Nexus November 2011
Dr. Sally Rockey

Rock Talk

Your Input on Reducing Administrative Burdens and Costs

You may remember back in June I asked for your input regarding revisions to the current OMB Circular A-21. Many thanks to all those who responded to the request for information. We have now posted a summary of the public comments, along with other information about the A-21 Task Force on the Research Business Models website

As you can see from the summary, we received 154 comments. The majority of which were from institutions of higher education, with some responses from medical centers, research institutes, associations, and individuals. Overall, the comments indicated that universities are highly affected by the burden of Circular A-21 and other federal requirements. The most prevalent topic addressed was the significant administrative burden to the scientific staff due to the effort reporting requirement and lack of ability to directly charge administrative and project management support staff. The responders were also greatly concerned with the consistency of overhead costs as well as consistency of regulatory and compliance burdens among various regulations and agencies.

The task force considered this input and is preparing its recommendations for actions to the reduce administrative burden, enhance the productivity of researchers, and streamline federal requirements, while maintaining sound stewardship of federally sponsored projects awarded to institutions of higher education.

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What You Need to Know About Financial Conflict of Interest

Mark your calendars for a financial conflict of interest webinar on November 30th from 2 to 3:30 pm eastern time. I, and others, will describe what has changed since the regulation was revised and how the changes will affect you. We’ll provide information for both administrators and investigators, with some time for questions at the end. All institutions applying for or receiving NIH funding must implement the new regulation by August 24, 2012. So if you are a current grantee or hope to be one in the future, I suggest you watch.

You don’t need to register in advance. On the day of the event view the broadcast here. If you can’t make the live broadcast we will be posting the recording on our website a few days after the event.

Update 12/1: Thanks to those who attended. A recording will be available in a few days. View the slideset here.

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Update on the NIH Small Business Programs

It’s been a while since I mentioned our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Several events have brought them to the forefront at NIH, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about them. For those of you who have not heard of our Small Business Programs, all federal agencies with an extramural research budget of more than $100M are congressionally mandated to set aside 2.5% to fund research and development on technology targeted for commercialization performed by eligible small businesses. Another 0.3% is set aside for technology transfer, which requires a partnership between a small business and a research institution. Among all federal agencies, NIH’s small business program is the second largest. We have a whole section on our RePORT website where you can find interesting data about the program.

Let me tell you about the myriad of activities that are impacting our SBIR and STTR programs in various ways. First, last week, President Obama released a memo in which he asked the heads of federal agencies to accelerate technology transfer and commercialization of federal research. As you might imagine, this is particularly applicable to our small business programs; in fact, SBIR and STTR programs are specifically called out in the memo, with the President asking us to look at best practices for managing these programs.   

This seems to be a topic on everyone’s mind as a few weeks ago Dr. Collins, the NIH Director, asked NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board to recommend strategies for optimizing the NIH Small Business Programs. He mentioned finding ways to foster innovation, attract quality proposals, and ensure success with our grantees. The board will be working over the course of the next year to come up with recommendations that likely will touch on the same areas the President mentioned.

Finally, congressional reauthorization of the programs is currently underway—the programs have been under a series of extensions since late 2008. Reauthorization represents an opportunity to make important changes to the program. There are several possible provisions in the reauthorization being considered by both sides of Congress, many of which affect the NIH programs. We will continue to update you on the status of the reauthorization on our website.

NIH is committed to the continued success of all our programs, and we look forward to helping maximize the investments we are making in our nation’s small businesses as a way to support innovation and economic development.

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Top Stories

Transparency Act Reporting Expanded

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, ensures that information on federally funded grants and contracts is available to the public via an online, searchable database. Grantee institutions are responsible for reporting executive compensation and subaward information in the Federal Subaward Reporting System. As of November 10, 2011, NIH has expanded our Transparency Act reporting requirements. In addition to all new awards (type 1), any subsequent actions on new (type 1) awards made since October 1, 2010 fall under the reporting requirement. For example, you are now required to report on the non-competing continuation (type 5) of a new award made December 2010.

To figure out if your grant requires reporting, please review the Terms and Conditions section (section III) in the Notice of Award. The details of this policy are described in NOT-OD-12-010.  

This is a good time to remind our grantee institutions that you must maintain active registration in the Central Contractor Registry database throughout the lifetime of your awards, and all subrecipient institutions must have a DUNS number. These universal identifiers enhance the quality of information provided to the public and are required. So don’t forget to renew your CCR registration annually. We can’t make your award without it. 

For more information on the Transparency Act, visit NIH’s Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act webpage.

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Skip Your Postdoc with an NIH Director's Early Independence Award

The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award Program provides a mechanism for exceptional, early career scientists to bypass traditional postdoctoral training and move into independent academic positions directly upon completion of their graduate degrees (Ph.D., M.D., or equivalent). Early Independence Award projects will receive up to $250,000 in direct costs each year for up to 5 years. The deadline for submitting applications is January 30, 2012, and the NIH expects to issue 10 awards through this program in 2012.

NIH Director Francis Collins published a commentary explaining why the NIH is launching an effort to help some doctoral students dramatically reduce the time required to start an independent career. Scientists Need a Shorter Path to Research Freedom, Nature, Vol.467, 7 October 2010.

Additional information, including frequently asked questions about the program and a list of the 2011 awardees, is available at the Early Independence Award website.

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You Ask, We Answer

What Happens If a Due Date Falls on a Weekend or Holiday?

When a standard postmark/submission date falls on a weekend or federal holiday, the application deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

If this extension causes the submission deadline to shift beyond the expiration date of the funding opportunity announcement, applicants submitting electronically may receive a warning message from This warning will not keep your application from processing through As always, applicants should check the eRA Commons to view their application and to ensure they have addressed any errors or warnings (areas of possible non-compliance with NIH business rules) identified by NIH systems. Remember, if you can’t view your application in the eRA Commons, we can’t review it!

Read more about submission policies.

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I Missed the Letter of Intent Due Date. Can I Still Apply?

Yes, for those funding opportunity announcements requesting a letter of intent, you may still apply even though you missed the letter of intent due date.  

A letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application. The information it contains allows NIH staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

NOTE: A letter of intent should not be submitted if it is not requested in the funding opportunity announcement.

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December 26, 2011 (Christmas Day): NIH Closed

NIH (including help desks) will be closed on Monday, December 26, 2011 in observance of Christmas Day.

If a standard postmark/submission date falls on this federal holiday, the application deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

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November 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving Day): NIH Closed

NIH (including help desks) will be closed on Thursday, November 24, 2011 in observance of Thanksgiving Day. We will be open on Friday, November 25, 2011.

If a standard postmark/submission date falls on this federal holiday, the application deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

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