Nexus October 2013
Dr. Sally Rockey

Rock Talk

A Special Note of Thanks

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Change in Plans – Revised Schedule for Cancelled Review Meetings

My colleagues and I have heard from many of you since Friday, expressing significant concerns regarding delaying the review of applications to the May council round due to the Government shutdown. Applicants faced with a four month delay in a funding decision described serious consequences to their research programs. Additionally, many reviewers contacted us saying they are ready and willing to do anything to get these reviews done. In light of this feedback, our review staff have risen to the challenge, and will be working with reviewers to go the extra mile in exceptionally creative ways to reschedule as many of the 200+ missed October review meetings as possible.

Today my office issued a new NIH Guide notice, announcing that most review meetings originally scheduled during October will be quickly re-scheduled to enable applications to be considered at January council. Today’s Guide notice supersedes the guidance from last week. While we’re going to do everything we can to review of all the applications, scheduling complexities may mean that it will be necessary to reassign some small number of applications to May council. The Guide notice provides additional details about how and when those reassigned applications can be “refreshed.”

The rescheduled October receipt dates have not changed and are described again in the new notice. November deadlines still stand. Progress report due dates that were due in October were extended to November 4.

It is unfortunate that the government shutdown has forced all of us to scramble in this way. I very much appreciate that NIH can pull together with the extramural community in difficult times to ensure that great science continues.

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More Information on Moving Forward with NIH Applications, Review, and Awards

UPDATE: Please see Dr. Rockey’s October 22 blog post “Change in Plans – Revised Schedule for Cancelled Review Meetings” about the new plan for rescheduling review meetings cancelled due to the Federal shutdown. -Rock Talk Blog Team, 10.24.2013

As promised yesterday, I’m posting additional information on our efforts to restore the NIH extramural program. First, some context: the 16-day delay in operations had a major impact on our business of supporting extramural research. While our grantees could continue conducting vital research through their FY 2013 awards, NIH could not release any awards while we were closed. The beginning of October is traditionally one of our busiest times for receiving and reviewing applications. Because of the shut-down, over 200 review meetings had to be canceled and thousands of reviewers had to change their travel plans. More than 11,000 applications were affected by these cancellations. The shut-down also affected many of our major deadlines, including the October R01 deadline. Due to the shut-down timing, it is extraordinarily complex to reschedule all these deadlines and reviews.  We have just published a Guide notice explaining how we will proceed.

One priority is to make sure that we can receive applications for the due dates that were missed in October. Today’s notice provides the specifics of how all October due dates will move to November so that applicants can have the NIH support they need while developing and submitting their applications. Note that existing November grant application deadlines will not change.

If you submitted an application after October 1 to, it will be processed by NIH when we make eRA systems available to you on Monday, October 21. Since all October application due dates are moving to November, however, we want to be sure that people who submitted early or during the period of the shut-down are not penalized. So, we are providing those of you who already submitted applications for the October deadlines the opportunity to replace the submission with a refreshed application, if you so desire. Details on how to do this and the timing are explained in the Guide notice.

The volume of missed review meetings severely complicates catching up with our normal awards cycle. Many reviewers have contacted us expressing their willingness to put in the extra effort now to make the reviews happen this cycle. However, it is impossible to manage the logistics of rescheduling hundreds of review meetings in the next six or so weeks. Thus, many meetings will need to be rescheduled for peer review in February/March, and those applications will be reassigned to the May council. I’m grateful to the reviewers for the work they have already done in preparing for the cancelled review meetings and for their willingness to pitch in during these difficult times.

We do want to be as fair as possible to our applicants (in a situation that I know feels completely unfair).  So if you had an application going to an October review meeting that is being reassigned to May council, you will have the option of allowing the current application go forward as-is, or withdrawing and submitting a refreshed application. If you choose to replace your application, please follow the instructions in today’s Guide notice carefully.

This is a far from an ideal situation as it pushes out award decisions for many applicants and it will be double-duty for many reviewers in the next cycle. But, we believe this is the most manageable and equitable approach. So to the reviewers who are going the extra mile during this crunch time in support of the biomedical enterprise, I thank you. NIH thanks you. And to our applicants who are going to have their reviews delayed, I am sorry for this situation and greatly appreciate your patience and understanding.

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Getting Research Back on Track

Hi everyone!  NIH is back up and running and we are here.

I want to begin by thanking all of you for the incredible patience and support you displayed during the past tumultuous weeks. I kept in touch by reading social media, the press, and your own communications, and was amazed at the overarching support you displayed for NIH.  Our strong partnership and the value of  research we all do was recognized and appreciated by the public, so much so that NIH and its magnificent mission became a central part of the discussion of why shutdown should end as quickly as possible.

However, the shutdown came at one of our busiest periods and it is going to take some time to bring the extramural program back to full strength.  As of today we can confirm that we will be rescheduling all October grant application submission deadlines to dates in November so that applicants will have access to NIH staff, help desks, and electronic systems. The specific revised due dates will be published in the NIH Guide as soon as we worked them out. We expect the eRA Commons and other NIH extramural electronic systems to be up and accessible to the public on Monday, October 21.

Review meetings were missed during the shutdown will need rescheduling and others that were to occur right now or next week may also will need to be cancelled to allow reviewers enough time to have access to applications and complete their reviews. Please stay tuned here and to the NIH Guide for more information.  I anticipate a flurry of Guide notices over the next week as we communicate our plans.

Talk to you again tomorrow.

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Federal Government Shut-down

Right now is a difficult time for the federal government and for the American people.  We have been shut down due to lack of an appropriation.

I provided guidance to our grantee community through a direct email to principal investigators, signing officials at institutions with active awards, and reviewers. That guidance is also available in NOT-OD-13-126 for applicants and others to review as well.

Unfortunately, my blog team will not be available to get your comments posted or to answer questions until we are back up and running.  My staff and I remain dedicated to the NIH mission and will do everything we can to bring things back up quickly once staff is allowed to return work.  It is a great comfort to think about the truly incredible research and training that is going on throughout this country, even as we navigate through these tough times.

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November 28 (Thursday), 2013: NIH Closed for Federal Holiday

NIH (including help desks) will be closed Thursday, November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving Day).

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

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November 11 (Monday), 2013: NIH Closed for Federal Holiday

NIH (including help desks) will be closed Monday, November 11, 2013 (Veterans’ Day).

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

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