Archive for NIH Advice

NIH Fairy Grants Your Wish for Unlimited A0s

In a new Notice, the NIH went beyond reversing its decision to eliminate the A2 submission to allow, in theory, unlimited A0 submissions of the same proposal (hopefully improved with each submission).

Effective immediately, the NIH and AHRQ will accept a new (A0) application following an unsuccessful resubmission (A1) application. The subsequent new application need not demonstrate substantial changes in scientific direction compared to previously reviewed submissions, and must not contain an introduction to respond to the critiques from the previous review.

Although reviewers of this subsequent A0 might think it sounds familiar, they will not have the prior applications or summary statements and will be instructed to treat each A0 as new (and it will have a new grant number assigned).

The NIH and AHRQ will not assess the similarity of the science in the new (A0) application to any previously reviewed submission when accepting an application for review. Although a new (A0) application does not allow an introduction or responses to the previous reviews, the NIH and AHRQ encourage applicants to refine and strengthen all application submissions.

However, if it feels like Groundhog Day without hope of ever reaching Feb 3 or a competitive score, reviewers will also likely be encouraged to comment on unproductive repetitive submissions in the Additional Comments to Applicant.

Also, the new policy makes clear that PIs cannot resubmit the application as soon as they know their score and still cannot have overlapping proposals under review at the same time.

This means that the NIH will not review:

  • a new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping resubmission (A1) application.

  • a resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.

  • an application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101). {writedit: yet another reason not to appeal}

PIs should communicate with their PO about resubmission strategy. An ND (not discussed) A0 might do better just going back as an A0 again (skipping a written introduction as an A1). If the PI would do better to write the introduction to clarify/highlight improvements based on the A0 discussion, then an A1 might be the more strategic submission (plus the extra month may be useful). A Type 2 (competing renewal) would need to go in as an A1 to remain under consideration as a Type 2 (if/when subsequently submitted as A0, becomes Type 1 again and loses the Progress Report and competing renewal submission date/status). Some FOAs will limit whether an application can be submitted as an A1, too. You should definitely talk with your PO for advice. There will also be FAQs issued [update: a new Notice provides some clarification].

This strategy should bypass the prior “getting in line” philosophy of the A0-A1-A2 progression while allowing PIs to continue refining, improving, and submitting proposals from their evolving research program. As the Notice notes, this should particularly help early career investigators who have not had the time or resources to begin developing parallel research programs attractive to different ICs and SRGs. Let the writing and rewriting begin.

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NIH FY15 Budget in Brief

The President made a friendly suggestion about how Congress might spend federal monies appropriated for FY15.

As shown in the Budget in Brief released by HHS, the additional $211M suggested for the NIH (bringing the appropriation to $30.4B) is not evenly distributed.

Winners include NIAID (+$31M), NCATS (+$25M), NIMH (+$23M), NINDS (+$23M), and NIDDK (+$12M).

The remaining increases are all single-digit millions, and while no IC lost funding, several received no increase in their appropriation above FY14: NIDCR, NIDCD, NINR, NIMHD, NCCAM, FIC.

Several more only get an additional $1M (i.e., an extra R01): NEI, NIA, NIAMS, NIAAA, NHGRI.

Over half (53.4%) the extra $211M goes toward RPGs – $120M – which the NIH estimates will translate into 9,326 new and competing awards (or 329 more grants than in FY14).

NIH estimates that it will spend $566M on Alzheimer’s disease research and more than $3B on HIV/AIDS research.

The NIH will devote $100M to the BRAIN initiative (up from $40M in FY14).

The Cures Acceleration Network appropriation jumps to $30M (up from $10M in FY14).

There will be a 2% increase in stipends for pre- and postdoctoral trainees supported by National Research Service Awards (Fs & Ts).

Intramural research increases by $39M from FY14 to $3.4B (11.3% of the NIH appropriation).

In the unlikely event that the proposed Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative comes to pass (i.e., President’s request for $56B above the Congressionally mandated cap on discretionary spending offset by higher tax revenues and other cuts), the NIH would receive an additional $970M.

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FY13 Funding Trends

In working on the book, I was disappointed that we could not get funding trend data for more ICs (10 of 24). Publishing the range of percentiles over which applications are scored versus funded allows applicants to see patterns of skipping awards at lower percentiles and how high an IC will go for select pay decisions. Even though seeing these charts does not affect the outcome of an individual application, some data are better than no data for overall mental health as well as application and career planning.

Here at MWEG, I have a page with links to available funding trend data, which I will update as new data show up at IC Websites.

Those with FY12 data online include NHLBI (success rate only), NIAAA (success rates only), NIAMS, NIGMS, and NINDS (NIAID has FY11 data). The book adds charts for NIA, NIDA, NIMH, and NIEHS (FY11 only). Success rate data (by IC, activity code, FY, etc.) can always be found at NIH RePORT.

FY13 funding trend data are now available from NCI and NIDDK.

NIDDK went down a couple points on its R01 payline (13/18 in FY12 down to 11/16 in FY13 for established/new-ESI), and they seem to be accommodating more new R01s at the expense of renewals and the amount spent per award. NIDDK covers all the award mechanisms and even breaks out Ks by activity code.

NCI focuses on R01s and R21s but does include some R03 and RFA data. Perhaps most interesting is the comparison of FY12 and FY13 success rate data:


  • —R01 unsolicited: 620 awards, 15% success rate
  • —R21 unsolicited: 200 awards, 11% success rate
  • —R03: 101 awards, 20% success rate
  • —RFAs: 88 awards, 9% success rate
  • —Total RPGs: 1085 awards, 14% success rate
  • —R01 unsolicited: 582 awards, 15% success rate
  • —R21 unsolicited: 241 awards, 10% success rate
  • —R03: 100 awards, 15% success rate
  • —RFAs: 82 awards, 16% success rate
  • —Total RPGs: 1095 awards, 14% success rate

Not sure whether the drop in RFA applications in FY13 is due to fewer RFAs issued or fewer applicants to the RFAs issued; it’s a little tricky to figure out by searching the Guide, since some RFAs have multiple receipt dates spanning FYs, and the Provocative Questions RFAs were broken out into 4 groups per activity code (so 8 FOAs covering same ground as 2 FOAs previously).

NCI also includes success rate data for new-ESI applicants for both the R01 and R21 activity codes. Only applicants to the R01 are given special consideration at review and award time, and the data confirm this: the success rate for new/ESI applicants to the R01 activity code was 12% (18% for ESI – compared with 13% for new applications from experienced PIs) versus 8% for R21s (experienced PIs stayed at 13%).

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NIH FY14 Appropriation in the Omnibus Appropriation Bill

From the summary for the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The bill includes $29.9 billion for the NIH, $1 billion above the fiscal year 2013 level. This funding will continue support for basic biomedical research and translational research through the programs like the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) and Institutional Development Award (IDeA) to support scientists as they conduct research to discover cures. Further, it provides full support for the NIH Office of Science Education and programs like the Science Education and Partnership Awards (SEPA) to support biomedical research for the future.

While a billion more is good news, relatively speaking, it is not great news. The last time the NIH appropriation was below $30B was in FY08 ($29.6B).

Could be worse … could be raining.

Update: Here is the NIH text (with individual IC appropriations) from the House Bill – NIH_FY14_Appropriation

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K99 Clarification

In announcing the re-issued career development parent announcements, the NIH highlighted significant changes to the K99/R00 program that bring much needed and appreciated guidance to applicants, particularly with regard to uniform expectations across ICs:

  • Candidates for the K99/R00 award must have no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research training experience at the time of the initial application or the subsequent resubmission.
  • Although the duration of postdoctoral training may vary across scientific disciplines, candidates must propose a plan for a substantive period of mentored training not to exceed 2 years.
  • It is expected that K99 awardees will benefit from no less than 12 months of mentored research training and career development before transitioning to the independent, R00 phase of the program.
  • Individuals who are close to achieving an independent faculty position, and cannot make a strong case for needing a minimum of 12 months of additional mentored training, are not ideal candidates for this award.
  • If an applicant achieves independence prior to initiating the K99 phase, neither the K99 nor the R00 phase will be awarded.

This has been a tricky award, since K99 applicants stressed with career planning decisions and deadlines late in their postdoc often applied for faculty positions as funding decisions dragged on for months and months after the initial submission and review (and resubmission and review), and the ICs handled these situations differently, particularly during the initial years of the program. Nice to have everyone on the same page.

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How the NIH Can Help You Get Funded

Although this cat is partly out of the bag thanks to DrugMonkey, I am pleased to announce that I finally committed to page some of what I have learned in working with academic researchers and the NIH for more than 28 years. First and foremost, I want to thank all of you supporting this blog over the past 7 years, because without you, the book never would have been written. Literally.

When Oxford University Press was looking for someone to author a book about NIH grantwriting, they went to the NIH, where a PO said if they could find whoever was responsible for this blog, they would find the right person. And so the editor sent an email to “writedit”, which I fortunately did not dismiss as spam but instead wrote back that what would be more useful than another book on how to “write a grant” would be one focused on how to understand and work with the NIH as part of an overall grant-seeking strategy. Fortunately, they liked my ideas, and a year or so later, and the addition of a killer co-author who I was thrilled to have move to BICO, Jeremy Berg, How the NIH Can Help You Get Funded made it to press.

My motivation for maintaining this blog comes from my genuine enjoyment of helping researchers succeed (and learning a lot of cool science along the way), and it was a no brainer to dedicate the book to you and the extramural staff at the NIH. I am happy to freely give any advice that I can here, but in case you want the fundamentals in one convenient volume, the book (paperback and Kindle) is available from OUP (20% discount code: 32398) as well as through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. I kept the book small to keep the price down for students and postdocs, so there are topics I would have liked to have covered in more detail and will try to expand upon here in the blog, especially as folks continue to ask questions.

Currently, I am looking for a WordPress guru to help make the blog itself more user-friendly, so hopefully soon you will find this site easier to search and find shared intel in the comments on grant mechanisms, ICs, study sections, etc. of particular interest to you. And yes, I’ll finally change the color scheme to be more readable …

So, thank you all again for contributing to this collective effort and making MWEG a valuable resource – and thanks for all the memories.

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What Passes for Good News for the NIH

Although the shoutin’ is only about to begin, Senators Patty Murray and Paul Ryan announced a bipartisan budget agreement that would role back the FY14 sequester, which would be a huge relief for the NIH.

As required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the FY13 sequester imposed mandatory 5.1% across the board cuts, and the FY14 sequester was set to increase these cuts to 7.4%. With the pending budget deal, discretionary spending would be capped at $1.012T instead of $967B (vs $986B in FY13). Of course, academic medical centers won’t necessarily be cheering the extension of the 2% cut to Medicare providers.

For historical perspective, discretionary spending in FY12 was $1.285T, a drop from $1.347T in FY10 and FY11; in FY06, discretionary spending was at $1.016T. In other words, Congress would still be defunding the NIH in FY14.

Details on the NIH appropriation to follow as the sausage is made.

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