020

Changes coming to NSF policies and procedures

Cover of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (effective December 26, 2014). Text: The National Science Foundation Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide/Effective December 26, 2014/NSF-15-1/OMB Control Number 3145-0058. NSF logo in lower right corner.
The NSF will publish a new version of its Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide in October.

The National Science Foundation will publish a new draft of its Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) in October. The new PAPPG will take effect in January 2016.

A number of the new policies and procedures will significantly affect proposal preparation. Here’s what to expect:

  • NSF FastLane will auto-enforce submission deadlines. Proposals are due by 5:00pm submitter’s local time – no deviations will be allowed. It is important to note that the submitter’s local time is dependent upon his or her institution’s permanent location, not the submitter’s physical location at the time of submission. Miami is located in the Eastern Time Zone, so even if you are submitting your proposal while you are on vacation or at a conference in another time zone, your submission must still be completed by 5:00pm ET on the deadline date.
  • FastLane will alert Principal Investigators to all errors at the time they allow SRO (Sponsored Research Office) access to submit their proposals. These errors must be corrected prior to submission, well in advance of the 5:00pm ET deadline.
  • “Collaborator” and “Other Affiliation” information will be removed from the NSF biosketch. This information will now be submitted as a single copy document for all PIs, co-PIs, and senior personnel.
  • When submitting the project summary as a supplementary document (which is allowed only for summaries that contain special characters), it is imperative that headings for “Overview,” “Intellectual Merit,” and “Broader Impacts” be included.
  • The new PAPPG clarifies when the 5-year inclusive period for prior support begins, and offers examples of the types of NSF awards that must be included as prior support.
  • Guidance requiring the inclusion of URLs in the References Cited section that appeared as a footnote in the current PAPPG has been moved to the full text in the new PAPPG.
  • PIs will no longer be able to submit all biosketches and current/pending support documents as a single PDF on behalf of the research team. Instead, each PI, co-PI, senior personnel, and other key personnel will have to submit his or her own biosketch and current/pending support as individual files.
  • Under the new guidelines, the current and pending support document will be required to include internal institutional resources. This means that if you have time committed to internally funded research, that time commitment must be listed on your current and pending support document. Additionally, you must show all external commitments on your current and pending support document, even if the time committed to those external proposals and awards is zero.
  • The new PAPPG offers suggestions for formatting letters of collaboration. Pay particular attention to your solicitation guidelines because some solicitations do not allow for letters of collaboration, while others require strict adherence to a template provided in the solicitation.
  • Greater clarity is provided regarding the type of information necessary for proposals that include the use of vertebrate animals. Look for NSF to align their practices regarding the use of vertebrate animals with those of the NIH.
  • Policies governing dual use research of concern (DURC) will be implemented in the new guidance.
  • NSF will implement just-in-time budget processes for core programs in MPS/DMS and MPS/PHY. These proposals will not require detailed budgets at time of submission. Instead, NSF will request budgets for these proposals if and when they are recommended for funding.

Any researcher or research administrator interested in better understanding these changes specifically or better understanding NSF administration generally should plan to attend the NSF Grants Conference, November 2-3, 2015, in Arlington, VA.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Barometer image by Jessica Alpern via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Former NSF program officer demystifies review and resubmission processes

An illustrated figure of a featureless person holds a giant red pencil, checking off boxes on the piece of paper on which he stands.

In the spring of 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) created a task force on the merit review process in order to align the review criteria with NSF’s new strategic plan. The final recommendations from that task force included two review criteria and five review elements, all of which were outlined during a presentation by Miami University professor of biology and former NSF program officer Joyce Fernandes on November 11. Fernandes’ talk,, “NSF resubmission: How to decipher the panel summary,” was part of OARS’ fall NSF workshop series.

Fernandes says that when evaluating proposals, all reviewers are asked to evaluate against two criteria:

  • Intellectual merit (potential to advance knowledge)
  • Broader impacts (potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes)

Five key elements are considered when evaluating both of the review criteria. These elements include:

  • The potential for the proposed activity to advance knowledge and understanding within the field (or across different fields) and benefit to society.
  • The extent that proposed activities explores creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts.
  • A well-reasoned, well-organized plan for carrying out proposed activities.
  • Qualifications of the individual, team or institution to conduct proposed activities.
  • Adequate resources to carry out proposed activities.

“During a typical NSF review process,” Fernandes explains, “reviewers are selected based on their knowledge of the specific content area. Each proposal is typically assigned to three reviewers, with one acting as the primary reviewer.”

Fernandes goes on to explain that after discussing strengths and weaknesses of the proposal in regard to the Intellectual merit and broader Impacts, the panel makes a recommendation to place the proposal in one of 3-4 categories that indicate priority for funding (high, medium, low), or how competitive the proposal was (outstanding, highly meritorious, meritorious, non-competitive) . The panel summary, which is provided to the Principal Investigator (PI) along with the reviews, is a record of the discussion of a proposal and is intended to provide a rationale for the category in which the proposal was placed. PIs usually receive a context statement that tells how many proposals were submitted and reviewed, along with the ranking system (categories), and percentage of proposals that were placed into the categories.

“Bottom line: funding of proposals is based on dollars available,” Fernandes says. While program officers try to balance their portfolios based on things like emerging areas, broadening representation/participation, unique approaches to research questions, and transformational advances in the field, the number of proposals that are recommended for funding is based on the availability of program funds.

“At times, a lower ranked proposal might get funded over a more competitive proposal,” Fernandes says, because of an unusual merit of the proposal. She says it’s important for PIs to remember this as they review their summary statements.

“Almost all proposals submitted are meritorious, so it doesn’t take much to get your proposal kicked out of competition,” Fernandes says.

It is important that investigators who are responding to panel feedback take it seriously. Most investigators (after they have had time to simmer) find the panel feedback to be valuable as they rework their next submission.

Suggestions Fernandes offers for responding to the panel summary include reading the summary, taking time away before responding, re-reading and digesting the summary, discussing next-steps with the program officer, and if appropriate, resubmitting the proposal. (It should be noted that technically there is no category for “resubmissions.” All proposals to the NSF are considered new submissions).

Fernandes advises PIs who are still unclear about the feedback after reading and re-reading the panel summary to contact their program officer for clarification.

Finding the right program and understanding and responding to reviewer feedback are essential for increasing your chances for a successful submission. However, it is important to note that panel compositions change every year, and a new group of proposals is submitted for each deadline; therefore PIs should not expect that simply responding to reviewer feedback will move their proposal into a higher category.

Finally, understanding the NSF review process is one key to writing a successful proposal. You can learn more about the NSF proposal process here or by volunteering to serve on a NSF review panel.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Illustrations by AJ Cann via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

An old-fashioned neon sign reads "Grants Cafe." "Grants" is one a black background and appear smaller and perpendicular to the "Cafe" part, which appears vertically on an aqua blue background. A Red arrow curves from the "Grants" part down "behind" the "Cafe" part and out the other side. Behind the sign is blue sky and a few small clouds.

Grant Digestion 101 shows how a grant moves through the system

An illustration of the various anatomical parts of the digestive system. Labeled are the oral cavity, epiglottis folded down, esophagus, cardioesophageal junction, stomach, pyloric valve, small intestine (specifically duodenum, jejunum, ileum), ileocecal valve, large intestine (specifically cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum) and anus. A callout illustration shows the juncture between the small intestine and stomach in more detail. Labeled here are the liver, gall bladder, stomach, duodenum, and pancreas. An arrow with the words "release of pancreatic enzymes and bile into duodenum" points to a gray substance in the upper duodenum.Writing a grant proposal and moving it through the appropriate system, from agency receipt to review and award (or rejection), can seem confusing and daunting. However, like digesting that juicy hamburger you ate for lunch, writing a proposal and moving it through the system is a complex process made up of a series of simple steps.

Step 1: the teeth

Grant digestion begins here. In order to write a successful grant proposal, you really have to “sink your teeth” into it. Teeth tear and crush food into small enough pieces so that they can fit down our throats. As a grant writer, it’s your job to break your ideas (goals and objectives) down into small enough pieces that most anyone who reads your proposal will be able to understand and replicate it.

When masticating your grant proposal, it’s important to remember that goals are generally broad, qualitative statements about an ideal or hoped-for-state. For example, it may be the goal of your research or project to address childhood obesity in your community.

Objectives, on the other hand, are specific, achievable, tangible, and measureable steps you plan to take toward accomplishing the stated goals. They define your methods. For the goal of addressing childhood obesity, sample objectives may be to:

  • Increase physical activity levels during school hours to 30-minutes per day
  • Replace high-calorie, low-nutrient cafeteria offerings with nutrient-dense offerings that contain, per serving, at least 5g of protein, fewer than 20g of carbohydrates, and fewer than 3g of saturated fat
  • Reduce obesity rates among local elementary and middle school children by 6% Objectives should flow organically from goals, and both should be based on the need or problem statement.

It is of utmost importance that you define the problem to be addressed and support why it’s a problem that deserves attention – your attention in the form of research and the agency’s attention in terms of funding. For example, your background research might show that:

  • Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity have been shown to contribute to type 2 diabetes;
  • Recent statistics show that occurrences of type 2 diabetes are on the rise in the target population and are double what they were ten years ago; and
  • Body Mass Indices for local elementary and middle school children show that 33% of the local youth are overweight or obese.

Step 2: the salivary glands and tongue

The salivary glands are located on the underneath, backside of our tongue. They create saliva, which contains chemicals that begin breaking down the food into even smaller bits than our teeth can manage. Along with the tongue, saliva works to ensure we have a ball of food that can be easily swallowed. In addition, the tongue contains glands we call taste buds that help us identify palatable or unpalatable tastes such as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

As writer, it is your job to ensure you have a proposal that is relevant, understandable, and palatable. If the mission of a funding agency does not align with your goals and objectives, if reviewers cannot understand your proposal, or if reviewers find it unpalatable, the agency may end up spitting it out rather than swallowing it. This is what is referred to in the grants world as “returned without review.” A proposal may be returned without review – or reviewed and not funded – because it did not meet the review criteria or follow the proper agency guidelines. It is important that you read, understand, and follow all program guidelines when preparing a proposal.

It is also important that your proposal is palatable in that it fits with the mission of the funding agency. For example, you might not want to solicit Hostess or the makers of Little Debbie for funding on childhood obesity. Instead, seek funding sources whose mission aligns with your project’s goals and objectives. A quick Google search revealed the following sources of potential funding for preventing childhood obesity:

  • American Heart Association
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Children’s Obesity Fund
  • Several local, community foundations and programs that have a vested interest in the prevention of childhood obesity

Step 3: the esophagus

The esophagus is the transportation tube from the mouth to the stomach. In the grant world, the esophagus can be likened to the U.S. Postal Service or FEDEX/UPS back in the good ol’ days or, more currently, to an electronic submission system (like e-mail or Grants.gov). At Miami University, we are adopting an electronic submission system called eSPA (electronic sponsored programs administration). This system will accommodate electronic routing and submission of proposals. All Federal proposals will be prepared and submitted to the funding agency via eSPA, which checks for errors along the way to ensure that proposals are not regurgitated due to missing or unpalatable pieces. (Stay tuned to the OARS blog for more on the rollout of eSPA, and look for training on our OARS event calendar).

Prior to submitting a proposal, it’s important to ensure it is ready to be delivered (i.e., all the parts are included and have been sufficiently explained, documented, and are well within sponsor and university guidelines). Before swallowing, you must have university review and permission to submit your proposal. This review and approval come from OARS. When in doubt, contact your OARS representative for guidance prior to submitting.

Step 4: the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas

After being delivered to the funding agency, the grant proposal is assigned to a review panel and put through the review process. It’s here where the proposal really gets digested. Many Federal review panels are made up of peer research professionals and specialists in select fields. Proposals are assigned to panels at the discretion of the funding agency. You, as the proposal preparer, can make suggestions as to which panel or panels might be appropriate (or not appropriate) for your particular proposal.

Let’s take a moment to dissect a Federal review panel. We’ll use the NIH (National Institutes of Health) as an example.

For most proposals submitted to the NIH, the first level of review is carried out by a Scientific Review Group (SRG). This group is made up of scientists who have expertise in relevant disciplines. The SRG is lead by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO). This person is typically a staff scientist with the NIH whose job is to:

  • Analyze the content of each application, ensuring that it is complete
  • Document and manage any reported conflicts of interest
  • Recruit qualified reviewers

The SRG then reviews the proposal based on review criteria and scientific merit. Many proposals are given a score and recommendations for funding are made according to the scientific and technical merit of the proposal, the appropriateness of the budget, and other considerations such as use of human or animal participants.

The second level of review is carried out by the Institutes’ or Centers’ National Advisory Council. These councils are made up of people from the scientific community as well as public representatives chosen for their interest and expertise. Councils review the applications, the overall impact scores, the percentile rankings, and the summary statements provided by the review panel. Recommendations for funding are based on:

  • Scores, rankings, and summary statements
  • Goals and needs of the Institute or Center
  • Center or Institute budget

It is the Institute or Center Director who makes the final funding decision based on the Council’s advice.

Step 5: the small intestine

It is in the small intestine that our food is put to use by our bodies. We can liken this point of the process to proposals that have been funded or recommended for funding. At this point, all the hard work put into a proposal has paid off, and the research or project can be implemented.

After a funding decision has been made, the Program Officer of the funding Institute or Center works with their Grants Management Office on budgetary and administrative issues. Typically the Grants Management Office will release the award to an institution, outlining all of the terms, conditions, requirements, and provisions of the award.

Once an award is released, the institution will set up a spending account or grant account. Funds can be accessed using your unique grant number. At Miami, a Grants and Contracts staff member will assist you with post-award spending and financial reporting.

Funds must be spent in accordance with the approved budget and during the timeframe (award period) outlined in the award document for the purpose of conducting the research you proposed when you started this process months and months ago. (Thank goodness that cheeseburger doesn’t take as long to digest!) It is here that you finally feel the full effects of the nutrients you’ve put into your body. And, like with good health and nutrition, the better the input, the better the outcome: high-quality proposals and award administration contribute to grant success just as high-quality foods contribute to nutritional success.

Step 6: the large intestine

What the body cannot use is sent to the large intestine and forced out of the body. In the grant process, this is proposal rejection. There are any number of reasons why a proposal might not be funded, including but not limited to:

  • The goals of the proposal did not match the goals of the sponsor
  • The proposal did not meet the technical grant requirements (i.e., guidelines were not followed)
  • The proposal was full of jargon or otherwise difficult to understand
  • The objectives were vague or difficult to measure
  • The budget was not in line with the proposal objectives
  • Personnel and/or resources to accomplish objectives were inadequate
  • Competition was such that it prevented funding of the proposal, even though it was meritorious

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Not every meal results in hunger satisfaction; not every proposal results in funding satisfaction. But just as a snack may fill the void in your stomach, a proposal resubmission may fill the void in your research budget. In fact, data show that chances of proposal success increase for second submissions, as long as the re-submitted proposal is responsive to the previous submission’s reviewer feedback.

Final thoughts

Like many complex processes, many factors are involved in grant writing, submission, and administration. This article simplifies some of those factors and skips over others. For the best results, be sure to work with your OARS consultant. They are experienced guides who can help you navigate each and every step, including:

  • Finding an appropriate funding source for your research or project
  • Locating institutional data required for many proposals
  • Creating proposal budgets that comply with sponsor and university guidelines
  • Reviewing and submitting proposals
  • Communicating with funding agencies

Finally, be sure start early. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day in part because it helps you stay on a virtuous nutritional path throughout the day. (No need for a mid-morning, pick-me-up candy bar if you’ve had a good breakfast!) The same is true for grant proposals: starting the process early helps ensure you have enough time to produce a high-quality proposal that efficiently secures the necessary approvals and gets submitted on time.

Bon appétit!

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Illustration of digestive system by Gordon Flynn, via Wikimedia Commons.  “Grants Cafe” image by Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.  Both used under Creative Commons license.

Many bars of various colors and widths are arranged in rows to represent a whole data set.

Librarian delivers workshop on NSF data management plans

Head-and-shoulder portrait of a man with grey hair and a full beard and mustache. He is wearing silver metal-framed glasses and a blue plaid button-down shirt.
Numeric and Spatial Data Services Librarian Eric Johnson led an October 21 workshop on NSF data management plans for Miami faculty.

As part of the NSF workshop series hosted by OARS, University Libraries Numeric and Spatial Data Services Librarian Eric Johnson presented information on the importance of data management to attendees at an October 21 session.

“Data Management is consciously planning each step of the data lifecycle,” Johnson explained. Specifically, he said, data management involves the creation of data, the use of data, determining how data will be stored, and who will have access to the data.

Data management is important not only because investigators don’t want this product of their hard work to become forgotten, lost, or inaccessible, but also because making data available after publication allows other researchers to use it to make additional discoveries. In addition, there is a federal mandate for public access to data generated from research funded with federal dollars.

Johnson said it is important for investigators to decide who will be responsible for the data every step of the way. For instance, if a student collects data, what happens to that data once the student has graduated? Who can access that data and will it be understandable? Johnson also said plans should be made for who will be in charge of – and have access to – the device or devices where the data is stored.

Overall, Johnson said, a sound data management plan answers the following questions:

  • What type of data will be collected?
  • Who has responsibility for the data at each step?
  • How and when will data be backed up?
  • How will investigators gain access to the data?
  • How will others discover the data?
  • Where will the data be stored after the project ends?
  • Will the data be available in multiple formats? Will it be open-source? Can it be migrated to new formats in the future?
  • Do special precautions need to be put into place to protect sensitive data?

For the benefit of Miami’s researchers, University Libraries subscribes to the University of California Curation Center’s Data Management Planning (DMP) tool. By signing in with their Miami credentials, investigators have free online access to templates for constructing data management plans, custom guidance for different types of grant applications, and sample plans. In addition to helping investigators create data management plans, the DMP also allows them to upload their plans for review by Johnson and colleagues (given sufficient time).

Johnson’s contact information and a link to the DMP are available on the OARS website. Additional data management plan workshops are planned for winter term and early summer term.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Data set image by Fernanda B. Viegas via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons license.  Photo of Eric Johnson by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.