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.

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: 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.

Fiscal Policy and Salary Cap Guidance for 2017

Now that the NIH fiscal year 2017 budget is signed into law, NIH published its final fiscal policy and salary cap guidance for this year.

In general, NIH will restore reductions to non-competing continuation awards made this year while we were operating under a pending budget (continuing resolution).  Additional details on fiscal operations, including specific funding strategies for ICs and any exceptions, will be posted at the NIH funding strategies page.

The salary cap remains unchanged from the interim guidance published in March. The direct salary limitation follows Executive Level II of the Federal Executive pay scale, which was previously set at $185,100, and increased to $187,000 effective January 8, 2017. This means that for awards issued in previous years that were restricted to Executive Level II, including competing awards already issued in fiscal year 2017, grantees may rebudget to accommodate the current Executive Level II salary level as long as:

  1. adequate funds are available in active awards; and
  2. the salary cap increase is consistent with the institutional base salary.

See NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-087 for details on the salary cap, and NOT-OD-17-086 for guidance on NIH fiscal policy.

Have questions about your specific award(s)? Contact the Grants Management Specialist identified on your Notice of Award.

Posted on July 25, 2017 by NIH Staff

Full article can be found at the link below:

Fiscal Policy and Salary Cap Guidance for 2017

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

NSF.gov, FastLane, and Research.gov Unavailable from Friday, June 30 at 8:00 PM EDT until Tuesday, July 4 at 6:00 PM EDT

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is moving its Data Center IT servers to the Foundation’s new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, from June 30 at 8:00 PM EDT through July 4 at 6:00 PM EDT, to prepare for NSF staff relocation in August 2017. This move has been scheduled around a holiday weekend to minimize the systems downtime and reduce the impact on the research community and NSF staff.

Please be advised that the NSF website, FastLane, and Research.gov will be unavailable from Friday, June 30 at 8:00 PM EDT until Tuesday, July 4 at 6:00 PM EDT. During this outage period, there will be no access to these websites, proposals cannot be submitted in FastLane, and project reports and cash requests cannot be submitted in Research.gov. However, previously saved information and uploaded documents in FastLane and Research.gov, including in-process proposals and reports, will be accessible after the Data Center move.

You are encouraged to share this information with your colleagues. For IT system-related questions, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-381-1532 or rgov@nsf.gov. Any policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov. For additional information about NSF’s relocation, please see https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/issuances/in139.jsp.

 

NIH Implementing Limits on Grant Support to Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce

NIH realizes that, as stewards of the American investment in biomedical sciences, we must do all we can to protect the future of the biomedical research enterprise, taking additional measures regardless of our budget situation. In the opening pages of this blog, we noted that our increasingly hypercompetitive system is threatening the future of biomedical research and of the hundreds of thousands of scientists who we look to for discovering tomorrow’s cures. This is a strange irony, given that the last 25-50 years have been times of extraordinary discovery and progress in basic, translational, and applied science. Death rates from cardiovascular disease have plummeted, and death rates from cancer are falling steadily. Scientists have a much deeper understanding of human biology to the point where this knowledge can drive the design of drugs and biologics. Big data and high-throughput technologies now enable rapid development and testing of hypotheses that previously would have taken years. The successes are myriad. But so are the problems, problems so real that some have gone so far as to write, “It is time to confront the dangers at hand and rethink some fundamental features of the US biomedical research system.”

To improve opportunities for early established mid-career investigators, we will take special steps to identify meritorious applicants who are only one grant away from losing all funding. Prioritizing these applicants for funding consideration may alleviate the squeeze being felt by mid-career investigators.

And we will monitor, on a trans-agency basis, investigators’ Grant Support Index, with the idea that over time and in close consultation with the extramural research community, we will phase in a resetting of expectation for total support provided to any one investigator. We plan to implement a Grant Support Index cap of 21 points, essentially the equivalent of 3 single-PI R01 grants. Over the next few weeks to months, we will meet with NIH Advisory Councils and other stakeholder groups to explore how best to phase in and implement this cap – so that formal assessment of grant support can be used to best inform, on a trans-NIH basis, our funding decisions.

Read the entire Blog here.

OMB Extends Uniform Guidance Procurement Rules

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued an addendum to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance) on May 17, 2017. The amendment allows non-federal entities an additional year to implement the Uniform Guidance requirements related to procurement. These procurement standards were previously on a delayed implementation timeframe, and this extension allows an additional year. Therefore, the new standards will apply starting with fiscal years beginning on or after Dec. 26, 2017.