NIAAA Expedited En Bloc Concurrence Procedures

Fascinating. I stumbled across this while researching how NIH ICs interpret-implement the various funding mechanisms (story at 11). The source page hasn’t been updated since 2005, but this seems to offer some insight otherwise unavailable regarding NIAAA payline/funding decisions. In fact, the “NIAAA does not set an overall percentile payline that assures an award if you are at or better than the payline,” so this is as much as you’ll ever have to go on probably. Note that the lowly R03 is not listed here.

The NIAAA National Advisory Council has agreed upon the parameters for applications eligible for expedited concurrence:

1) Mechanism: R01, R21, R13, R15, R24, R25, K (all), T32, R41, R42, R43, R44

2) Percentile Score: 15.0 or better

3) Priority Score for non-percentiled applications: 150 or better

4) Maximum Direct Cost in any year: $500,000

5) Foreign Applications: exclude

6) Applications with a Human Subjects Concern, Animal Welfare Concern,
Unacceptable code for minorities, gender, or children are excluded.

On the NIH New Investigators resource page, NIAA further clarifies this policy as it applies to new PIs: “NIAAA is very much committed to assuring that new investigators are included among those successful in obtaining grant awards. To achieve this goal, NIAAA has established a procedure of affording the opportunity to allow all new investigators receiving scores within a minimum of 5 percentile points of the pay line (or the equivalent priority score) to respond to reviewer critiques in a letter to program officials. The responses are reviewed internally by NIAAA staff who may make a recommendation for award to the Institute Director. This procedure expedites the process for award for first time grant applicants and facilitates their entry into alcohol research. This accelerated rapid response and award procedure is in place for R01 and R21 mechanisms, as well as at the training level for all fellowship applications.”

7 Comments »

  1. PhysioProf said

    “In fact, the ‘NIAAA does not set an overall percentile payline that assures an award if you are at or better than the payline,’ so this is as much as you’ll ever have to go on probably.”

    Interesting. I have been told by program staff that NINDS has a “hard payline”, and all applications that fall within the payline are funded. This certainly explains, in part, why the NINDS payline is substantially more stringent than most other Institutes.

  2. drugmonkey said

    “The NIAAA National Advisory Council has agreed upon the parameters for applications eligible for expedited concurrence:

    2) Percentile Score: 15.0 or better “

    Translation: Our payline is 15 percentile. This is the same thing. They just want a little extra wiggle to not-fund something. I’m sure other ICs have to decide not to fund things within their paylines too. Perhaps NIAAA doesn’t want to have to say “sure you got a great score but it really doesn’t fit our mission” when instead they can say “there is no established payline so stop complaining”

    Except, this page hasn’t been updated since 2005, so who knows what even the expedited concurrence percentile is these days. -writedit

  3. PhysioProf said

    “I’m sure other ICs have to decide not to fund things within their paylines too.”

    Well, I have been told independently by more than one program officer at NINDS that they fund *everything* within their payline. (If what was proposed was considered by council to be dangerous, unethical, threat to national security, etc., I’m sure that would be a different story. They were just talking about scientific priorities.)

  4. PhysioProf said

    Oh, and by the way, what the heck is “expedited concurrence”?

  5. drugmonkey said

    If you look at Council minutes you’ll see grants being approved “en bloc”. Meaning that they don’t say “okay, here’s grant R01DAblah, blah…all in favor? okay, next we have grant…”. It works something like a subdivision head saying, “We’d like to fund these 12 new R01s this round, these 5 R21s …..” and Council voting to approve the whole bunch without voting one by one.

    I assume it is only the rarer cases in which individual proposals are considered. There would be really no point for anything within the hard payline. I don’t know for sure what would trigger individual consideration but practices likely vary across the ICs.

  6. drugmonkey said

    “If what was proposed was considered by council to be dangerous, unethical, threat to national security, etc., I’m sure that would be a different story”

    When NIMH/Insel started with the whole translational thing I would bet they did this. We had a couple of rounds in which MH proposals were getting pulled without review, one case pulled the afternoon after a favorable review, etc.

    NIDA, as another example, is just not going to fund anything that smacks of a positive spin on drugs of abuse. Hopkins had a psilocibin study come out a while back. The immediate response of the NIDA director is informative. The PI in question is pretty much a standard issue luminary. He had some other luminaries editorialize on the paper in the same issue. I think it safe to say he could get a good score on a grant if he chose and NIDA would say “no thanks”.

  7. PhysioProf said

    It’s interesting that you raise this issue. When I was referring to “dangerous, unethical, threat to national security”, I was not thinking of the political dimension.

    My research does not implicate considerations like, “Drugs are bad, m’kay?”

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