Two New “All About Grants” Podcasts: 2018 Appendix Policy Changes, and Why You’re Encouraged to Submit Your Application Early

NIH’s Office of Extramural Research brings you two new “All About Grants”  podcasts to ring in the new year. In “Why it’s so Important to Submit Applications Early” (mp3transcript), Dr. Cathie Cooper, director of the Division of Receipt and Referral in the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review, talks about the importance of submitting application early due to changes in NIH’s policies and application forms for 2018.

In “Changes to the NIH Appendix Policy for 2018” (mp3transcript), Dr. Cooper joins us again to talk about the NIH appendix policy and new limits on what can be included as appendices.

All About Grants podcast episodes are produced by the NIH Office of Extramural Research, and designed for investigators, fellows, students, research administrators, and others just curious about the application and award process. The podcast features NIH staff members who talk about the ins and outs of NIH funding, and provide insights on grant topics from those who live and breathe the information. Listen to more episodes via the All About Grants podcast pagethrough iTunes, or by using our RSS feed in your podcast app of choice.

 

originally posted by NIH on 12/28/17

2017 Year in Review: Grants.gov Federal Grant Highlights

With 2017 in the rearview mirror, Grants.gov pauses to look back on what was a significant year for federal grants. With important developments and growth in the grants community in 2017, this post takes note of key points worth remembering and helpful resources, not just from Grants.gov, but from some of you in the grants community.

rearview mirror and Grants.gov logo

#1 – Get Your (DATA) Act Together

This would not be a real grants ‘year in review’ for 2017 without starting with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). Coordinating across all federal award-making agencies and the diverse applicant communities to standardize and improve the quality and transparency of federal financial data? That’s big.

If you are completely unfamiliar with the DATA Act, welcome to the party—start with this basic update. You should also do a web search for training and updates about the DATA Act to hear from a variety of stakeholders on what it means for the grant community.

To get you thinking about possibilities in the future, HHS’ Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Grants and Acquisitions Policy and Accountability (OGAPA), Andrea Brandon, posed this question at the DATA Transparency conference in September this year, “Do we need [nonfederal entities] to actually complete an SF-424 or do we just need structured data sets that come through a particular portal?”

#2 – Not Taken for Granted

Over $700 billion in grants and cooperative agreements were awarded in FY 2017. The DATA Act gets another nod here, which led to the new beta USAspending.gov to improve the quality and transparency of federal spending data. If you are interested in more spending data, check out the USAspending.gov Agency Profiles and Spending Map.

As a note, that number does include Medicare and Medicaid funding in the form of formula grants, but there were thousands of discretionary funding opportunities posted on Grants.gov for which many of you applied for—and it is a competitive process.

Of course, we need to mention at least one grant-writing tip here—do not eliminate yourself from the competition by not checking that you have followed all the basic requirements.

#3 – Grants Community Growth with More Events and Training Resources

Anecdotally, 2017 certainly seemed like one of the most prolific with regard to grant events and training resources available to the community.

While Grants.gov could just link to their own training videos, events calendar, or other resources (YSWIDT?), they want to recognize your awesome contributions to the community.

#GrantChat – Talk with fellow grant professionals on a range of topics relevant to your work. This is a great way to hear tips, share resources, and get to know your professional peers online.

Resources By You, For You – Here’s a sampling of grant resources for you to review: eCivis blog, Grant Professionals Association Resource Center, Grant Training Center, Grant Writer’s Blog, GrantSpace by Foundation Center, GrantStation Insights blog, Learn Peak Grantmaking, Management Concepts Applying for Federal Grants & Cooperative Agreements, National Grants Management Association Annual Grants Training, NIH Regional Seminar & Extramural Nexus blog, SmartGrants Blog, the bmtconsulting blog, The Grant Plant Resources, Thompson Grants Federal Grants Forum, or check out our Where to Find Free Online Resources for Federal Grant Applicants Part 1 and Part 2 for more.

#4 – Did the 2017 Grants.gov Plan Happen?

Last January, Grants.gov shared high-level plans for 2017, and they are happy to say that they were able to stick to these plans. Admittedly, #1 and #3 from last year’s plan go hand-in-hand, but here’s a link to Grants.gov Workspace resources just in case you haven’t read about it yet.

They are proud to have received awards confirming the direction of the program. FedHealthIT 100 awarded John Enggren, the Grants.gov Program Manager, for developing Workspace and his efforts of “driving change and advancement in the Federal Health Information Technology and Consulting Market.” In June 2017, Enggren and the program also received recognition at the 2017 AFFIRM Leadership Awards Celebration for Workspace.

Original post by Grants.gov dated 1/2/2018

NIH Grants.gov Downloadable Forms Submission Option Retiring Dec. 31st, 2017

On December 31, 2017 Grants.gov will no longer allow grant applicants to download an entire application form package as a single PDF for offline data entry and later submission. If you were involved in a grant application submitted using downloadable forms in 2017, NIH is providing a final reminder to switch to one of the following submission options for 2018 submissions:

1.     NIH’s ASSIST (learn more)

2.     Institutional system-to-system solution (if your institution has one)

3.     Grants.gov Workspace (learn more)

NIIH’s  submission options page can help you compare features and considerations for each option.  Please consult with MBL’s Office of Sponsored Programs to determine option is the best fit for you and your center.

 If there is no business reason to choose one option over another, give NIH’s ASSIST a try. It’s a user-friendly, online solution optimized for NIH applications.

 Although Grants.gov will stop presenting their legacy downloadable forms package as an option at the end of this year, Grants.gov and NIH systems will continue to process previously downloaded application packages through March 2018.  If you plan to submit a downloaded application package after December 31, 2017, you might want to consider downloading an extra copy of the forms package for the opportunity before Dec 31 just in case you run into a technical difficulty with the original.

A Basic Approach to Submitting Your First Workspace Application

Basic approach to Workspace is the best path for organizations with 1-2 registered Grants.gov users

Let’s flesh out an applicant scenario that some new Workspace users will face:

You are about to begin your first federal grant application using Grants.gov Workspace. For years, you (and sometimes one other colleague) applied using the old Legacy PDF Application Package.

You traded a package of PDF forms back and forth until you were ready to cross your fingers and click Submit. It was never easy, but you had grown comfortable with the painstaking process. Now, with the upcoming retirement of the Legacy PDF, you are trying to learn the new Grants.gov method for applying.

Below you will find an example approach for applying with Workspace that keeps to the familiar workflow as much as possible.

In the coming weeks, we will also share more complex workflows that take advantage of Grants.gov Workspace’s new applicant features.

Steps to Follow

  1. Make sure at least one person at your organization is registered and has the AOR role

      2.Design an internal application workflow that ensures each PDF form is downloaded from the workspace and shared with unregistered team members

Use the interactive workflow graphic to understand, at a high level, the process you will need to follow to complete your application. Not all steps in the workflow will apply to teams of only one or two applicants.

  1. Log in and create your workspace from the Package tab on the View Grant Opportunity page

The user with the AOR role, or any other user with the Manage Workspace role, may create the workspace. The user who creates the workspace will automatically become the Workspace Owner.

  1. Download individual PDF forms and, if applicable, distribute them to unregistered team members

Unregistered applicants on your team will be restricted to completing only the individual PDF forms that are shared with them. Without a Grants.gov account, they will not be able to access the online workspace.

  1. Upload all completed forms to the workspace and submit the application

Workspace performs some error checks on form fields automatically when uploaded. Other checks are run by clicking the Check Application button within the workspace. At any point after all required forms are in the “Passed” status, the user with the AOR role may click the Submit button.

  1. Track your application and download the entire submission for your offline record-keeping

After submitting, you can track your application using the tracking number you receive from Grants.gov. You may also want to download a copy of your submitted application for your offline recordkeeping. We recommend tracking and downloading your application via the Details tab of your workspace.

Did you find this helpful? A more in-depth version of this scenario can be found here, along with related help articles and training videos.

originally posted Posted on December 4, 2017

NIH Enforcement of Closeout Policies

NIH Notice Number: NOT-OD-18-107 Key Dates
Release Date: November 30, 2017

Related Announcements
NOT-OD-17-085
NOT-OD-17-022
NOT-OD-15-136
NOT-OD-15-135
NOT-OD-15-111
NOT-OD-14-084
Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Purpose

The purpose of this Notice is to alert the NIH extramural community that NIH is strengthening enforcement of longstanding closeout requirements, outlined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement Section 8.6, Closeout. NIH has consistently reminded recipients of their responsibility to submit timely, accurate final grant expenditure reports, and has communicated the critical need for recipients to reconcile cash transaction reports submitted to the HHS Payment Management System (PMS) with expenditure reports submitted to NIH.  In order to fulfill agency requirements under the Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act and HHS grants policy, NIH will no longer delay the closeout of awards unless the recipient submits a prior approval request to the IC providing an acceptable written justification..  Without prior approval from the awarding IC, NIH will initiate unilateral closeout for all awards that fail to meet closeout requirements within 120 days as required by the NIH Grants Policy Statement (NIH GPS) Section 8.6. See below for details.

Background

Recipient Responsibilities

The requirement for timely closeout is generally a recipient responsibility. However, NIH may initiate unilateral closeout if a recipient does not provide timely, accurate closeout reports or does not respond timely to NIH requests to reconcile discrepancies in grant records.

NIH recipients must submit a Final Federal Financial Report (FFR), Final Research Performance Progress Report (F-RPPR), and Final Invention Statement and Certification (FIS) within 120 calendar days of the end of the period of performance (project period), as required in section 8.6 of the NIH GPS. The reports become overdue the day after the 120 calendar day period ends. Cash transaction data continues to be submitted directly to and processed by PMS. It is the recipient’s responsibility to reconcile reports submitted to PMS and to the NIH awarding Institute or Center.

NIH Actions

NIH is committed to addressing and reducing grant closeout delays and to enhance compliance with HHS regulations and policies, and the GONE Act.  Therefore, NIH will strictly enforce its closeout policies. When recipients fail to submit timely reports, NIH will initiate unilateral closeout. It is important to note that for financial closeout, if a recipient fails to submit a final expenditure FFR, HHS policy directs NIH to close the grant using the last accepted Federal Cash Transaction Report’s cash drawdown amount. This could be considered a debt or result in disallowed costs.  In addition, failure to correct recurring reporting problems may cause NIH to take one or more actions that may include, but are not limited to, corrective actions, withholding of further awards, suspension or termination.

Please direct all inquiries to: Division of Grants Policy
Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration
Office of Extramural Research
Telephone: 301-435-0949
GrantsPolicy@od.nih.gov

NIH to Publicly Post Project Outcomes

The NINDS DTR wanted to increase awareness of a NIH policy change that will impact their grantees.  The NIH has announced that NIH will be publicly posting project outcomes on NIH’s Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORTER).  Please review the NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-103 for complete details. This applies to any outcomes submitted on or after Oct. 1, 2017. These outcomes are entered by principal investigators in the Outcomes portion (Section I) of the interim and final Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs) for their grants in eRA Commons.

 It is important that all PIs when writing the Outcomes portion (Section I) ensure that it is:

  • Written for the general public in clear and concise language
  • Suitable for dissemination to the general public
  • Does not include proprietary, confidential information or trade secrets
  • Not more than half a page

To help the research community understand what is an acceptable report, NIH has a specific example posted.(https://grants.nih.gov/grants/rppr/sample_project_outcomes_RPPR.htm )

Revised Version Issued: NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG; NSF 18-1); effective 1/29/2018 with Overview Webinar Offered

NSF has issued a revised version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures (PAPPG) Guide which takes effect January 29, 2018.

The PAPPG details NSF’s proposal preparation and submission guidelines, and provides guidance on managing and monitoring the award and administration of grants and cooperative agreements made by the Foundation.

NSF will offer a Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Update Webinar for the research community on Friday, December 8th, 2017 from 2 – 3:15pm EST. will be offered which will provide an overview of significant changes and clarifications to the PAPPG.  There is no cost to participate. To register yourself, and/or others for this webinar, please select the register button below.

Register

To download a copy see below for available formats:

Available Formats: HTML | PDF
Document Type: Program Announcements & Information
Document Number: nsf18001

 

NIH Grants Policy Statement

NIH issues a revised Grants Policy Statement each fall. The latest version, issued in October, introduces no new policies. Rather, it incorporates updates made throughout the year. This revision applies to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements with budget periods beginning on or after October 1, 2017.

Changes in NIH policy made throughout the year are issued as policy notices in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts. We aggregate these notices on our Notices of Changes to Grants Policy web page for your convenience. Remember that applicants and grantees are responsible for tracking policy changes as they happen.

You can track publication of policy notices in a number of ways:

  1. Sign up to receive the weekly Table of Contents for the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts via email or RSS feed.
  2. Get immediate updates on new funding opportunities and notices by following @NIHFunding on Twitter.
  3.  Or set and save a query to receive just the policy notices by email as they are issued (you can cancel any time):
    • Go to the NIH Guide for Contracts
    • Deselect  funding opportunities
    • Select “NIH” under organization
    • Add today’s date for release date
    • Select “save this search” under the top current search box
    • Provide your email

Original post on November 8, 2017 by NIH Staff

NIH eRA Items of Interest — October 2017

NIH eRA Items of Interest — October 2017

Multiplicity – Fun @ the Movies? Do you remember this one? Multiplicity is the Michael Keaton movie from 1996. He plays Doug Kiney, a father, husband, and construction worker who has little time for himself. Solution: Get himself cloned! Hilarity ensues (ok, not really) as things go from bad to worse.

While the concept of having multiple “you’s” may seem good, it can be very bad. And this is true in eRA Commons as well.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops or seminars, you probably have heard us say that scientists should have only one eRA Commons account that follows them throughout their research career. But sometimes a person gets a second or even a third eRA Commons account created for them.

There are a number of reasons it is important not to have duplicate accounts. NIH needs accurate information to track the careers of NIH funded researchers; it helps in the proper association of committee service for a reviewer to determine Continuous Submission status; and it keeps your grant record history together instead of being split across multiple accounts.

eRA has developed a solution! We sent targeted emails to a sampling of those PIs whom we believe from our records have duplicate accounts and will be sending more in the next two weeks. These PIs will be instructed to go to a new Account Verification screen in Commons. It is located under the Admin tab, which has sub tabs of Accounts, Delegations, and now Account Verification. If a PI has been identified as a person who has multiple accounts, the PI will see the accounts listed on this screen. The PI then will need to confirm that the accounts do belong to him or her, and then select the account that they prefer to be their permanent account. The Data Quality folks will then collapse or converge the data from the multiple accounts to the one the PI specified as preferred.

Those who have current committee or grant involvement are required to select that Commons account as preferred. Here are the instructions for accessing the account verification page and processes to identify preferred and duplicate accounts. Do not act on these until you get an email from eRA communications urging you to do so.

Since multiple Commons accounts create headaches for all involved, there is a lesson in all of this. Whether you are a Signing Official (SO), Account Administrator (AA), or a Principal Investigator (PI), know and understand the process for creating new accounts and affiliating existing accounts when a PI switches institutions. Scientist should never have a new account created for them if one already exists.

Having multiple “me’s” seems like it could be useful, until I realize my clones would all come out just like me. That is to say, just like #4.

Confusing the Data  If you know anything about computers, let’s face it, you are your parents “tech person.” The call usually goes something like this:

 Me: Hi Mom. Everything OK?

Mom: No, I can’t find my email thing.

Me: What thing, Mom?

Mom: You know, that thing I click on to read email. I was reading email, then Betty called, so we talked a bit. After that I decided to play Solitaire. Then I got to thinking about what Betty said about the sale at the mall, so I went online to look up the store hours. And now I can’t find my email thing.

Me: OK, look at the very bottom of the computer screen. Tell me what you see.

Mom: There is blue “E”, no wait, 4 blue “E’s”, then there are, wait, 1, 2, 3, … 6 rainbow looking circles, followed by a little orange cat, or is that a dog, then 5 more “E’s”….

You get the idea. My Mom has a bunch of browser windows open. And now she can’t find anything.  Well eRA Commons that holds and manages all the data about your applications and grants are kind of like my Mom. If you get too many browser windows or browser tabs open, things can get confused, and the result can be bad data.

From a non-technical perspective, when you are working within eRA Commons, your browser makes a secured, encrypted connection with eRA Commons. One connection, one stream of data back and forth, from you to the server. Think of it as a nice two lane highway. But if you open multiple windows, so maybe you can work on various parts of a form at the same time, you are adding additional lanes of traffic on that highway. And like any highway, more traffic creates a greater chance for a crash. Or in our case, creating bad data.

Some advice to save you from frustration later… work in only a single window or tab. We are in the process of updating eRA Commons so that you will be unable to open multiple windows at the same time. This will help to keep your data correct and will let you avoid issues later.

And an unhappy eRA Commons is like an unhappy Mom. If she isn’t happy, nobody is happy!

Questions? If you have a question about this email, please contact the eRA Service Desk at https://grants.nih.gov/support/  (preferred method of contact) or call 1-866-504-9552/301.402.7469.

To read other recent articles and messages from eRA Commons, please visit their Latest News page at https://era.nih.gov/news_and_events/index.cfm.

NSF Announces the Switch to No-Deadline for DEB Core Programs

From NSF, Division of Environmental Biology (DEB);

As per the newly issued Dear Colleague Letter, the core programs in the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) are discontinuing the use of the preliminary proposal mechanism.  We are enacting a “no-deadline”, full proposal mechanism for proposals submitted to the core programs, including the DEB LTREB program. There will be no call for preliminary proposals in January 2018. Instead, new solicitations describing funding opportunities will be released in 2018, for awards starting in fiscal year 2019.

Why did DEB make the decision to switch to a “no-deadline” model and what does that mean for submitting proposals?

After a three year pilot of the preliminary proposal system, DEB contracted an outside agency, Abt, to conduct an evaluation of the pilot program. You can read about the results of that report, and get a link to the full report on a previous blog post here.  In sum, the assessment found the switch to preliminary proposals produced mixed results.

With respect to the external scientific community, the preliminary proposal system achieved our objective of reducing demands on the reviewers, PIs, and institutions. Yet, the system also produced a frustrated PI community who found the “one date deadline” model too restrictive.

DEB staff largely viewed the preliminary proposal system positively, yet noted significant drawbacks. On the positive side, the system was efficient at filtering out proposals at the preliminary proposal stage, thus improving the quality of full proposals. It also simplified program budget management as all of the full proposals were funded at the same time of year.  However, it exacerbated workload in the winter and spring, making those very stressful times of the year. Concerns were also expressed about the fact that preliminary proposals were not subject to (ad hoc) review, and further, that interdisciplinary preliminary proposals could not be co-reviewed across programs. This latter issue was a decisive factor for BIO senior managers. They felt that the preliminary proposal system worked against efforts to encourage more integrative and interdisciplinary research; i.e., proposals that crossed BIO divisions and spanned levels of biological organization.

DEB will release new solicitations, in spring/summer 2018, with guidelines for submitting full proposals at any time of the year, to any of the DEB core programs. The first awards from those proposals would be made in FY 2019 (FY19 begins on October 1, 2018). These upcoming solicitations will also announce and provide guidelines for writing proposals related to the BIO initiative: Understanding the Rules of Life with the goal of promoting research that crosses BIO divisional, disciplinary boundaries (i.e. DBI, EF, IOS, and MCB).

What are the additional benefits of the no-deadline model to the investigator?

If you’ve been hindered in the past by ill-timed teaching loads, health or personal issues, field work, or other career commitments, consider the burden lifted. You now have the power to determine when and how your project ideas are written and submitted. Investigators can write and submit proposals during times of the year best suited to their schedules. By removing the annual deadline, you and your collaborators have more time and flexibility to coordinate on proposals. The no-deadline model also makes space for planning your submission around major life events.

What’s next?

For the next 6 months, we will be completing review of the full proposals already received in response to the CAREER and August 2nd core program submission deadlines, and making award recommendations.  We then anticipate finalizing our new solicitations and planning for how to handle a review process designed around no-deadline submissions.  We hope investigators will take the extra time to carefully craft proposals and submit them only when they are ready. From our side, we anticipate creating more integrative and dynamic panels that better accommodate the interdisciplinary science we see bubbling up in all of our core programs. But truly, there’s a great deal we can’t predict; we’re taking a risk in moving back to full proposals. Managing funding programs when you don’t know how many or when proposals will be submitted, is a bit scary. We are willing to take this risk in the hopes that this new model will result in better proposals and more integrative science while at the same time providing greater flexibility to the community.

NSF encourages you to check out the FAQ sheet around the new announcement, subscribe to the blog, sign up for email alerts at nsf.gov, and stay tuned for more details to follow.