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 green recycling bin sits on a sidewalk.

EPSI program discontinued

Representation of a stamped cancellation notice. Text reads "cancelled."

An OARS program designed to encourage frequent and timely submission of proposals for external funding is being discontinued. As of December 1, 2018, no further funds will be awarded through the External Proposal Submission Incentive (EPSI) program.

After running the program for five years, OARS staff determined that relatively few faculty were taking advantage of the incentive. In response, Jim Oris, Associate Provost for Research, decided the funds allocated to the program could be better used to support faculty proposal submission in other ways.


Cancelled image by Alachua County via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license. Recycling bin photo by Peter Griffin via PublicDomainPictures.net, public domain.

A carryout food box containing a chicken quarter, fried plantains, a bowl of black beans and rice, and three souflee cup containers of sauce (two orange, one green).

Smorgasbord of takeaways offered at NSF Spring Grants Conference

A trailer that has been outfitted as a take-away restaurant. There is a sign reading "JJ's Take Aways" on the awning over a small seating area directly in front of the trailer. The posted menu reads as follows: Hake Chips. Hake Combo - R60. Snack & Chips. Fish Burger R14. Cheese Burger with Egg - R35. Calamarie [sic] burger - R28. Kerrie Afval Met Rys - R26-50 (Tripe). Roomys (Scoopy).

I attended the 2017 NSF Spring Grants Conference held in Louisville in June. Below are ten takeaways that I feel are worth sharing with the Miami University research community.

TAKEAWAY 1: Talk to your program officer.

“Ask early, ask often.” The NSF staff repeated this phrase like a mantra, over and over throughout the two-day conference. Contacting a program officer (PO) is something we in OARS almost always encourage investigators to do, but many seem reluctant — they don’t want to “bother” the PO. The message at the conference was that POs do not consider such contact a bother. In fact, it helps them do their jobs better. Any time they can re-direct an investigator to a more appropriate directorate or a program that’s a better fit, they’re saving themselves and their reviewers — and the investigator! — unnecessary time and effort. Any time they can coach an investigator to a stronger proposal, they’re improving the proposal pool and increasing the likelihood their program’s investments will advance the frontiers of science. That makes them look good to their bosses (and it makes their bosses look good to members of Congress, who control NSF’s future funding!).

TAKEAWAY 2: Want to write more competitive proposals? Volunteer as a reviewer.

There’s no better way to learn about what reviewers are looking for than to participate in a panel. The best time to volunteer is right after the submission deadline for a program for which your expertise is relevant. Program officers will be ready to put together the review panels for those proposals at that time, so you will be meeting a pressing need.

Learn more about becoming a reviewer here.

TAKEAWAY 3: The deadline is the deadline.

The cut-off time for submissions to most NSF programs is 5:00pm, local time for the institution. (That means that attending a conference on the West Coast on the due date does not extend a Miami researcher’s deadline to 8:00pm ET!).  FastLane is configured not to accept any additional submissions once the clock ticks over from 4:59:59pm to 5:00:00pm.

There are lots of reasons not to wait until the last minute to submit, including:

  • Lots of other people will be doing the same thing and FastLane might get bogged down. If you’re submitting late enough and the system gets bogged down enough, your submission might not go through before the clock ticks over to 5:00:00pm.
  • Even though the NSF will consider granting deadline extensions to institutions that have been affected by certain natural or anthropogenic events, there are a lot of things that could go wrong that wouldn’t fit the NSF’s criteria. For instance, one NSF staffer said, an internet outage — even one that’s campus-wide — will not earn you a deadline extension. If you’ve waited until the last minute to submit and the internet is down, you’ve missed your opportunity.
  • If you spot an error in your submission materials, it will be too late to fix it. Once 4:59:59pm has passed, you cannot withdraw your application and re-submit. On the other hand, if you submit a day or two early, you’ll have plenty of time to withdraw and re-submit, not only in the event that you spot an error, but also in the event the program officer spots an error and alerts you to it (this does happen!). Bonus takeaway: Immediately after submission, print out from FastLane what you actually submitted  (not the file from your computer you think you submitted). This lets you know right away if you accidentally submitted a file containing an outdated draft or if — as an NSF staffer said happened once — all the pages are solid orange with no visible text.

TAKEAWAY 4:  Making a connection to one of NSF’s “10 Big Ideas” could give your proposal a competitive edge.

Program officers are charged with connecting the awards they make to the “10 Big Ideas” NSF Director France Córdova laid out in testimony to Congress earlier this year. If your proposal articulates an explicit connection to one of the “10 Big Ideas” (specifically one of the six research ideas), you’ll be making the PO’s job easier. In an environment where there are insufficient funds to support all of the meritorious projects proposed, that might make the difference between being offered an award and not.

TAKEAWAY 5:  Make your “moonshot” idea a second aim.

When resources are tight, those who control the pursestrings often have little appetite for risk-taking. Taking a chance on something that’s relatively likely to fail — never mind the implicit consequences of success — seems potentially wasteful and opens decision-makers up to being second-guessed. It’s much safer to bet on the anodyne project highly likely to result in incremental progress.  For that reason, Jennifer Weller, a Program Director in the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI), suggests those seeking support for a “moonshot” idea make that idea a second aim in a proposal in which the first aim is more conservative. This approach virtually guarantees reviewers and POs a return on investment, while also opening the door to the possibility of transformational change.

TAKEAWAY 6: Broader Impacts are the NSF’s hedge against the risk inherent to science.

When it comes to Broader Impacts, one of the NSF’s two review criteria (along with Intellectual Merit), Weller suggested it might be useful to investigators and proposal writers to think again in terms of risk. There’s always a chance, however small, that the science might not “work out” in a funded project. Broader Impacts — benefits to society that derive from the project — are a parry against that possibility. They’re what Congress and U.S. taxpayers get for their money even when science is not progressed.

Bonus takeaway for applicants to DBI: Weller reported that Broader Impacts are assigned a weight of about 30% in the review of proposals submitted to DBI (with the exception of CAREER proposals, where Broader Impacts are weighted at 50%). Note that this relative weighting varies from division to division and directorate to directorate.

TAKEAWAY 7:  Cost sharing is bad, and investigators don’t always recognize it. But NSF does. (And so does OARS!)

To keep all applicants on a level playing field, the NSF prohibits any institution from volunteering to assume responsibility for any of the costs related to a project. (Some programs, like the Major Research Instrumentation or MRI program, are exceptions and actually require a specified percentage of cost share from the institution). The problem is that not all investigators realize what constitutes cost sharing. The rule is that any cost-generating item or activity mentioned in the project narrative must be associated with a reasonable cost in the budget. Any cost-generating item or activity that is not included in the budget or for which the budget indicates the cost, or any portion of the cost, will be borne by the institution — including a reduced indirect cost rate — is cost share. (Note that this does not include resources discussed in the Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section of the narrative. Costs for items and activities discussed in this section are assumed to be included in the institution’s indirect cost rate.)

TAKEAWAY 8:  “Participant support” might not mean what you think it means.

In an NSF budget, participant support costs are (only) those costs related to travel and subsistence for participants in conferences and training activities. Entertainment is not an allowable expense. Speakers and faculty leaders of conferences and training activities are not participants. A student can be a participant or an employee on a project, but not both. If your proposal does not include conducting a conference or training activities, there should be no participant support costs included in your budget. Incentives offered to human subjects who participate in studies are not participant support costs.

TAKEAWAY 9:  When it comes to expenses, document, document, document.

NSF’s Office of the Inspector General regularly performs audits of institutions and projects that receive grant funds. To avoid negative findings in the event that your grant is audited, make sure to carefully document all expenses charged to the grant and any relevant special circumstances. The look-back period for audits is three years, so if there are details — reasoning, conversations, special circumstances — related to expenses you think you won’t remember in three years’ time, make a note of them when they occur and keep that note with your records for the project.

TAKEAWAY 10:  Remember to submit your reports.

There are very real consequences to failing to submit required reports. For one thing, if a report is overdue, all administrative actions — including change in scope and change in project personnel — are blocked for the project. More importantly, PIs and co-PIs on projects with overdue reports are blocked from receiving further funding from NSF. One program officer related an anecdote about having extra money available to fund a project on his “wait list” after an award he’d made had been declined. He was especially enthusiastic about the proposed project and was looking forward to making the $1 million award. That all ended when he looked the PI up in the system and discovered a report from another of the PI’s projects was overdue, meaning that the PI was not eligible to receive additional funds.

If you have any questions about these ten takeaways — or anything else about NSF grants — ask them in the comments or contact your OARS representative.


Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director of Research Communications, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Takeaway food photo by Dan Reed via Flickr. JJ’s Take Aways photo by SA-Venues.com via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license.

Closeup of a web browser address bar with http://www visible in the address bar. An arrow points to the address in the address bar.

Find the information you need on the OARS website

Computer keyboard with an FAQ key in place of a return/enter key.

This post is a combination of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a tour of the OARS website. The purpose is to show you where to find the information you need to learn about funding opportunities, prepare proposals, and build your grantsmanship skills.


Who do I contact if I need to talk to an actual person?

We’re starting with this question because while we want you to be able to use our website to find the information you need, but we don’t want you to spend an inordinate time trying to chase something down. Especially if someone in our office can answer your question off the top of their head!

Your first point of contact will probably be your OARS consultant — either Anne Schauer or Tricia Callahan. They can either answer your question directly, or get you connected to someone else in our office who can.

Anne and Tricia divide their workload by department and center/institute. To find out who works with your department or center/institute, follow these steps:

  • Click on the Proposal Preparation Resources link in the lefthand navigation on the OARS homepage (MiamiOH.edu/research).


    Screenshot of OARS homepage, with Proposal Preparation Resources link in lefthand navigation circled.

  • Scroll down the list of departments and centers/institutes in the righthand column and click the + next to the one you’re affiliated. The item will expand to display the consultant assigned to that department or center/institute.


    Screenshot of Proposal Preparation Resources webpage, with + sign next to Architecture & Interior Design circled and the name of the OARS consultant for that department circled.

 

Feel free to contact Anne or Tricia at any time. Anne can be reached at 513-529-3735 or schauerap@MiamiOH.edu. Tricia can be reached at 513-529-1795 or callahtl@MiamiOH.edu. Both are located in 102 Roudebush Hall.


How do I find out about OARS events?

OARS offers a range of professional development opportunities, including:

  • eSPA and SPIN training
  • General grantsmanship presentations and workshops
  • Presentations and workshops focused on a particular agency or program
  • Networking events
  • Researcher appreciation events

The full calendar of OARS events is available in just two clicks from the OARS homepage:

  • Scroll down until you can see the “News and events” widget in the lefthand column.


    Screenshot of OARS homepage with News and events widget circled.

  • Click on the + next to “Calendar of events and deadlines” to expand that option, then click on the word here in the text.


    Screenshot of News and events widget, with + next to Calendar of events and deadlines circled and the word here in the expanded text circled.

  • Use the arrows at the top of the calendar to scroll between months in the calendar.


    Screenshot of OARS Calendar of Events, with month navigation arrows circled.

In addition to OARS events, the calendar also includes research-oriented events sponsored by other Miami departments or by outside parties. Finally, the calendar also includes application and submission deadlines for internal and external competitions and submission opportunities.


How do I get started if I am a new researcher or an experienced researcher who is new to Miami?

Click on Getting Started in the lefthand navigation on the OARS homepage.


Screenshot of OARS homepage with Getting Started option in the lefthand navigation circled.


From there, you can click on the arrows to expand information about each step in the process of seeking external funding.


Screenshot of Getting Started webpage with arrows next to each external funding step circled.


Where can I find information about funding opportunities?

Click on Finding Funding in the lefthand navigation of the OARS homepage.


Screenshot of OARS homepage, with Finding Funding circled in the lefthand navigation.


You will then see additional links to resources for finding funding to support your research or other project.


Screenshot of Finding Funding webpage


Where do I find Miami’s DUNS, EIN, and other institutional information that needs to be included in my application?

Follow these steps:

  • Click on the Proposal Preparation Resources link in the lefthand navigation on the OARS homepage (MiamiOH.edu/research).


    Screenshot of OARS homepage, with Proposal Preparation Resources link in lefthand navigation circled.

  • Click on the budget resources link in the center of the page.



    Screenshot of Proposal Preparation Resources webpage, with Budget resources link circled.

  • Click on the arrows to expand the various categories of information.


    Screenshot of Budget Resources page, with + signs next to categories of information circled.


How do I get approval of a proposal from my chair and dean and from OARS?

Miami University began uses an electronic sponsored programs administration (eSPA) system to help manage research administration and electronic submission of proposals. Specifically, Miami has implemented two programs within the Evisions Research Suite: Cayuse 424, which is a Federal proposal development and system-to-system platform, and Cayuse SP, which reduces the need for paperwork and transforms proposal routing into an electronic process.

You can access Miami’s eSPA system by clicking on the Quick Link on the Miami homepage.



Screenshot of OARS homepage, with eSPA-Cayuse Research Suite link in Quick Links widget circled.


If you need help with eSPA, contact your OARS consultant.


Internet photo by Rock1997 via Wikimedia Commons .FAQ photo by photosteve101 via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license.

Graffiti on a door. The dominant visual is a hand with a pointing finger. The words Return to Sender are written on the hand.

Avoid administrative return without review by following NSF PAPPG

Cover of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide. Text: The National Science Foundation. Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide. NSF logo. Effective Date January 30, 2017. NSF 17-1. OMB Control Number 3145-0058.
The newest version of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide takes effect January 30, 2017.

Anecdotal evidence from other institutions suggests that the National  Science Foundation (NSF) is becoming more stringent in enforcing administrative compliance for proposal submissions. To avoid administrative returns without review, all researchers submitting to the NSF must carefully follow the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedure Guide (PAPPG).

It’s important to note that several new policies take effect for proposals submitted on or after January 30, 2017. OARS Director Tricia Callahan provided an overview of those changes in two posts published last year. You can find them here and here. In addition, you might find this NSF checklist provided by Arizona State University helpful.

As always, the most important thing to remember is that your OARS consultant is an expert in the PAPPG and can help ensure your proposal submissions comply with all administrative regulations. Contact Anne Schauer (513-529-3735) or Tricia Callahan (513-529-1795) if you have any questions.


Return to sender photo by Evan P. Cordes via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

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.

Looking up at several stories of office windows from inside a building. There is a round, black circle-shaped sculpture suspended from the glass ceiling of the building.

Director of Proposal Development offers updates on NIH and NSF policies

Skyline of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Baltimore, Maryland, is the site of an NIH Regional Seminar being held this week. Another Regional Seminar will be held in Chicago this fall.

Below are  updates on policies recently put into action at NIH and NSF, as well as a look ahead to some upcoming changes.


NIH

General

The NIH budget for FY16 is $32.3 billion, up $2M over FY15.

Proposal submission

  • All documents submitted to NIH (proposals, award documents, and post-award documents) must contain a signature from an Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) or Signing Official (SO). At Miami, only Jim Oris, Anne Schauer, and Tricia Callahan can sign as AORs or SOs. Contact your OARS representative if you are uncertain who should sign your NIH documents prior to submission.
  • NIH has updated and streamlined its forms and instructions page. For applications due May 25, 2016 and later, Version D forms must be used.
  • Effective January 10, 2016, the NIH salary cap (Executive Level II) went to $185,100. NIH encourages investigators to propose using their base salary. If base salary exceeds the NIH salary cap, then adjustments will be made at the time of award.
  • For proposals that involve the use of vertebrate animals, the section on euthanasia is now a separate document in order to assure compliance with American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines. The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) offers policy, guidance, and education related to the use of vertebrate animals in research. Look for resources, FAQs, and quarterly webinars on the OLAW site.
  • The new NIH biosketch allows for up to five pages, one page more than the previous limit. Publications in progress can be mentioned in the Personal Statement, but should not be cited in the publications listing.
  • NIH created ASSIST (Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking) for the preparation and submission of multi-project applications. Miami University will continue to submit and track applications through eSPA, so Miami applicants should not use ASSIST for their proposal submissions.
  • For NRSA and K awards, primary mentors must have an eRA Commons ID affiliated with Miami University. Contact your OARS representative to create an eRA Commons ID or to affiliate an existing ID with Miami.
  • If you plan to work with a foreign collaborator, OARS requests advance notice of 25 working days. However, you should be aware that it may take foreign entities eight to ten weeks to register with eRA Commons and the other systems, and that those registrations must be in place before contracting with the Federal government. Contact your OARS representative for assistance.

Reporting

  • All financial and technical reports must be submitted 120 days following the award end date. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind investigators that while they are responsible for their technical reports, all financial reporting must be done by Miami University’s Grants & Contracts Office. Information about the types of NIH reports and the content they require is available here. All invention disclosures should be processed through iEdison.
  • Find out what’s currently being funded at the NIH and discover trends using NIH RePORTER.

Continuing education

  • Thanks to everyone who joined us for our recent day-long series of NIH workshops, led by Dr. Norm Braveman, former member of the senior NIH staff.
  • NIH will hold two NIH Regional Seminars on program funding and grants administration in 2016:
    • May 11-13, in Baltimore
    • October 26-28, in Chicago

NSF

General

  • The NSF budget request for FY16 is $6.5 billion for research and development. Current funding rates average around 22-23%.
  • A notice will be posted this summer in the Federal Register describing changes proposed for the NSF Proposal and Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), with time allowed for public comment before changes are finalized. Final changes will be posted in October and the grants community will be given 90 days to become familiar prior to implementation in January 2017.

Proposal submission

The following are reflected in the current PAPPG:

  • All proposals are due by 5:00pm local time of the submitting institution. Permission to submit after a deadline in the event of a natural disaster must come from the Program Officer in writing. The communication should be included as a Single Copy Document in the application and a box must be checked on the NSF Cover Page for special exceptions to the NSF deadline policy.
  • Collaborative and Other Affiliation information has been removed from the NSF Biosketch and is now submitted as a Single Copy Document (which differs from Supplemental Material). This change is to help researchers who have long lists of collaborations keep to the two-page limit for biosketches.
  • Information on Results from Prior NSF Submission has been clarified in the most recent version of the PAPPG.
  • Information on internal, institutional funds that require dedicated effort must now be shown on the NSF Current & Pending form.
  • Biosketches and Current & Pending forms can no longer be submitted as a single PDF. Each senior/key personnel should have a separate biosketch and separate Current & Pending forms. Biosketch information for other personnel, such as equipment users, should be uploaded as Supplemental Material documents, and do not have to follow the NSF biosketch format.
  • Clarity has been provided on the use of vertebrate animals in research, which follows NIH OLAW policies.
  • FastLane auto-checks for compliance with page limits and submission deadlines.

Post-award and reporting

  • All financial and technical reports must be submitted 120 days following the award end date. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind investigators that while they are responsible for their technical reports, all financial reporting must be done by Miami University’s Grants & Contracts Office.
  • All post-award communications, such as notifications and requests, must be signed and submitted by the institution’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR). Contact your OARS representative if you are uncertain who should sign your NSF requests.

Editor’s note 05/13/2016: The original post mistakenly indicated that NSF biosketches are limited to three pages. We regret the error and have updated the post with the correct limit, which is two pages.

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

Photo of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor by Ron Cogswell, via Flickr. NSF lobby photo by Luke Faraone, via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license.

A carrot dangles from a long stick.

External Proposal Submission Incentive (EPSI) program extended indefinitely

A sculpture garden. The word "incentive" appears on a piece of sculpture.

To encourage frequent and timely submission of externally funded grant proposals, the Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship (OARS) provides professional expense funding for faculty and staff under the Proposal Submission Incentive (EPSI) Program.

EPSI was initiated as a pilot program in 2013. Over $25,000 has been awarded to proposers who have met the program requirements, and we are pleased to extend this successful program on a year-by-year basis.

Under the EPSI program, faculty and staff who meet internal proposal submission deadlines may earn up to $1,000 per year of professional expense funding, based on the number of submissions and the amount of direct and indirect (F&A) costs requested in the budget.

The following criteria must be met to be eligible for EPSI program rewards:

1. OARS must be notified of the intention to submit a proposal at least ten (10) working days prior to the agency submission deadline. For proposals involving multiple (2 or more) subawards or international collaborations, twenty-five (25) working days advance notice is required.

2. The final, approved eSPA (Cayuse SP) record and final, approved budget for the project must be submitted/released to OARS at least two (2) working days prior to the agency submission deadline.

3. The final proposal must be submitted/released to OARS at least two (2) working days prior to the agency submission deadline.

If all three of the above criteria are met, faculty and staff will be provided professional expense funds, pro-rated according to the size of the budget (direct costs) and the amount of F&A costs requested (see table below).

External proposal sponsor direct costs requested EPSI for
full F&A (44.5%)
EPSI for
off-campus F&A (26%)
EPSI for
F&A less than 26%
>/= $1,000,000 $1,000 $600 $200
$500,000-$999,9999 $700 $400 $150
$250,000-$499,999 $400 $200 $100
$100,000-$249,999 $200 $125 $75
<$100,000 $150 $100 $50

If there are multiple Principal Investigators (PIs), the PIs will split the incentive funding according to the allocation of credit specified in the eSPA (Cayuse SP) record.

The maximum amount of EPSI program funding is $1,000 per person per year. Professional expense funds awarded under this program will be placed into designated accounts managed by the PI(s). With the exception of supplemental pay or summer salary, these funds may be used for professional expenses consistent with university expenditure policies (e.g., professional travel, supplies, conference expenses).


 

James H. Shannon Building (Building One), NIH campus

Questions about NIH proposal evaluation answered

Three people site behind a table. The one in the middle holds up a card that says, "4. I like it."

While the process for proposal evaluation at the NIH is transparent and outlined on the NIH website, the steps and expectations can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with NIH or its processes. A recent NIH webinar demystified the process as outlined below:

What happens to my application after it is submitted to NIH?
A majority of applications submitted to the NIH are assigned to the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). The CSR checks each application for completeness and assigns applications to a specific NIH Institute or Center (I/C). Applications are then assigned to a Scientific Review Group (SRG) or review committee that will evaluate the proposal based on NIH review criteria. Read more about application receipt and referral here.

On what criteria is my application evaluated?
Proposals are scored based on 5 core review criteria:

Significance– When ascertaining a proposal’s significance, reviewers ask questions such as, “Will the proposed work have a sustained and powerful impact on the field?” “Should this work be done and why?” and “Does the project address an important problem or barrier to progress within a certain filed?” and then assigns a score based on how well the proposal answers these questions.

Investigator(s)– What abilities, qualifications, and training do the investigators have to conduct the proposed work? There is an expectation that investigators demonstrate a record of success as evidenced by publications and prior funding. Some leeway is given for new and early stage investigators. New Investigators are those investigators who have never received an NIH R01 research grant, while early stage investigators (ESIs) are new investigators who have completed the terminal degree within the last 10 years. NIH is committed to accelerating the transition from new investigator to independent researcher, thus new investigators and ESIs do not have to demonstrate the same amount of prior success in order to receive NIH funding. If applicable be sure your NIH eRA Commons profile is up-to-date in order to reflect your status as a new investigator or ESI!

Innovation– The criterion of innovation addresses how well an application challenges or seeks to shift current research or procedures. Reviewers look to see if concepts, approaches, and methodologies are novel.

Approach– Is the proposed work appropriate in scope? Is it realistic? Are pitfalls and limitations anticipated, and if so, is an alternate plan laid out to address potential setbacks? It’s here that a sound evaluation plan becomes important to ensure the work is moving along in the proposed direction.

Environment– Are there adequate resources and institutional support for carrying out the proposed work?

Additional considerations include protections for human subjects; inclusion of women, minorities, and children; appropriate use of vertebrate animals; and management of biohazards.

What else do reviewers look for?
While all proposals are evaluated and scored on the five NIH core criteria, reviewers also look for: clear objectives with an obvious impact on the field; exciting ideas; realistic aims and timelines; brevity on obvious things; noted limitations; and a clear, well-written application that is free of grammatical errors.

How is my application scored?
Applications are scored on a scale from 1-9 as follows:

1- Exceptional
2- Outstanding
3- Excellent
4- Very Good
5- Good
6- Satisfactory
7- Fair
8- Marginal
9- Poor

After review, the scores of individual reviewers are averaged and that average is multiplied by 10 to give impact scores ranging between 10 (high impact) and 90 (low impact). Note: Only applications that are discussed are given impact scores. Reviewers may not discuss an application if they believe it is not meritorious enough to warrant discussion.

Where can I track my application status?
Grant status can be tracked via eRA Commons. eRA Commons contains the following: a PDF file of the submitted application; contact information for the Program Officer (PO), Scientific Review Officer (SRO), and Grants Management Specialist (GMS); council meeting dates; scientific review group; study roster; status history (including dates); funding outcome; summary statement; and award number, if applicable.

Who do I contact for assistance?

Before you submit your proposal: The Program Official (PO) is responsible for the programmatic, scientific, and technical aspects of a grant. If you have questions about the relevance of your work to the program, questions about the program not addressed in the announcement, or questions regarding the most appropriate study section for your application, contact your PO.

After you submit and prior to review: The Scientific Review Officer (SRO) is responsible for the scientific and technical review of proposals. The SRO is the point of contact for applicants during the review process.

After review (if funded): The Grants Management Specialist (GM) is responsible for the business management requirements of the award. You may also need to contact your Program Official if you need to request changes to your personnel, budget, or scope of work after an award has been issued.

After review (if not funded): After you’ve read your summary statement, you may want to talk to your PO about revising and resubmitting your application.

What is the typical timeline between submission and award?
For most applications, it takes about 9-10 months between proposal submission to receiving an NOA (Notice of Award).

If I am not funded, will I receive feedback regarding my application?
The NIH summary statement contains scores for each of the five review criteria, critiques from assigned reviewers, and a summary discussion of the overall review. For those proposals receiving an impact score, the summary statement will also show the overall impact score and percentile ranking. For those proposals not discussed, no overall impact score is given. Summary statements may also contain recommendations of the study section, a recommended budget, and additional administrative notes.

How can I learn more about the NIH Review Process?
Videos and information on the NIH review process are available on the NIH website. 
Additionally, depending on your accomplishments and expertise in a given area, you can become an NIH reviewer. Becoming a reviewer gives you valuable experience, as well as an insider’s perspective on the NIH review process. Learn more about becoming an NIH reviewer here.


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

Photo of James H. Shannon Building (Building One), NIH campus by Lydia Polimeni, National Institutes of Health, via Flickr. Score photo by uncoolbob via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license

 

A pile of money - $100 dollar bills. Focus is on the $100 with Benjamin Franklin looking in from the corner.

Power to the PI

Bunches of carrots, with tops, in a pile

Two programs provide incentives directly to Miami University faculty and staff who are eligible to participate as principal investigators (PIs) on externally funded grants and contracts.

Currently in the second year of a three-year pilot, the External Proposal Submission Incentive (EPSI) program awards up to $1000 in professional expense funds to PIs who meet internal deadlines.  The amount awarded depends on the number of submissions and the amount of direct and indirect (F&A) costs requested in proposal budgets.  Details are available here.

The Indirect Cost Recovery Distribution to Principal Investigators program awards 5% of F&A costs to the PI to use for professional expenses.  Details are available here.

Featured image (left) by Flickr user Philip Taylor.  Image (above) by Flickr user swong96765,  Both used under Creative Commons license.