September 25, 2015

NIH Hosting Webinars for Applicants and Grant Administrators

The National Institutes of Health is offering two webinars in November 2015 for new NIH applicants, their mentors, and grant administrators.

The University Research Administrators webinar is on November 5, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The Research Project Grants (R01) webinar is November 6, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time. NIH is asking participants to register by October 29, 2015.

For more information, see the NIH Guide notice Webinars for Applicants and Grant Administrators: What You Need to Know About NIH Application Submission and Review (NOT-OD-15-154). The NIH webinar page includes both registration and links to archived webinars and presentation slides.

September 23, 2015

New Report on Regulation of Federally Funded Research

In response to concerns that regulation of federally funded research has become overly burdensome to the nation’s scientific enterprise, Congress asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study of federal regulations and reporting requirements directed at research universities and to develop a new framework for regulation.

The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Federal Research Regulations and Reporting Requirements released Part 1 of a two-part report, Optimizing The Nation’s Investment in Academic Research: A New Regulatory Framework for the 21st Century. The report identifies specific actions Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and research institutions should take to reduce the regulatory burden.

The report is available online. For more information, see the press release and Committee on Federal Research Regulations and Reporting Requirements: A New Framework for Research Universities in the 21st Century.

September 02, 2015

HHS Announces Proposal to Improve Rules Protecting Human Research Subjects

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced proposed revisions to the regulations that govern research on individuals who participate in research, often referred to as the Common Rule.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requests comments for HHS to consider as it drafts the final rule. HHS will take public comment on this NPRM for 90 days, beginning September 8, 2015.

For more information, see the HHS press release.

August 04, 2015

NIH Asks for Help to Improve Grant Application Instructions

The National Institutes of Health is asking for input on restructuring NIH grant application instructions. NIH encourages comments and feedback from principal investigators, research administrators, and any other parties that rely on NIH application submission information.

For more information, see Request for Information (RFI): Strategies for Simplifying NIH’s Grant Application Instructions (NOT-OD-15-134).

Responses to the RFI must be submitted electronically on the submission website by September 25, 2015.

August 03, 2015

NIH Researchers: Changes That Involve Human Subjects in Active Awards

Current National Institutes of Health policy requires prior approval from the NIH awarding Institute/Center (IC) for a change in scope. One of the potential indicators of a change in scope is a change from the approved involvement of human subjects.

Such changes include:

1. An addition or change to the study design/protocol that would result in the need to change the overall human subjects’ designation or clinical trial designation of the grant:
  • From non-human subjects research to human subjects research (exempt or non-exempt);
  • From exempt to non-exempt human subjects research; or
  • From “No Clinical Trial” to “Includes a Clinical Trial”; see revised NIH definition of clinical trial
2. The new inclusion of subject populations that are covered by additional regulatory protections under 45 CFR 46 subparts B, C or D (pregnant women, human fetuses, and neonates; prisoners; or children)

3. Any change to the study protocol that would result in an overall increase in risk level for subjects, including physical, psychological, financial, legal or other risks.

4. New information that comes to light after a study is underway which indicates a higher level of risk to participants than previously recognized for a study intervention, procedure, or pharmacological treatment.

Process for Submitting Prior Approval Requests

Individuals designated as an award’s Program Director/Principal Investigator are strongly encouraged to discuss any potential changes in human subjects’ research under consideration with the Grants Management Officer (GMO) and Program Official at the funding IC to determine if the proposed changes will require prior approval as a change from the approved involvement of human subjects.

Prior approval requests must be submitted in writing (including submission by email) by the Authorized Organization Representative to the GMO of the funding IC no later than 30 days before the proposed change.

Although proposed changes may be addressed in the annual progress report, the formal prior approval request must be submitted as a separate request to the funding IC, prior to initiating the new human subjects’ activities.

For more information, including what required documentation should be included in the Prior Approval Request, see Guidance on Changes That Involve Human Subjects in Active Awards and That Will Require Prior NIH Approval: Updated Notice (NOT-OD-15-128).

July 23, 2015

NIH Seeks Suggestions on NIH-wide Strategic Plan

In response to a request from the Congress, the National Institutes of Health is developing a five-year NIH-wide Strategic Plan. The goal is not to outline the important research opportunities for specific disease applications, but to highlight major trans-NIH themes. NIH is inviting comments and suggestions regarding the proposed framework from the scientific research community and the general public. Responses are due by August 16, 2015.

For more information, see Request for Information (RFI): Inviting Comments and Suggestions on a Framework for the NIH-wide Strategic Plan (NOT-OD-15-118).

Comments Invited on Draft RPPR Revision

The National Science Foundation has published a “request for public comment on an updated standardized Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) format to be used for both interim and final performance progress reporting” in the July 23 Federal Register. Comments are due September 21.

The RPPR was originally developed for use in preparation and submission of annual and other interim performance progress reports, resulting from an initiative of the Research Business Models (RBM) federal interagency working group. A revised draft of the format has been developed to incorporate lessons learned by agencies during the initial implementation. On behalf of the RBM, NSF will continue to serve as the sponsor of the updated version of the federal-wide performance progress reporting format.

The draft format, a summary of significant changes, and the Federal Register notice are available on the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) page hosted by NSF.

July 20, 2015

NIH ASSIST Available for Ts, K12, and Other Training and Research Programs

The National Institutes of Health has announced that ASSIST is now a submission option for NIH Institutional Training and Career Development applications (Ts and K12), other training applications (Ds), and additional research applications.

ASSIST is an optional online system to help with the preparation and submission of certain types of NIH grant applications through Please note that all ASSIST users working on an application must have eRA Commons accounts and all standard registration requirements apply.

As of July 2015, ASSIST support is now available for the following programs:
  • All multi-project grant programs (May 2013: NOT-OD-13-075)
  • Small Research Grant (R03) and Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) programs (January 2015: NOT-OD-15-062)
  • Research Grant (R01), Research Project Cooperative Agreements and Individual Career Development Award (K, excluding K12) programs (April 2015: NOT-OD-15-098, NOT-OD-15-099)
  • Institutional Training and Career Development programs (Ts and K12), other training programs (Ds), and additional research applications (DP7, R13, R15, R18, R21/R33, R24, R25, R33, R34, R35, R36, R61/R33, RF1, RM1, SI2/R00, U13, U18, U24, U2R, U34, UA5, UF1, UG3/UH3, UH1, UH2, UH2/UH3, UH3, UH4, UM1)
For more information, see ASSIST Now an Option for Institutional Training and Career Development (Ts and K12), Other Training Grants (Ds) and Various Research Applications (NOT-OD-15-126).

May 1, 2015 Research AdvocateNIH ASSIST Now an Option for R01, Most K, and U01 Applications
January 30, 2015 Research Advocate: An ASSIST for NIH R03 and R21

July 14, 2015

DoD Seeks Proposals for the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and Defense University Instrumentation Program (DURIP)

The U.S. Department of Defense is soliciting proposals for two funding programs, the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).

The MURI program supports basic research in science and engineering at U.S. institutions of higher education that is of potential interest to DoD. The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts where more than one traditional discipline interacts to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of interest to the DoD. The program addresses high risk basic research and attempts to understand or achieve something that has never been done before. Awards are $1,000,000 to $2,500,000 per year, for a three year-base period with one two-year option period to bring the total maximum term of the award to five years. The program deadlines are September 8, 2015 for white papers, and December 7, 2015 for proposals. For more information, see the listings: Office of Naval Research, Army Research Office, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

DURIP is designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. institutions of higher education to conduct research and to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense, by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment. Grants will be for the purchase of research equipment costing $50,000 or more, which typically cannot be purchased within the budgets of single-investigator awards. DoD estimates that 180 awards will be made across the administering agencies, ranging from $50,000 to $1,500,000, with an approximate average award of $290,000. The deadline for proposals is September 25, 2015. For more information, see the listings: Office of Naval Research, Army Research Office, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Also see the Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Calmessages notice for these programs: DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and Defense University Instrumentation Program (DURIP).

June 30, 2015

New Method: Proposal and Award Status Updates in Phoebe Search

According to Sponsored Project Office FY 2015 metric data, nearly 60% of awards received by SPO are processed within 14 calendar days, and approximately 75% of awards received in SPO are processed within 30 days. These data, while noteworthy, do not meet the needs of a PI who is interested in obtaining a status update on one particular proposal or individual award being processed through SPO.

Unfortunately it is impossible for SPO Contract and Grant Officers to respond to every inquiry about the individual status of the over 3,000 proposals and 4,500 award transactions processed through SPO each year. To do so would divert SPO’s Contract and Grant Officers from the essential task of actually processing these transactions.

However, Phoebe Search now offers another way for the campus to obtain basic status information about a particular proposal or award transaction without contacting a SPO Contract and Grant Officer. These are the steps:
  1. Log in to Phoebe Search using your CalNet ID:
  2. Enter the four digit Phoebe proposal number in the Phoebe Search Box.
  3. If the proposal has been submitted to the sponsor, the status of the proposal will be listed as, “Approval Pending - Submitted.”
  4. If the proposal has been submitted but the award document related to the proposal has not yet been received by SPO the status line will read, “Awaiting sponsor decision.”
  5. If the award document related to the proposal has been received by SPO but the award has not yet been released by SPO the status line will read, “Award Received - in process.”
  6. To check on the status of a fund advance:
    1. On the left hand side of the Phoebe Search page choose “award.”
    2. Enter the four digit Phoebe proposal number in the Phoebe Search Box.
    3. If a fund advance request has been received and processed the status will read “Fund advance.”
Please note: Since the vast majority of awards are processed by SPO within 30 days, PIs are encouraged to wait to contact SPO about an award with the status “Award Received – in process” until after 30 calendar days have passed. Award terms are being negotiated during this time, and when complex awards and contracts are being negotiated it may take time to reach agreement on these terms.

SPO is working on ways to make all SPO actions more transparent to the campus, and our efforts to provide an increasing number of status displays in Phoebe Search during the award negotiation process is a work in progress. With that in mind, campus PIs and Department/CSS RAs are asked to check Phoebe Search before initiating a “status call” to SPO so that work on these important campus transactions can take place.

June 09, 2015

New NIH Grant Instructions Effective January 2016

The National Institutes of Health will be revising grant application instructions and review criteria to enhance reproducibility of research findings through increased scientific rigor and transparency. Revisions will focus on four areas: 1) the scientific premise of the proposed research, 2) rigorous experimental design for robust and unbiased results, 3) consideration of relevant biological variables, and 4) authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources.

Pending OMB approval, NIH will incorporate the revisions into the SF424 (Research and Related) Application Guide and funding opportunity announcements in fall of 2015, for applications submitted for the January 25, 2016 due date and beyond.

New Expectations:
  1. NIH will expect applicants to describe the general strengths and weaknesses of the prior research being cited by the investigator as crucial to support the application. Failure to identify these weaknesses and propose ways to improve going forward will be considered a proposal weakness.
  2. Applicants will be expected to describe how they will achieve robust and unbiased results when describing the experimental design and proposed methods. Researchers will be expected to use methods designed to avoid bias and which can be reproduced under well-controlled and reported experimental conditions.
  3. NIH expects that gender as a biological variable will be factored into research designs, analyses, and reporting in vertebrate animal and human studies. Strong justification from the scientific literature, preliminary data or other relevant considerations must be provided for applications proposing to study only one gender.
  4. Research plans and findings are expected to clearly indicate which biological variables are tested or controlled. Clear justification will need to be provided for exclusion of variables that may be relevant but are not considered in the research plan.
  5. Even though there are not clear consensus guidelines on authenticating different types of resources, NIH expects that key biological and/or chemical resources will be regularly authenticated to ensure their identity and validity for use in the proposed studies. These include, but are not limited to, cell lines, specialty chemicals, antibodies and other biologics. In the absence of clear guidelines, researchers should transparently report on what they have done to authenticate key resources, so that consensus can emerge.
Application Preparation/Review Changes:
  1. Applicants will be instructed to include their consideration of scientific premise, rigorous experimental design, and consideration of sex and other relevant biological variables in the Research Strategy section. Page limits for this section will not change.
  2. Reviewers will be asked to evaluate scientific premise as part of Significance, and rigorous experimental design and consideration of sex and other biological variables as part of the Approach criteria. As such, evaluation of these three areas will be included in the assessment of overall impact.
  3. Authentication of Key Resources will be incorporated as a new attachment under the Other Research Plan Sections and reviewers will be asked to comment on the plan but not consider it when scoring overall impact.
NIH will provide more detailed information about the specifics of implementation this fall.

NIH has created a new site to assist applicants and grantees, Rigor and Reproducibility, including a Frequently Asked Questions page.

For more information, see Enhancing Reproducibility through Rigor and Transparency (NOT-OD-15-103), Consideration of Sex as a Biological Variable in NIH-funded Research (NOT-OD-15-102), and Rock Talk article Enhancing Reproducibility in NIH-supported Research through Rigor and Transparency.

May 20, 2015

SPO aTwitter

The Sponsored Projects Office has initiated a new communication strategy for the Berkeley campus community. SPO is now posting updates and news related to contracts and grants on Twitter. Follow SPO at @BerkeleySPO.

May 19, 2015

Education Department Hosting Webcast on Uniform Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) invites grantees and constituents to participate in a live webcast discussion of the Department’s implementation of the interim final rule on the Uniform Guidance (2 C.F.R. § 200). The webcast is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, 2015, from 10:30 to noon, Pacific Time, on Edstream. ED invites questions before and during the presentation, submitted to

More information on the agency’s implementation of the Uniform Guidance is available on the Technical Assistance for ED Grantees site.

NSF Seeks Comments on Draft PAPPG

The National Science Foundation Policy Office has published a draft Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) to be effective January 2016.

NSF is inviting comments on the draft by July 20, 2015. To facilitate review, NSF has highlighted revised text in yellow and provided brief comments explaining the changes.

May 14, 2015

New UC Berkeley Guide to Contracting

The University of California, Berkeley Guide to Contracting is now available on the Business Contracts and Brand Protection website.

The guide, developed over two years by a campus working group, presents a thorough overview of all of the contracting offices at Berkeley and is designed to assist campus personnel (administrators, staff, faculty, and researchers) understand the general process of creating, managing, and terminating legally binding contracts.

For a quick decision on where a particular type of transaction belongs, click the “Start Here” link on the BCBP Who Does What Guide and use the decision tree (series of questions) to determine where to start.