Following are frequently asked questions related to the goals and functions of the Grants Facilitation Unit (GFU) and useful links to funding agency announcements regarding: 1) funding opportunities, 2) policy related to stage of career, 3) useful information to guide grant submission and development.

Each granting entity, whether it be one that provides large-scale funding such as a government funding agency, a professional association, or special award entity, has a website where funding opportunities are described. The granting agency website should provide the topics that are acceptable for funding and the approach required to address those topics, as well as any special criteria such as:

1) number of submissions,

2) submission requirements (e.g., career stage, years from terminal degree, etc.),

3) the timeline of submission/review/ funding,

4) level of funding and renewal aspects of funding, and the

5) submission portal, format, and forms for submission.

At a minimum, these are five areas of information that you should hope to have clarified on the website and have a clear understanding of prior to submission.

Each website and funding announcement typically provides an overall guide to submission and a contact person for questions. We suggest sending an introductory email prior to making funding agency contact by phone even if a phone number is provided. If you have a particular NIH announcement you want to respond to please indicate the name of the announcement and the url to that announcement if you can.

Most health-related grant applications are sent to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who provides one of the most elaborate and in-depth websites designed to guide potential applicants. 

A significant part of our time and expertise is devoted daily to navigating the NIH website and the announcements and notices that drive NIH funding opportunities and policy. We can guide you through this process. We can save you significant time and facilitate your understanding of what is provided by the NIH website.

Even folks who are experienced at reading NIH announcements and navigating the NIH website can become confused and frustrated with the language. NIH provides help accessing acronyms and defining the different kinds of grant programs.

Often the programs are referred to as grant mechanisms. There are “parent” announcements for grant programs as well as tailored announcements for specific NIH institutes.  Parent announcements allow for investigator-initiated submissions, as opposed to NIH institute-specific announcements for specific research topics. Not all institutes support all grant programs so applicants should check the announcements carefully to see which institutes (under “Participating Organizations”) are signed on to fund the research discussed in an announcement.

Experts often have to check these sites to be certain they are interpreting correctly and to keep up with announcements, notices, and policy changes.

With any large government funding agency, there are cycles that determine submission, review, receipt of funding, resubmission, or renewal. These deadlines and timelines over which the funding submission process plays out will determine a great deal of how you organize your activities. Frequently, an initial submission requires a resubmission before a proposal is eventually funded. Grant funding is an activity that requires patience and a plan for when and how much funding you will need to achieve your research goals.

The NIH provides guidance on the submission, review, and funding cycles. Different grant mechanisms have different due dates and there is a period designated for a several-month cycle of preparation/submission, due date, assignment for review/review, review by institutes for funding, funding/start date. From time of submission to funding will be several months for an NIH grant. If there is a resubmission then that process, including preparation for resubmission, must start again.

Some grants only have two submission cycles a year and some may be submitted only once. The specific announcement for that funding opportunity will indicate what the submission cycle will be and when the opportunity ends for submitting to that announcement. 

In a section entitled Weekly NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices, NIH offers the new funding announcements and notices for each week. The number of announcements and notices grows throughout the week. The notices for the past weeks are archived and available by week. There is also a search mechanism for particular topics. When using the archived notices or announcements be sure to look at the dates included in the announcements because the announcements can become outdated.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) websites are an excellent source for identifying grant opportunities.

Useful websites for federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Education (ED), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Small Business Administration (SBA) can also be found on https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/learn-grants/grant-making-agencies.html.

You can also find helpful information through the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who host resources on grant funding and writing.

Age per se does not influence funding but stage of career does. NIH provides a description of advantages investigators have if they are new to the NIH funding process and have not received certain kinds of funding. A good explanation of “new” investigator and “early stage” investigator and how to establish that status can be found here along with the advantages offered in review and in institute funding.

NIH also has concerns about researchers who received funding in the early parts of their career but need a push to continue that funding. This discussion, often referred to as the “next generation of researchers”, is presented in a key report: The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Science Researchers.

A recent notice from NIH provides an update on how NIH will handle applications from researchers who have received certain kinds of NIH funding, but have had difficulty obtaining recent (within 10 years) funding. These investigators are referred to as “early established” investigators (EEI). 

The Grants Facilitation Unit has been following the increased interest at NIH in diversity funding and diversity in the workplace for several years.  There are a number of reports on diversity in the workplace available from NIH and NSF.

Through the NIH Weekly Funding Opportunities and Notices, you can search for announcements related to diversity and women’s health to find recent or current announcements.

Currently, there is an active NIH Diversity Fellowship sponsored by several NIH institutes. The F31 is described as “...promising predoctoral students will obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting well-defined research projects in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.” The expiration date for this announcement is Feb 2022.

In addition, NIH frequently offers administrative supplements for grants already funded to support diversity applicants. Sometimes supplements are restricted to specific grant mechanisms such as R01’s so it is important to check supplement announcements for the specific mechanisms and years of parent grant funding that will support an administrative supplement to promote diversity.

The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is a good source for finding research policy and data on women’s health.  The ORWH site also contains a clear explanation of how to examine sex differences in animal studies and how experimental designs can accommodate sex as a variable.

NIH is highly interested in developing the next generation of scientists while at the same time supporting and advancing the careers of the current productive researchers. There are special fellowship awards (F-awards) for graduate and post-graduates, and career development awards (K-awards) for those who have moved beyond the postdoctoral level.

There are numerous institutional training grants (T-awards) that faculty can apply for to support a program for training pre- and post-doctoral students.

Does the UC Davis School of Medicine and the Grants Facilitation Unit have a special interest in career development?

No question about it. The School of Medicine is intensely interested in facilitating career advancement. There are numerous institutional training grants available for interested trainees and faculty mentors at UC Davis SOM and UC Davis.

The Grants Facilitation Unit has developed special expertise in supporting institutional training awards (e.g., the T-series) and individual career awards (the F- and K-series). Training grants have been one of our most successful grant support areas. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these awards or be involved in the development process. The “career path”  the NIH provides serves as a good tool to start a conversation with our team about how these opportunities can help you in your career.

You are in luck. The Grants Facilitation Unit and the SOM Office of Research played a leading role on announcing and following the evolving changes in the Common Rule. These changes affect human subjects research applications, including consent forms, how to write the human subjects section, and writing a clinical trial. In fact, for human research we suggest that applicants read the human subjects form first before designing the study. That is how important the human subjects section has become to writing a research project involving human subjects.

UC Davis has a Clinical Trial Office and their services can be found here for clinical trial management, including managing clinical trial research that does not involve NIH funding. There site is very informative for understanding the post-funding clinical trial reporting and data management requirements.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides a key source describing the changes in the Common Rule and how they are to be implemented relative to IRB review and human subject consent. There website is also updating information about implementation of the Common Rule.

We also suggest paying particular attention to the ancillary components of a study, including the data sharing and the data management plan. These elements of an application now require much more detail than was expected only a few years ago. NIH provides an extensive discussion of data sharing.

The topics of Data Management and Data Sharing are overlapping. Data management plans typically focus on how data sets will be created and stored so they can be accessed for sharing and reuse. Below are guidelines from a National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) notice.

  • the types of data that will be created
  • the standards and metadata that will be used with the data
  • how these data will be accessed and shared
  • policies and provisions for the reuse of the data
  • plans for the long-term archiving of the data

Data sharing plans typically focus on how data will be shared after the data have been collected. NIH offers the following guidelines for a data sharing plan (PDF).

  • What data will be shared?
  • Who will have access to the data?
  • Where will the data to be shared be located?
  • When will the data be shared?
  • How will researchers locate and access the data?

Grant writing is a skill that can be developed. This is a major strength of the Grants Facilitation Unit as a team. This is what we do every time we work on a proposal. We also allow ourselves to enjoy and appreciate the skill of the investigator(s) and add to our own skill set.

In the past few years NIH has emphasized rigorous design of research to enhance the potential for reproducibility. This component of writing a grant proposal is one of the skills that can be developed and NIH has produced several suggestions for maintaining scientific rigor in research.

As a team we have reviewed hundreds of summary statements for content and direction. Most importantly, we are a step back from the emotional component of reading the summary statement and see things from a different perspective.

We share the frustrations of the researcher receiving the critiques, but we look for the positive aspects of the reviews that can be built on for the resubmission; some of the most positive aspects of a review, even one that was rated as unscored, can be the clarity of issues presented by the reviewers. We look for the clarity in the Summary Statement reviews that can be used to formulate a strategy for resubmission or a new submission.

We can advise on the rebuttal and re-review requests, although changes in NIH submission policies have made the re-review process much more complicated. Sometimes the announcement says no re-review – even if there are mistakes in the review process. The opportunity to continue resubmitting applications make the re-review process less urgent for NIH Institute Program Officials.

This is a skill we can teach while we help you with a request to program officials or to review officials for pre-submission or resubmission advice.