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.

eRA Enhancement: Ability for Agency to Request Additional Materials for Interim RPPR via Commons Coming September 20, 2017

A new capability will be added to eRA Commons during a software release on Wednesday, September 20, 2017. There is no anticipated downtime during this release.

Awarding agencies will be able to request additional materials for an Interim RPPR from the principal investigator (PI) and signing official (SO) via eRA Commons. In turn, the SO will be able to submit the additional materials via eRA Commons, in a process that is similar to the Final Progress Report Additional Materials (FRAM) process.

The SO and PI will receive an email request from the program official at the awarding agency. They will also see the Interim Progress Report Addition Materials (IRAM) link requesting the information on the Status Results screen, in the Available Actions column.

As with the RPPR, a PD/PI (or Contact PI, in the case of multiple PIs) can enter the IRAM. However, only the SO can submit an IRAM to the agency.

For detailed information and screenshots, please see the Latest News section in the eRA Commons online help, following the release.

NIH: FORMS-E Application Packages for All Applications on or After January 25, 2018

Effective for all NIH receipt dates on or after January 25, 2018 applicants must use FORMS-E application packages – see NOT-OD-17-062 (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-17-062.html).  This change will apply to ALL NIH funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) and ALL NIH application types (new, resubmission, renewal, revision).  Applications submitted using the wrong forms will automatically be withdrawn by the NIH Center for Scientific Review Division of Receipt and Referral and will not be reviewed.  Application guides for FORMS-E application packages will be posted on the How to Apply ? Application Guide page (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide.html) no later than October 25, 2017.

NIH: Helpful RPPR Information

OSP Staff and several MBL Research Administrators attended an NIH webinar last week which provided an update to the NIH RPPR.  We found the content to be informative and useful and have posted the links below hoping that you’ll find it helpful as well!

NIH Contacts and Additional Resources:
PPT & Additional Resource Links: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/webinar_docs/webinar_20160830.htm

Recording: Available after Sept. 10 at www.youtube.com/nihgrants.

Policy Questions: Email GrantsPolicy@OD.NIH.gov

Technical Questions: Email the eRA Service Desk at https://grants.nih.gov/support

Any other  questions, comments and feedback to: OERwebinars@mail.nih.gov

NIH Matchmaker, a tool for finding similar NIH projects

Matchmaker is a new extension of the NIH RePORTER website system that makes it easy to find similar projects already funded by the NIH. Matchmaker takes user-submitted scientific text, and analyzes it for relevant terms and concepts and compare those terms and concepts to other funded research projects from the NIH. Matchmaker then returns up to 100 similar projects, including a graphical overview highlighting the study sections that reviewed similar projects, the NIH institutes and centers that funded the projects, and the activity codes of those similar projects.


More information about Matchmaker and NIH RePORTER page can be found at http://projectreporter.nih.gov.

Receiving NIH Funding? Don’t Forget Your Responsibilities in Reporting Progress and Financials

If you are a recipient of NIH funding, then you are required to report on scientific progress and financial expenditures. Submitting timely, accurate, and complete reports are an essential part of the stewardship of federally-supported research, and maintaining the public’s trust in science.

NIH recently reminded all of their recipients of their reporting responsibilities in an NIH Guide notice published June 5. The Guide notice summarizes the required information, and due dates, for Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs) and Financial Expenditure –Federal Financial Reports (FFRs).

They encourage you to share this information with your colleagues at your research organization. Failure to submit complete and accurate reports doesn’t just affect one individual – it can affect future funding to the entire organization, and can result in a delay of continued support. Read more in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-074.

Funding Friday: Federal Grants for High-Tech Research and Development

Over 225 federal grants have been posted to Grants.gov over the last two weeks.

Here are a few awards promoting the development of new technologies for science, health and security from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD).

Funding Friday icon

1. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health – Development of a Device to Objectively Measure Pain

The purpose of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award is to develop a technology/device that objectively indicates the presence and level of pain.

Read more of this post

How to Add Outside Users to a Workspace on Grants.gov

Applicant teams sometimes bring on outside contributors and consultants to assist with their federal grant application. Until recently, these outside users needed to create a Grants.gov account for every applicant organization they assist – meaning that some users had to juggle dozens of separate accounts.

However, in June, Grants.gov eliminated this burden. Now, a single user account can be associated with workspaces across multiple organizations.

Watch this video to learn more about the arrival of this much-requested feature:

If you are a Workspace Owner, E-Business Point of Contact or an AOR (Authorized Organization Representative) with MPIN access, it’s actually very easy to add external participants to a workspace:

  • Go to the Participants tab and click on the Add By Username button.
  • In the pop-up window, type the external applicant’s username and click Search.
  • The window will expand to include the name, email address and form access level of the user to be added to the workspace. If you want to adjust the form access level, do so now.
  • Then click Save. The new user will now be listed alongside the other participants in the workspace.

Originally posted on Grants.gov on July 5, 2017

How Do I Download, Complete & Upload a Workspace Form?

The Grants.gov Support Center helps you resolve problems and complete your federal grant applications before the deadline. One of the most common questions the Support Center gets is how to use Workspace forms.

Below are general steps to answer that question. “General” because the steps below depend on whether you are filling out a webform or a PDF version of the form—you get to choose. Since this is the most common Workspace-related question to the Support Center, we know many of you have no problem creating a workspace since the forms are only accessible through that.

Filling Out a Webform

  • Access the Forms tab of a workspace
  • Click the Webforms link under the Actions column
  • Enter the required data in the webform
  • Save your progress & check for errors to see how you are doing

Those are the 4 main steps to filling out a webform in a workspace. For more detailed instructions, please read this help article or watch this video that both explain how to fill out webforms.

Downloading, Completing & Uploading a PDF Workspace Form

The steps for filling out a PDF form from workspace is more complicated, so we recommend you try out the webform version before trying the PDF (but it’s up to you to choose which, unless a webform version is not yet available).

  • Access the Forms tab of a workspace
  • Make sure you and all of your fellow workspace participants have a compatible version of Adobe PDF software
  • Click the Download link in the Actions column and lock the form to work on it exclusively
  • Open the form using only a compatible version of Adobe Reader/Acrobat
  • Enter the required data in the PDF form
  • Save the PDF using only the buttons within the form; do not use the Adobe Save feature as this can introduce errors into the form
  • Access the Forms tab of a workspace again
  • Click the Upload button and locate the saved PDF form

Those are the 8 main steps to downloading, completing & uploading a PDF form in a workspace, but there are other important details you need to know when using the PDF version of the form. Read the Managing Forms help article in the online user guide, which features specific help articles about downloading, locking, completing, and uploading PDF forms.

Comment on this postOriginal post Grants.gov 6/26/17