I’m pleased to announce that Ming Lei will join NIGMS later this month as the new director of our Division for Research Capacity Building. Ming is a molecular geneticist with extensive experience overseeing fellowship, career development, and training and education grant programs.
Ming is currently deputy director of the Center for Cancer Training and chief of the Cancer Training Branch at the National Cancer Institute, which he joined in 2008 as a program director. His experience before that includes leading the Genes and Genome Cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation, serving as an associate professor of microbiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and working as a research scientist in the Division of Biotechnology at the Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ming’s expertise in managing far-reaching and complex programs, and his ability to effectively engage with scientists and other stakeholders, make him an ideal choice for this key position and a valuable addition to our senior leadership team.
Please join me in welcoming him to NIGMS.
For more about Ming, see our news announcement.
NIGMS is committed to supporting a wide-ranging portfolio of biomedically relevant fundamental research. As we discussed in a previous Feedback Loop post, we see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life. For many years, one important dimension of diversity in our scientific portfolio—the organisms scientists use to conduct their research—was limited by technical considerations. However, recent advances such as the decreasing cost of genome sequencing and the development of the CRISPR system for genetic modification now make it possible to use an expanded range of research organisms.
Applying these new technologies to the broader universe of Earth’s species, some of which have been the subject of research for many years and some of which have only recently attracted academic attention, presents an opportunity for a fresh perspective on the nature and behavior of living systems. In recognition of this opportunity, and as an extension of the recent portfolio analysis of NIH support for a subset of traditional model organisms presented by NIH’s Office of Extramural Research (OER), we decided to explore NIGMS’ support for investigator-initiated research using a subset of organisms for which historical application numbers are low. The 17 research organisms listed in Table 1 below were suggested for analysis by NIGMS program staff, who encountered them as the subject of one or more applications to NIGMS since 2008. On average, the number of applications per organism was never greater than three per year. Although this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the rare research organisms supported by NIGMS, it spans the phylogenetic tree and is thus representative.
“Rhodospirillum centenum” OR “Rhodospirillum rubrum”
“Methanococcus” OR “maripaludis”
“Zoothamnium” OR “giant ciliate”
“Echinoidea” OR “Strongylocentrotus purpuratus” OR “sea urchin”
“Cnidaria” OR “Hydra”
“Euprymna scolopes” OR “bobtail squid”
“Tribolium castaneum” OR “red flour beetle”
“Ciona intestinalis” OR “Ciano savignyi” OR “sea squirt”
“Ginglymostoma cirratum” OR “nurse shark”
“Myxini” OR “Hagfish”
“Takifugu rubripes” OR “Japanese puffer” OR “Tiger puffer” OR “pufferfish” OR “puffer fish”
“Ambystoma mexicanum” OR “axolotl”
Anolis carolinensis OR “Anolis carolinesis” OR “Carolina anole”
“Taeniopygia guttata” OR “zebra finch” OR “zebrafinch” Table 1. Seventeen Research Organisms in this Analysis and Associated Keywords
Applications were first identified by searching the text of the entire NIGMS portfolio of Research Project Grant (RPG—defined here as R01, R37, R35, DP2, R15, R24, R21, and R00 mechanisms) applications from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2016 for keywords associated with each of the 17 species (Table 1). Each application identified in this manner was read by at least two curators to confirm the use of the research organism in question. If the initial coding did not produce a consensus, the discrepancy was resolved by further discussion. This manual curation approach is consistent with the methodology employed in the above-mentioned analysis of traditional research organisms presented by OER, so the two datasets could be compared.
Figure 1 shows the number of R01 applications received and awards made by NIGMS to study the widely used research organisms Drosophila melanogaster, Xenopus laevis/tropicalis, and Danio rerio (Zebrafish) from FY 2008 to 2015; in comparison, the use of our selected 17 research organisms in R01 applications over the same time period has been relatively rare (n = 152). Consistent with existing data on trans-NIH award rates, NIGMS R01 applications that propose to study the widely used models enjoy a higher combined award rate than the overall average (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value < 0.0001).
Although the sample size is small, R01 applications proposing to study rare research organisms have an award rate similar to applications on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish or the overall NIGMS R01 pool (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value = 0.13 and 0.50, respectively). This conclusion, which may seem contrary to expectations, is unchanged if data on applications through the end of FY 2016 and/or data on other RPG mechanisms are included in the calculation of award rates.applications awards award rate all NIGMS 28429 6513 22.9% Drosophila, Xenopus, Zebrafish 2701 704 26.1% rare research organisms 152 31 20.4% Table 2. Number of Applications, Awards, and Award Rates for NIGMS R01s, FY 2008-2015. Award rates are determined by dividing the number of competing applications funded by the number of competing applications reviewed; if the same project is submitted more than once in the same fiscal year, the two submissions are both counted as independent attempts to secure funding. The combined award rate for Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish is significantly higher than the overall NIGMS R01 award rate; other pairwise comparisons are not statistically significant. ARRA-funded applications are excluded in all cases.
While NIGMS continues to support the use of traditional research organisms, we also welcome applications using new and unusual research organisms that propose well-justified studies relevant to the Institute’s mission. As we go forward, we will continue to monitor the distribution of support for the various organisms studied by NIGMS grantees, including how those organisms may be linked to particular areas of study. As always, we are interested to hear your thoughts on this issue, and encourage PIs who are interested in applying to NIGMS to contact a program director who manages applications close to their area of research.
We are grateful to the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Analysis for sharing their data on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish awards. We would also like to thank our colleagues on the NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group as well as Michael Bender, Dylan Burgoon, and Donna Krasnewich for their help with this analysis.NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group
We’re recruiting for a program director (also known as a health scientist administrator or program officer) to manage research grant, fellowship, training, and other types of awards focused on the structure and function of cells and cellular components, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie inheritance, gene expression, and development. The position is in our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and it involves working collaboratively with other program directors in the division to support outstanding science in these fields. Candidates should have expertise in state-of-the-art molecular genetics, cell biology, and/or developmental biology. Familiarity with NIH extramural funding as an applicant, reviewer, or NIH scientific administrator is a plus, and outstanding written and oral communication skills are essential.
There are two vacancy announcements: one for candidates with current or former federal employment status and one for candidates without such status. Both announcements close on June 7, 2018. Please see the NIH HSA website for position requirements and application procedures. The Applying for Scientific Administration Jobs at NIGMS blog post offers additional background and tips.
Not looking for a position right now? Please help us out by forwarding this information to others who might be interested in this opportunity.
NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing a diverse pool of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and student development programs. Based on stakeholders’ feedback through Requests for Information (NOT-GM-15-108; NOT-GM-17-017), as well as extensive analyses and discussions with NIH staff and the community, we intend to make adjustments to our programs designed to enhance the diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The modifications, which the NIGMS Council recently approved, are designed to: 1) provide equity of trainee support across programs; 2) prevent programmatic overlap; 3) align the funding strategies with the programmatic goals; 4) tailor expectation of outcomes, support mechanisms, and review considerations according to the institution’s level of research activity; and 5) strengthen our ability to evaluate the success of the programs. The changes, described in more detail in the recent Videocast of the Council Open Session, will impact the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) programs. We don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). Possible adjustments to the Bridges to the Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate programs are currently under discussion.
Specifically, the modifications are intended to do the following:
The funding announcements for these four programs to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce will encourage applications from training programs that do the following: focus on skills development (including an emphasis on quantitative and computational skills); promote rigor and reproducibility in research; teach the responsible and safe conduct of research; create inclusive, safe, and supportive research environments; use evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices; employ cohort-building activities and interventions that enhance the trainees’ science identity and self-efficacy; provide individualized mentoring and oversight throughout the trainees’ undergraduate or graduate careers; and introduce trainees to a variety of scientific research areas and career trajectories.
For institutions with currently funded IMSD, RISE, and MARC programs, the policies and guidance in the FOA (under which the existing programs were funded) will apply until the end of the current funding cycle. NIGMS intends to release the MARC, U-RISE, IMSD, and G-RISE funding announcements in the fall of 2018. All applications for these programs must be submitted under the new FOAs effective July 1, 2018. NIGMS will conduct extensive outreach to provide guidance while institutions and existing programs navigate the transition.
We thank the community for its ongoing feedback. As always, we welcome your comments on the Council-approved plans. Contact(s) for questions: Sailaja Koduri for MARC and IMSD; Anissa Brown for U-RISE; and Luis Cubano for G-RISE.
NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the training of students from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research, through fellowships, career development grants, and institutional training and student development programs. These programs, and other efforts, have contributed to a substantial increase in the talent pool of well-trained biomedical Ph.D.s from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. However, increasing evidence shows that transitions of these talented scientists from postdoctoral training into independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions is a key point at which they exit the NIH-funded research workforce. Similarly, women have earned a majority of biomedical Ph.D.s since 2008 but approximately one-third of NIH-funded principal investigators are women.
We have undertaken a number of efforts to facilitate the career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate including Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards and research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research and re-entry into biomedical research careers. Additionally, we administer the NIH Common Fund’s National Research Mentoring Network, a nationwide consortium of biomedical professionals and institutions collaborating to provide biomedical trainees from all backgrounds and at all levels with evidence-based mentorship and professional development programs. While these efforts have supported the development of highly-trained biomedical scientists who have the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue independent biomedical research careers, we need additional strategies to promote transitions to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.
We are seeking input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups through a Request for Information (RFI) on strategies for enhancing postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity at research-intensive institutions. Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is July 20, 2018.
We’re hosting a webinar for students and fellows interested in the PRAT Program for the October 3 receipt date:
Wednesday, June 20, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET.
PRAT is a competitive three-year fellowship program that prepares trainees for leadership positions in biomedical careers. Training includes a mentored laboratory research experience and intensive career and leadership development activities. PRAT fellows conduct research in laboratories in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) in basic biomedical research areas within the NIGMS mission. These areas include, but are not limited to, biological chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, computational biosciences, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development.
Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2019). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 625 876 209 and the password MjRSPSrH. You can also attend by phone by calling 650-479-3208. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.
NIGMS Staff and PRAT Fellows Participating in June 20 Webinar:
Kenneth Gibbs, Director, PRAT Program
Mercedes Rubio, Program Officer, PRAT Program
Amy Elliott, PRAT Fellow
Sam Golden, PRAT Fellow
Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto, PRAT Fellow
We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.
The videocast from our April 17 Early-Career Investigator Lecture with Jeramiah Smith is now available. Jeramiah, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, gives a fascinating talk about his genomic research with sea lampreys. He then offers advice for students interested in biomedical research careers. I encourage you to take a look and share the video with students and postdocs in your labs and departments.
We launched this annual lecture series three years ago both to highlight the achievements of our early-career grantees, and to encourage undergraduates and other students to pursue careers in biomedical research. This year, a group of nearly 30 students from the ASCEND program at Morgan State University attended in person (and asked some outstanding questions!).Undergraduate students and three faculty members from Morgan State University attended the NIGMS Director’s Early-Career Investigator Lecture. The speaker, Jeramiah Smith, is on the far right. The students are part of a university program supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Diversity Program Consortium. Credit: Christa Reynolds.
One of Jeramiah’s tips underlies all scientific inquiry, though it might have surprised the students: “Embrace being wrong.” Rather than feeling discouraged when an experiment yields unexpected results, he encouraged students to try to understand what happened and why. That’s how science advances.
I hope you and your trainees find the lecture as inspiring as I did.Following the lecture, Jeramiah Smith answered questions from NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch (top right) and students from Morgan State University. Credit: Chia Chi Chang.
NIGMS requests applications in support of a Coordination Center (RFA-GM-18-003) for our Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program. The MIDAS network of researchers shares models, data sets, and tools to study the spread of infectious disease and possible intervention strategies. The network consists of researchers funded by MIDAS research (R01) grants as well as other interested researchers. It is hoped that the output of the research conducted by the MIDAS network will improve our ability to predict the course of infectious disease outbreaks and model the outcomes of proposed interventions.
MIDAS modelers rely on large data sets and robust computational resources. The MIDAS Coordination Center will serve as a hub for storing these resources. More importantly, the Coordination Center will improve the usability of the MIDAS resources, host educational activities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and coordinate MIDAS-related meetings.
The application deadline is May 31, 2018. Applicants may request up to $880,000 per year in direct costs including up to $250,000 for an independent research program. This is a five-year award. More details can be found in the RFA. Please contact me if you have any additional questions.
NIGMS, along with other NIH Institutes and Centers, has partnered with the National Institute on Aging to grow the community of scientists actively engaged in research focused on Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (AD/ADRD). Details of this year’s AD/ADRD supplement program are provided in NIA’s Notice NOT-AG-18-008. If your research, research training, or research capacity-building grant is not currently focused on AD/ADRD and you have an inspiring new idea of potential value to the field that is within the scope of the funded Specific Aims of your current award, please consider this opportunity.
Research related to AD/ADRD might fall within the scope of an already-funded NIGMS award originally focused on, for example, an enzyme, transporter, or metabolic pathway being studied for its basic biological or physiological role (or a non-AD/ADRD-related medical condition) if you have recognized an exciting new implication for AD-type pathologies or their treatment. Funded projects developing analytical methods, tools or technologies, drug molecules, or drug delivery systems not previously intended for application to AD/ADRD might now appear to have potential in this area. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their program director to discuss their ideas for AD/ADRD research and how those relate to the Specific Aims currently funded. Decisions about scope are strictly the purview of NIH. Center and Resource grants that allow non-specified pilot projects should consider adding AD/ADRD projects if interest and expertise exist.
NIA provides an Alzheimer’s Disease Administrative Supplements webpage that includes NIH’s coding definitions of Alzheimer’s disease and its related dementias, as well as titles and abstracts for several funded projects that meet the definition of AD/ADRD research. These sources can help you determine if your grant is already considered AD/ADRD research and, therefore ineligible for this supplement. If the Specific Aims of your grant are not already AD/ADRD-related and you’d like to apply for this supplement, you are strongly encouraged to use the information on NIA’s supplement webpage as well as the Query and Matchmaker tools in NIH RePORTER to help assure that the research in your supplement request is considered AD/ADRD-appropriate.
Applications must be received at NIGMS by June 8 for funding in FY 2018. Applicants must use NIH’s general Administrative Supplement Funding Opportunity Announcement, PA-18-591. To ensure that NIGMS can quickly identify applications for AD/ADRD supplements, be sure to include the NIA Notice number (NOT-AG-18-008) in the abstract and notify the Program Official of the parent award that a supplement request has been submitted. Applications will be ranked by NIGMS and the most compelling will be submitted to NIA for final consideration.
Additional requirements: Eligible NIGMS grants must:
Please contact me if you have questions regarding the details of this administrative supplement program, and include NOT-AG-18-008 in the subject line of all related email communication.
To continue our efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education, we invite eligible NIGMS-funded T32 predoctoral training programs to submit administrative supplement requests to develop new curricular and training activities to enhance the program’s ability to: 1) provide graduate trainees with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting rigorous and transparent research to enhance reproducibility (PA-18-756); 2) prepare students for diverse careers in the biomedical research workforce (PA-18-757); 3) develop the knowledge and skills of trainees to enhance laboratory safety (PA-18-758); and 4) develop the technical, operational, and professional skills of predoctoral biomedical researchers (PA-18-759).
Grantees should consider the following before applying:
If you’re preparing a grant application for either the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Coordination Center (U24) or the NRMN Resource Center (U24) for the June 11 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:
Monday, April 30, 1:00 PM ET
During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the NRMN Coordination Center and the NRMN Resource Center funding announcements and answer your questions. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 622 059 858 and the password PxH2Dy3Q. If you are unable to attend online, you can call 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the meeting number above.
We look forward to talking to you.
If you’re preparing a National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN): The Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points (U01) grant application for the June 11, 2018 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:
Monday, April 23, 2018, 1:30 PM ET
During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the NRMN: The Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points (U01) announcement and answer your questions. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 621 810 025 and the password xgmgtxPy. If you are unable to attend online, you can call 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the meeting number above.
We look forward to talking to you.
NIGMS is offering administrative supplements of between $50,000 and $250,000 for the well-justified purchase of single pieces of equipment. In past years, we issued separate funding announcements (PA-15-089 and PA-16-125) for this purpose. This year, however, we will accept requests for equipment supplements from Principal Investigators (PIs) who hold NIGMS R01, R35, R37, or R15 awards under PA-18-591, Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional).
Eligible investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss potential requests with their program directors before submitting applications. Two or more NIGMS grantees at the same institution may submit separate but cross-referenced requests, where the funds requested reflect the actual proportion of the time that the shared equipment would be used by each PI. However, under no circumstances may a joint request exceed $400,000 in direct costs. The requested supplemental budget cannot exceed the total year direct cost amount of the parent award. PIs may not request future year funds. NIGMS strongly encourages investigators to seek matching funds from their institutions or elsewhere, and to ensure that follow-up expenses (such as maintenance contracts) will be covered from other available funds. Institutional contributions and commitment will be factored into funding decisions.
Applicants should include price quotes or other documentation, in addition to a strong scientific justification for the requested equipment supplement.
NIGMS anticipates awarding a limited number of administrative supplements toward the end of this fiscal year. The number of awards given will depend on the funds available. If you have any questions about these supplements, please contact me.
The first receipt date for predoctoral T32 applications in response to NIGMS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) PAR-17-341 is fast approaching—May 25, 2018. While a wealth of information is already available regarding the intent and requirements of this new FOA, including on our NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants website and a recent Feedback Loop post, we want to reassure prospective applicants that we are also actively preparing for the review of these applications.
All predoctoral T32 applications submitted to NIGMS are currently reviewed by two in-house standing review committees, TWD-A and TWD-B, and this will continue for applications submitted under the new FOA. However, we are mindful that reviewing these applications requires different expectations and considerations, and that reviewers must accordingly be prepared for them. To this end, scientific review officers in our Office of Scientific Review are working closely with program staff in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to revise the materials and resources currently used to orient review committee members to ensure they understand and address the new review criteria appropriately. We are also exploring options to add expertise to the committees in aspects of the FOA that may be less familiar to reviewers, such as program evaluation, evidence-based approaches to teaching and mentoring, and non-academic career development. In addition, we are considering ways to bring the perspectives of community members who educate and mentor undergraduate students who go on to pursue Ph.D.s in biomedical fields, as well as of those who employ graduates of NIGMS-funded Ph.D. programs, such as representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. And of course, NIGMS review and program staff are available at each step, including during the review meetings, to provide guidance and reminders.
A feature of the new T32 FOA is that all submissions are considered new (Type 1) applications, and there will be no renewal (Type 2) applications received under the new FOA. Since site visits have been part of the review process only for renewal applications, no site visits for peer review will be conducted under the new FOA. Site visits will take place as planned for renewal applications submitted under the parent T32 FOA for the January 25, 2018, receipt date.
Note that applications for our Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) will continue to be reviewed using the criteria of the parent T32 FOA and will be site visited according to the established schedule while a new MSTP-specific FOA is under development.
If you have any questions about these upcoming preparations, please feel free to contact me.
NIGMS is realigning its support of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program to focus on providing research experiences to undergraduate students in scientific areas within its mission. Accordingly, we’ve published a new undergraduate research-focused AREA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and are discontinuing our participation in the NIH Parent AREA FOA. The undergraduate research-focused AREA FOA will allow us to continue to: 1) support small-scale meritorious research projects at institutions that do not receive substantial NIH funding (less than $6 million in total costs in 4 of the last 7 years), 2) enhance the research environment at eligible institutions, and 3) expose students to scientific research so that they consider careers in biomedical sciences. Unlike the Parent FOA, the new announcement allows NIGMS to place its emphasis specifically on undergraduate research.
This new AREA FOA limits eligibility to undergraduate student-focused institutions or academic components within an institution (e.g., School of Arts and Sciences) in which the undergraduate student enrollment is greater than the graduate student enrollment, and it excludes all types of health professional schools. Additionally, the research team must be composed primarily of undergraduate students. This FOA aligns the application instructions and review criteria with the goals of the AREA program. We expect that these clarifications will lead to applications that better fit the goals of the program and provide reviewers the tools they need to evaluate the program as designed.
NIGMS is withdrawing from the Parent AREA FOA after the May 7, 2018, AIDS application due date. Beginning with the June 25 application due date, all AREA applications for NIGMS support, including renewals originally submitted to the Parent FOA, must be submitted to the undergraduate research-focused FOA (see NOT-GM-18-021). Note that this change does not affect existing NIGMS awards or applications that are pending review or funding decision. We will also continue to provide co-funding for meritorious AREA grant applications from institutions in IDeA states to other NIH institutes and centers that fall just outside of their normal funding range, regardless of which AREA FOA they come in under.
NIGMS has been a strong supporter of the AREA Program since its inception and will continue this commitment. We expect that the new FOA will better serve the community and fulfill our mission.
If you have any questions about the new AREA award, please email me or call 301-594-0943.
When NIGMS issued PAR-17-094, Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35), in December 2016, we opened the established investigator MIRA mechanism to all NIGMS grantees whose single-PI R01-equivalent grants were set to terminate in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the MIRA application. The purpose of this post is to remind you of important points to keep in mind if you are eligible to apply for a MIRA. Before applying, we strongly encourage you to contact your program director, who can advise you on whether MIRA is the best funding program for you and can help estimate a project budget if your application does well in peer review.
Some key points to know if you are considering applying for a MIRA grant:
If you have any additional MIRA questions, contact the program director for your current grant(s).
If you’re preparing an institutional MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) grant application for the May 24 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:
Tuesday, March 27, 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET
During the webinar, we’ll answer your questions about the MARC U-STAR funding opportunity announcement and data tables. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.
To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter the meeting number 621 811 686 and the password “MARC2018.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.
We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.
To capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing a Strategic Plan for Data Science. This plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. As part of the planning process, NIH has published a draft of the strategic plan [PDF 490KB], along with a Request for Information to seek input from stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public.
As co-chair of the NIH Scientific Data Council, which is overseeing development of the Strategic Plan for Data Science, I encourage your comments and suggestions. Responses should be submitted via an online form by April 2, 2018.
It’s crucial that the results of NIH-supported biomedical research are reproducible, unbiased, and properly validated. Establishment and use of rigorous and reproducible approaches require appropriate and sustained training of researchers and students. In 2014, we announced a funding opportunity to develop, pilot, and disseminate training modules to enhance data reproducibility. The products of these grants are posted on the NIGMS website as they become available, together with other relevant training modules about conducting rigorous and reproducible research.
We’ve just reissued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support the development of additional training modules in three areas that build upon and extend those targeted through the previous FOA. The three new areas of emphasis are: 1) How scientific culture, organization, and incentives influence the rigor and reproducibility of biomedical research; 2) Good laboratory practices and record keeping; 3) Advanced experimental design and analysis.
The application deadline is June 29, 2018. Applicants may request up to $250,000 in direct costs to cover the entire award period (up to three years). More details can be found in the FOA or in the program’s Frequently Asked Questions.
If you have any questions about this FOA or the training modules, please contact me.NIGMS Rigor and Reproducibility Working Group
Alexandra Ainsztein, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Erica Brown, Division of Extramural Activities
Luis Cubano, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Haluk Resat, Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences
Lisa Dunbar, Office of Scientific Review
Kristine Willis, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Dorit Zuk, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
NIGMS is committed to ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible returns on their investments in fundamental biomedical research [PDF 702KB]. As part of this commitment to stewardship [PDF 7.89MB], we regularly monitor trends in our funding portfolio.
We recognize the value of a diversified investment portfolio and approach our research investments in a similar fashion. Sustaining a broad and diverse portfolio of talented investigators is a central goal of the Institute, as a wide variety of research questions can be studied by an investigator pool that comprises many different backgrounds, fields, and skills. To monitor this, we track the “cumulative investigator rate,” which indicates the proportion of unique investigators actively seeking funding who had an NIGMS grant in a given Fiscal Year (FY). As shown in Figure 1, the number of investigators seeking support consistently increased between FY 2006 and 2014, but the number of NIGMS-funded investigators remained relatively unchanged over that same period. As a result, the cumulative investigator rate steadily decreased. Since FY 2014, the cumulative investigator rate has steadily increased, as the number of applicants seeking support has stabilized and the number of investigators receiving support has grown by 14%. Currently, 37.4% of investigators seeking R01/R35 funding from NIGMS received support in FY 2017.
As part of our commitment to a diverse portfolio, we also emphasize support for the next generation of biomedical researchers. Supporting early stage investigators (ESIs), as well as maintaining stable support for investigators through their critical first renewals, is essential to maintaining a vibrant research community. As shown in Figure 2, the number of ESIs receiving their first competing NIGMS major research project grant has increased in the last two years. This is due, in part, to interest in our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) R35 grant program which includes a funding opportunity for early stage investigators. As we move forward, we will continue to track the stability of support for investigators across all stages of their research careers.
In addition, we track more traditional measures of our grants portfolio, such as the success rate [PDF, 185KB], calculated as the number of applications funded divided by the number of unique project proposals received. As shown in Figure 3, the NIGMS research project grants (RPGs) success rate for FY 2017 was 30.7%, a percentage point higher than the success rate in FY 2016. We received slightly fewer competing applications in FY 2017 than 2016, and made nearly the same number of awards, resulting in a similar success rate. This marks the third year in a row that success rates have remained relatively stable since their lowest point in FY 2013. MIRA applications and grants are included in these counts for RPGs.
As noted above, changes in the numbers of both competing applications and awards influence our success rate. The number of competing applications submitted is largely driven by the research community, although the increasing percentage of investigators with funding since FY 2014 (Figure 1) could have led to a decrease in the number of people submitting applications. In addition, researchers funded through the MIRA program do not submit additional research grant applications to NIGMS, which will lead over time to a decrease in applications. The number of competing grants awarded is affected by our funding policies, budget, and existing commitments to active grants. As stated in our 2015 Strategic Plan [PDF 702KB], we have been making efforts to bolster support for investigator-initiated research and for individual researchers through careful consideration of our portfolio and funding policies.
As mentioned in our previous funding trends posts, we do not use a strict percentile cutoff (“payline”) to make funding decisions. Instead, we take a variety of factors into account, including peer review scores, summary statements, the relevance of the research area to the Institute’s mission, overall portfolio diversity, and an applicant’s other research support. As a result, a significant number of applications each year are in the “fundable” range, as shown in the funding plots in Figures 4 and 5. In FY 2017, approximately 50% of applications that scored at the 24th percentile were funded, identical to the value in FY 2016 (Figure 4). As with last year, a number of well-scoring R01 applications went unfunded, in part due to NIGMS policies on support for research in well-funded laboratories and funding for investigators with substantial unrestricted support. In general, a well-scoring application for an investigator’s third R01 will be a lower priority for funding than a meritorious application for another investigator’s only grant.
Similar figures are not shown for the MIRA program, as applications are not percentiled and the program is still in its early phases. NIGMS has been carefully monitoring the MIRA program and communicating its findings via regular Feedback Loop posts and will continue to do so.
In FY 2018, NIGMS has been operating under a continuing resolution , meaning that our budget is at a similar level to FY 2017. During this time, we are following current guidance as it relates to issuance of awards. However, we continue to use every analytical tool at our disposal to ensure that we maximize scientific returns on taxpayers’ investments by supporting a vibrant and diverse portfolio of outstanding fundamental biomedical research.