Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Are grant reviewers consistent in their proposal scoring?

Many of us have been in the situation where Reviewers 1 and 3 love the proposal, but Reviewer 2's scores are enough to keep the application well out of funding range.  An interesting recent Nature Careers Podcast sheds some light on the issue of low agreement among NIH grant reviewers.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Is NIH closed during the government shutdown?

This question has been coming up quite a bit over the past couple of weeks.  For the record, NIH is open during the partial federal government shutdown.  Don't believe me?  Read it for yourself here

Although NIH is not closed, agencies such as NASA and the FDA are experiencing the effects of the shutdown.  This impacts not only research, but also the individual employees who are currently furloughed or working without pay.  My sincere hope is that both parties can come together on a compromise and that President Trump will reopen the government soon so everyone can get back to work.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Scientific Premise, Rigor, and Reproducibility are still causing confusion

Are you working on an R01 proposal for the upcoming February 5th NIH deadline?  Like many Principal Investigators, you may have spent a lot of time crafting the perfect write-up of your scientific premise.  Unfortunately, that means you missed the recent notice (NOT-OD-18-228) regarding the changes to NIH grant application instructions that take effect this month.  The references to "scientific premise" have been replaced by an explanation of requirements to address scientific rigor and reproducibility.  Still confused?  See this handy website for guidance on rigor and reproducibility from NIH.

Monday, October 15, 2018

New NIH Proposal Videos

Are you still confused by the NIH grant peer review process?  As explained in a recent notice, NIH has released new videos to help you better understand what happens during peer review.
The video that I believe will be most helpful is "Top 10 NIH Peer Review Q&A".  The video includes 10 commonly asked questions and answers from 10 Center for Scientific Review experts. Watch it and share any other tips or questions below in the comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Make sure your biosketch form is not expired!

A new NIH biographical sketch form has been released.  The new form expires in 2020.  If you are submitting a proposal on or before 10/31/18, you can still use the old form, which expires on that date.  For all due dates beginning 11/1/18, however, you will need to switch to the new form.  There isn't much of a change with the new form in terms of format.  However, using the old forms runs the risk of your proposal being deemed non-compliant.  Who wants their proposal kicked back over a biosketch form error?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Do I need to write a cover letter for my grant application?

In 2016, NIH added a new PHS Assignment Request Form.  Previously, applicants would add a cover letter to request assignment to a particular study section or institute, ask to exclude a reviewer, or request reviewers with particular expertise.  The form streamlines this process and eliminates the need to write a cover letter.  A sample version of the form is located here.  You can also visit this link for more information and instructions.

There are times when a cover letter is required.  This includes:

  • Applications that require prior approval to submit, such as grants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year, conference grants (e.g. R13), and investigator-initiated clinical trial planning and implementation awards
  • Applications that will generate large-scale genomic data or that plan to access data in the NIH genome-wide association study (GWAS) data repository
  • Corrected applications submitted after the deadline.  This will also require an explanation of why your application is late.
  • Indicating you are an NIH study section member who is eligible for continuous submission
  • Explaining that you will send video files  
This helpful site provides more details and instructions.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Upcoming changes to review criteria at NIH

In a recently published notice, NIH announced that changes will be made to grant reviewer instructions beginning with applications received January 25, 2019.  Notably, the term "scientific premise" is being replaced with additional instructions surrounding rigor and reproducibility.  (From my perspective, this is an excellent change, since many a scientist has struggled with how to address the scientific premise given the limited guidance provided by NIH.)   Other changes are to inclusion reporting and protection of human subjects. One significant change is the removal of language about children.  Instead of "Inclusion of Children", there will now be a requirement to address "Inclusion Across the Lifespan", which includes children and older adults. 
Unlike the Common Rule, Forms E, and other recent NIH proposal changes, there hasn't been much buzz about these modifications.  Prepare now so you won't be caught by surprise for your winter or spring submission.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How to write a Specific Aims page

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) provides excellent tutorials on writing various aspects of grant proposals.  The Specific Aims section is a key piece of almost all NIH proposal mechanisms.  Unfortunately, it is also a section that often confuses people.  If you can write an excellent Aims page, the rest of the proposal will logically flow from there.  If your Aims are not clear and concise, you will find it more difficult to write the rest of your proposal and reviewers will find it more difficult to read it.  The Draft Specific Aims page from NIAID gives excellent advice on constructing and reviewing your aims.  It also provides a handy proposal planning checklist to help guide you through the process.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

San Francisco, anyone?

In October of 2018, there will be an NIH Regional Seminar in San Francisco, California. The program agenda includes one day of optional workshops and two days of seminars. For a limited time, discounted rooms for attendees are available at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.  If you are fortunate enough to have travel funds available to attend this seminar, be sure to check out this list of 10 things not to miss.