Grant Facilitation Frequently Asked Questions
The 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, and 3) useful information to guide grant submission and development.
The GFU does not provide budgetary guidance or submit your application; these services are offered by your department or unit.
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 this 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; however, 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 makes the re-review process less urgent for NIH Institute Program Officials. We are happy to have strategy consultations and support you; feel free to reach out to us as needed
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. As a result, we can save you significant time and facilitate your understanding of what is provided by the NIH website.
No question about it. The School of Medicine is intensely interested in facilitating career advancement. Numerous institutional training grants are available for interested trainees and faculty mentors at UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis.
The GFU 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 GFU and the School of Medicine Office of Research played a leading role in 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 Trials Office. They can offer support for clinical trial management, including managing clinical trial research that does not involve NIH funding. Their 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) is a key source for describing the changes in the Common Rule and how they are to be implemented relative to IRB review and human subject consent.
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.
Each granting entity, whether it provides large-scale funding such as a government funding agency, a professional association, private foundation, 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:
- number of submissions,
- submission requirements (e.g., career stage, years from terminal degree, etc.),
- the timeline of submission/review/ funding,
- level of funding and renewal aspects of funding, and the
- submission portal, format, and forms for submission.
At a minimum, these are five areas of information 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 and URL of the announcement in your email when connecting with the funding agency contact.
Even folks experienced at reading NIH announcements and navigating the NIH website can become confused and frustrated with the language.
Often the programs are referred to as grant mechanisms. There are “parent” announcements for grant programs and 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. 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 ensure they are interpreting correctly and 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, and 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. For NIH grants, it takes several months from time of submission to funding decision. If there is a resubmission, that process must start again, including preparation for resubmission.
Grant submission cycles vary by mechanism, with some grants having three submission cycles a year, while others may be submitted only once or twice per year. The specific announcement for that funding opportunity will indicate the submission cycle 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, check the dates included in the announcements, as these can become outdated.
We have been following the increased interest at NIH in diversity funding and diversity in the workplace for several years.
You can search for announcements related to diversity and women’s health through the Weekly NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices to find recent or current announcements.
For example, there is currently an active NIH Diversity Fellowship (F31-Diversity) sponsored by several NIH institutes that aims to “...enhance the diversity of the health-related research workforce by supporting the research training of predoctoral students from diverse backgrounds including those from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research workforce.”
In addition, NIH frequently offers administrative supplements for active grants to support diversity applicants. Sometimes supplements are restricted to specific grant mechanisms such as R01s 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 (T32, K12, etc.) that faculty can apply for to support a program for training pre- and post-doctoral students.
The topics of Data Management and Data Sharing overlap. Data management plans typically focus on how data sets will be created and stored so they can be accessed for sharing and reuse. Guidelines include:
- 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:
- 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?
The requirements for describing data management and data sharing plans in your proposal are changing, effective January 25, 2023. Search the NIH website for more information about these data management plan changes.
Seeking advice from a Program Officer (PO) is an essential step in developing and submitting a proposal to NIH. The PO can provide important advice about the funding priorities of the NIH and help you determine whether your research proposal aligns with any of those priorities. It can be helpful to share a one-page summary of your project (or Specific Aims page if you have one) and your Biosketch when emailing them to set up an initial meeting. After submission and once you received a summary statement for your proposal, the PO can provide important insights into the review and help identify the concerns that the reviewers may had with aspects of your proposal. The GFU can help you prepare for these pre- and post- submission conversations with the PO.
The SRO manages your proposal’s review process, including identifying reviewers, managing the review panel meeting, and preparing the Summary Statement for your proposal. They will not provide information about the review and will advise you to contact the Program Officer for your submission to discuss the contents of the Summary Statement. In some cases, they may allow you to send in updated research results or recent publications prior to the meeting of the review panel. They will not allow you to alter your proposal or to propose new research directions after submission.