NIH Policy Changes and Items of Interest

Changes in Resubmission Policy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is now allowing researchers more than one chance to revise a rejected grant application before having to start over with a new idea. While the new policy still allows a single resubmission per application, ideas that were unsuccessfully submitted as a resubmission may now be presented in a new grant application without having to substantially redesign the content and scope of the project. Reviewers will be instructed to review it as a new idea even if they have seen it in prior cycles. The applicant will not be required to describe how the application has changed or respond to previous reviews although NIH expects that applicants will nevertheless take advantage of previous reviewers’ comments to strengthen the applications for each submission.

Please visit the NIH site for more information about the new resubmission policy.

Changes to the Biosketch Format

NIH is piloting a new biosketch format emphasizing the researcher’s accomplishments instead of just a list of publications. The primary focus of the new biosketch will be the magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher’s discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings. The new format will extend the page limit from four to five pages. Use of this enhanced biosketch format is restricted to those Requests for Applications (RFAs) included in the pilot. The current series of pilot RFAs will be issued over the next few months. The information collected in the current pilot will be used along with findings previously collected to inform the roll-out of the modified biosketch for all NIH grant applications planned for FY 2016 and beyond.

Please visit the NIH site for more information about the new biosketch format.

The following was excerpted from NIH eSubmission Items of Interest.

Support for Applications with More Than Five Budget Periods

Although NIH typically allows only five budget periods to be submitted with grant applications, occasionally a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will allow more than five budget periods. NIH’s electronic Research Administration (eRA Commons) is the online interface where PIs and co-PIs can access and share administrative information relating to their grants. eRA Commons has just added system support for the R&R Budget 10YR form that will allow for the collection of up to 10 budget periods of data. Going forward, this form will be included with the few, special FOAs that allow more than five budget periods. The bulk of NIH FOAs will continue to use the standard R&R Budget form.

Transition to FORMS-C to Complete in August

NIH has transitioned to using updated electronic application forms (FORMS-C). The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are the last remaining programs to use the older forms. These programs are scheduled to transition to FORMS-C for due dates on/after August 5, 2014.

New Cover Letter Form for FORMS-C

NIH form packages no longer use a separate, agency-specific PHS Cover Letter form.  The version of the SF424 (R&R) cover form included in FORMS-C packages has a new Cover Letter Attachment (item #21 at the bottom of the form). Applicants planning to include a cover letter with the application should use this Cover Letter Attachment only. The eRA system will keep this attachment separate from the assembled application image and limit access to it. If it is attached someplace else (e.g., Pre-application attachment on the SF424 R&R cover form, Other Attachments on the R&R Other Project Information form), it will become part of the assembled application image and will be visible to everyone with access to the application including reviewers.

Using Non-standard Characters in Form Fields

Although NIH systems now support a broader character set including Greek and other non-standard characters, systems currently do not. When completing application form fields, applicants should type content directly from the keyboard to avoid cutting and pasting from Word and other word processors which often convert plain text to rich text.

It is best to keep the text as simple as possible limiting the use of characters to letters, numbers, spaces, underscores, and standard punctuation marks and reserving the use of fancier characters to the body of the PDF attachments.

Review of eSubmission Basics

  • Watch out for form fields required by NIH that are not marked required on federal-wide forms (e.g., Credential for PD/PIs and Organization for all entries on R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form; primary site DUNS on Project/Performance Sites form).
  • Use PDF format for all attachments. Follow PDF Guidelines.
  • Submit early – days, not minutes – to allow time to correct unforeseen errors.
  • Track the submission in eRA Commons. Email can be unreliable.
  • Check the entire assembled application image in eRA Commons. If you can’t view it, NIH can’t review it!
  • If federal system issues threaten on-time submission, notify the help desk and follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues.