When the public health emergency was first declared, NIH, working with OMB and HHS, quickly identified a long list of flexibilities to support the research community. The list has evolved since the pandemic began, so we would like to take this opportunity to remind the community of many of the current flexibilities we have in place.
NIH recently issued a clarification indicating that while grant applications should not include contingency or recovery plans for problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, investigators may address effects due to the pandemic on productivity or other scoreable issues in the personal statement of the biosketch.
NIH recently released its updated Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research, available on the NIH COVID-19 website. Responses to a Request for Information helped inform this iteration, building on progress since the 2020 plan. The updated strategic plan highlights progress made in the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, along with developing strategies on how to effectively provide these resources.
Under normal circumstances, individuals must have no more than four years of postdoctoral research experience to be eligible to apply for a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award. Due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NIH will be extending the two-receipt cycle extension (roughly eight additional months) of eligibility for prospective, eligible candidates for a K99/R00 application.
At NIH, we recognized the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic could adversely affect the biomedical workforce, particularly members of underrepresented groups and vulnerable populations. In October 2020, NIH fielded two online surveys to objectively document COVID-19’s impact on extramural research. One survey assessed the perspective of individual research administration leaders at extramural institutions, and the other survey assessed the perspective of the researchers themselves. In this post, we offer a high-level overview of general trends noted within both surveys.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with extensive mitigation measures, has adversely affected progress in many biomedical research settings. Evidence from multiple sources, including a survey NIH issued to its supported extramural research workforce last fall, indicates legitimate concerns about career trajectory for early career scientists, including those with caretaker responsibilities. An article by Dr. Erin Gibson and her colleagues argued for a “reset” with focus on early career investigators. One point I took away from this paper is that a reset does not necessarily mean for us to go “back to normal” after the pandemic is over, because that time may have favored certain investigators and disfavored others (something I reflected on in this video and this blog).
Hearing your concerns, NIH issued a Guide Notice last week detailing our approach to support early career scientists whose career trajectories may have been significantly affected by the pandemic as funding will allow). Specifically, NIH is providing an opportunity for recipients in their last year of NIH Fellowship (“F”) and NIH Career Development (“K”) awards who have been impacted by COVID-19 to request extensions. Such extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, within the existing constraints of available funding. We encourage you to read the Guide Notice and if appropriate reach out to NIH staff as directed.
You may submit data as post-submission material under the special exception for the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for directions and reminders.
We are pleased to announce that the new NIH COVID-19 website launched earlier this week. The site provides a central location for trusted, up-to-date, accurate information about NIH research and our strategic role in COVID-19 research. The site complements information made available on our COVID-19: Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding webpage.
NIH grant applications should NOT include contingency plans that would outline steps needed to recover from temporary, emergency situations, or institutional return-to-the-workplace plans, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Contingency plans will not be considered in peer review but, if needed, COVID-19 contingency plans will be requested and carefully considered by NIH staff before funding.
It’s been over eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic crisis struck, changing every facet of life as we knew it. The U.S. biomedical research enterprise was not spared, as lockdowns and severe restrictions on activities took hold across the country. At the time, we offered our perspectives on efforts we could take to cushion the shock. Since that time, much has happened. COVID-19 research has blossomed with impressive results including FDA approval of a therapeutic agent (remdesivir, which was found to have value in a large-scale NIH-funded trial), development of several candidate vaccines that have already made to pivotal Phase 3 trials, and the rapid development of a variety of diagnostic testing platforms. However, research unrelated to COVID has seen a different picture.