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 grants.gov, 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.