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 Grants.gov. 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 Grants.gov 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 Grants.gov 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: https://phoebe.rac.berkeley.edu/search/
  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 uniformgrantsguidanceimplementation@ed.gov.

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.

May 01, 2015

NIH ASSIST Now an Option for R01, Most K, and U01 Applications

The National Institutes of Health has announced that ASSIST is now a submission option for Research Grant (R01) and Individual Career Development Award (K, excluding KM1 and K12) programs and for Research Project Cooperative Agreements (U01s). ASSIST is the NIH online system for preparation and submission of grant applications through Grants.gov to NIH.

ASSIST support is now available for the following NIH programs:
  • All multi-project grant programs (NOT-OD-13-075)
  • Small Research Grant (R03) and Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) programs (NOT-OD-15-062)
  • Research Grant (R01) and Individual Career Development Award (K, excluding KM1 and K12) programs (NOT-OD-15-098)
  • NIH Research Project Cooperative Agreements (U01s) (NOT-OD-15-099)
ASSIST will become an option for additional grant programs throughout 2015.

For more information, see ASSIST Now an Option for R01 and Individual Career Development Award Applications (NOT-OD-15-098) and ASSIST Now an Option for Research Project Cooperative Agreements (U01s) (NOT-OD-15-099). Also see the NIH Rock Talk article, More ASSISTance Options for Submitting Your Application to NIH.

January 30, 2015 Research Advocate: An ASSIST for NIH R03 and R21

April 24, 2015

UC President's Research Catalyst Award

University of California President Janet Napolitano and UC Research Initiatives have issued a Request for Proposals for the 2016 President’s Research Catalyst Awards. This president’s initiative aims to advance innovative research in areas of strategic importance to UC that has the potential to benefit California, the nation and the world, and to stimulate public support for UC research that fulfills the following programmatic goals:
  • Catalyze innovative scholarship that makes significant contributions to knowledge and science in areas of strategic importance to UC, and that has the potential to improve human lives, society, the environment, or the economy, enhance culture and community, or provide other public benefit
  • Catalyze multicampus and systemwide collaboration that positions UC as a national leader
  • Catalyze faculty collaboration across career stages to provide mentorship, support professional advancement, and position UC faculty as leaders in key fields
  • Catalyze graduate student training opportunities in cutting-edge interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary research
  • Catalyze public engagement in the UC research mission through opportunities for community collaborative research, citizen science, or other community outreach, education and engagement
  • Catalyze undergraduate participation in research through educational, curricular or training/internship components (as appropriate to the fields and disciplines)
The competition is open to all fields of research and interdisciplinary or thematic collaboration. All proposals must be submitted by academic appointees with Principal Investigator status at a UC campus, and must include participation of at least three UC campuses.

Key Dates:
  • Applicant Teleconferences: May 1-8, 2015 (Pre-registration is required.)
  • Required Letters of Intent Due: Thursday, June 4, 2015
  • Notification of LOI Decision: by Friday, July 10, 2015
  • Invited Full Proposals Due: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

April 20, 2015

NSF FastLane Automated Compliance Checking Effective April 24, 2015

The message below was issued on April 20, 2015, by Jean Feldman, Head, Policy Office, Division of Institution and Award Support, National Science Foundation. For more information, see Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals.

Dear Colleagues:

Beginning April, 24, 2015, proposals submitted in response to Program Solicitations in FastLane will undergo a series of  automated proposal compliance validation checks to ensure they comply with requirements outlined in the Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (Chapter II.C.2. of the Grants Proposal Guide (GPG)). These checks will automatically validate a proposal for compliance against proposal sections per type of funding mechanism. For example, an error message will appear if a project description or budget are not provided in proposals submitted in response to a Program Solicitation.

Checks will be triggered when proposers select the “Check Proposal,” “Forward to SPO,” or “Submit Proposal” functions. Depending on the rule being checked, a warning or error message will display when a proposal is found to be non-compliant. If an error message appears, the proposal cannot be submitted until it is compliant.
Please note that these automated compliance checks will not be conducted on proposals submitted to NSF via Grants.gov.

To view a detailed list of all compliance checks, click here

January 16, 2015 Research Advocate: NSF Updates to FastLane and Research.gov on January 26
February 20, 2013 Research Advocate: NSF FastLane Begins Automated Proposal Compliance Checking on March 18

April 09, 2015

NIH Seeks Input on Strategies to Optimize Impact and Sustainability of Biomedical Research

The National Institutes of Health is requesting input regarding the possible development of new policies and other strategies to improve the impact and sustainability of the NIH-funded biomedical research enterprise.

NIH seeks input from researchers, academic institutions, professional societies, and other stakeholders on any or all of these areas:
  1. Key issues that currently limit the impact of NIH’s funding for biomedical research and challenge the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise. We welcome responses that explain why these issues are of high importance.
  2. Ideas about adjusting current funding policies to ensure both continued impact and sustainability of the NIH-supported research enterprise. We welcome responses that point to specific strengths or weaknesses in current policies and suggest how we can build on or improve them.
  3. Ideas for new policies, strategies, and other approaches that would increase the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research.
  4. Any other issues that respondents feel are relevant.
NIH will accept responses through May 17, 2015. Responses must be submitted electronically.

For more information, see the April 2 NIH Guide Notice, Request for Information (RFI): Optimizing Funding Policies and Other Strategies to Improve the Impact and Sustainability of Biomedical Research (NOT-OD-15-084), as well as a Rock Talk article by Jon Lorsch and Sally Rockey, Give Input on Strategies for Optimizing the Impact and Sustainability of Biomedical Research.

April 07, 2015

NSF Issues Uniform Guidance FAQs

The National Science Foundation has issued Frequently Asked Questions on the National Science Foundation’s Implementation of 2 CFR § 200 (Uniform Guidance). The new FAQs are available on the NSF Policy Office page.

The following is the text of the FAQs:

1. Which awards incorporate the new Uniform Guidance requirements?

The Uniform Guidance is effective for awards and funding increments on existing awards made on or after December 26, 2014. The Uniform Guidance will not be incorporated in the following circumstances:
  • If the award is a standard grant made prior to December 26, 2014; or
  • If the award is a continuing grant that has received all of its funding increments prior to December 26, 2014.
2. With the implementation of the new Uniform Guidance, how does an awardee know which terms and conditions apply an award?

For existing awards made prior to December 26, 2014, the terms and conditions referenced in the award notice will continue to apply. If an existing award receives a funding increment on or after December 26, 2014, then the Grant General Conditions (GC-1) will be incorporated by reference into that funding amendment.

3. If an existing award receives a non-funding amendment (i.e., an amendment that does not provide any additional funding, such as a change of PI), is the amendment subject to the Grant General Conditions (GC-1) dated December 26, 2014?

No. The GC-1 is effective for new NSF awards and funding amendments to existing awards made on or after December 26, 2014. Non-funding amendments do not change the terms and conditions of the current award, except as noted in the administrative change.

4. If an existing award receives an amendment and the new GC-1 is incorporated, is it necessary to request a retroactive approval for items that normally require prior approvals?

Once an existing award receives a funding amendment that incorporates the GC-1, dated 12/26/14, preparation and submission of notifications and requests will follow the requirements specified in the new award conditions. Article 2 of the GC-1 outlines the 2 items that require approval from the National Science Foundation. (See also Award & Administration Guide, Exhibit II-1 for additional information.)

5. In regards to NSF’s recent change in the grant conditions that authorize grantees up to 120 days to submit final disbursement requests, will ACM$ allow for disbursement requests up to 120 days on awards not subject to the GC-1 dated, 12/26/15?

The 120 day standard will apply to all awards. The Award Cash Management System (ACM$) will not differentiate between awards and amendments made prior to December 26, 2014 and those made after December 26, 2014.

Indirect Costs

6. It states in the Grant Proposal Guide: "No supporting documentation is required for proposed rates of 10% or less of modified total direct costs." Is it therefore acceptable to allow less than 10% of modified total direct costs? If so, is 0% acceptable?

Submission of proposal budgets that reflect indirect cost rates below the de minimus 10% are not acceptable. NSF’s expectation with respect to indirect costs is made clear in NSF Grant Proposal Guide Chapter II.C.3.g(vi)(e): “It is NSF’s expectation that, consistent with 2 CFR § 200.414, NSF awardees will use the domestic subrecipient’s applicable U.S. federally negotiated indirect cost rate(s). If no such rate exists, the NSF awardee may either negotiate a rate or use a de minimus indirect cost rate recovery of 10% of modified total direct costs.”

7. The University has, on occasion, experienced receipt of budgets from subcontractors who elect not to charge F&A at all. Is a 0% F&A rate acceptable in these cases?

Indirect cost rates of 0% are not acceptable as this would represent a form of voluntary committed cost sharing which is prohibited under NSF’s Cost Sharing Policy.

Travel

8. Listed as a "Significant Change to the Grant Proposal Guide to Implement the Uniform Guidance" is all travel must now be justified in Line E of the budget. How detailed must this request be to meet this requirement? For instance, if the name of a conference is available but not the exact date or location, is this sufficient?

The NSF Grant Proposal Guide Chapter II.C.2.g(iv) outlines what is required to justify travel costs: “Travel and its relation to the proposed activities must be specified, itemized and justified by destination and cost.” Therefore, proposers should provide as much information that is available to ensure that the travel is specified, itemized and justified. NSF realizes that all details may not be available at the time of proposal submission and, thus, proposers will be unable to provide such information.

9. When might temporary dependent care costs be allowable?

(Note: UC’s policy does not currently allow for dependent costs related to travel; therefore such costs would not be an allowable charge to NSF.)