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.


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.)

April 01, 2015

New Biosketch Format for NIH and AHRQ

The National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Research and Quality are requiring a new biosketch format (NOT-OD-15-032) for all competing and non-competing applications submitted for due dates on or after May 25, 2015. Biosketch format pages, instructions, samples and FAQs are available on the SF 424 (R&R) Forms and Applications page.

Applicants can use Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) to generate their biosketches faster and in the right format.

The Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) provides additional guidance:

For proposals with a due date on or after May 25, 2015, you must use NIH’s new format for biosketches, which is a major departure from the previous format. The biggest change is that instead of listing your publications in section C, you now are asked to describe your five most significant contributions to science placed in historical context, each of which may be supported by up to four of your publications or other products. To accommodate this change, the page limit has been increased from four to five pages.

NIH Publishes Revised NIH Grants Policy Statement

The National Institutes of Health has published the revised NIH Grants Policy Statement (NIHGPS, rev. 3/31/2015).

NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-15-087, Publication of the Revised NIH Grants Policy Statement (Rev. 3/31/2015), states:

“This revision is applicable to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements with budget periods beginning on or after December 26, 2014 and awards that received supplemental funding on or after December 26, 2014. This revision supersedes, in its entirety, the NIH Grants Policy Statement (10/2013) as a standard term and condition of award. It also supersedes the NIH Interim Grant General Conditions (published 2/5/2015). However, the October 2013 NIHGPS continues to be the standard term and condition for all NIH grants and cooperative agreements with budget periods that began between October 1, 2013 and December 25, 2014.”

Along with the revised NIH GPS, NIH has provided a document summarizing the significant changes.

February 5, 2015 Research Advocate: NIH Issues Interim General Grant Conditions and FAQs - Uniform Guidance

March 31, 2015

CPHS and OPHS Announce New UCB Exempt Category 7 for Certain Minimal-Risk Human Research Activities

The Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and the Office for Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS) are pleased to announce a new category for exempt review. This category, which we have added to the six categories of exemption described in federal regulations, is allowed within the flexibility available under UC Berkeley’s Federalwide Assurance (FWA) and was created to reduce researcher burden.

To qualify for exemption under UCB Category 7, a human subjects research project must be non-federally funded or regulated and comprised only of minimal-risk activities that will not induce distress beyond that of daily life and that could not reasonably place the subject at risk of criminal or civil liability, be damaging to the subject’s financial standing, employability, insurability, or reputation, or be stigmatizing in any other way.

These activities may include (but are not limited to) non-physically invasive interventions or performance of tasks such as: reading/writing/drawing tasks; physical activities such as walking, sitting, or manipulating an object; computer tasks and/or Internet searches; talking and/or listening to words, then making selections, or “think-aloud” exercises; viewing media; role-playing; completing a specific physical or mental action (“imagining”); passive monitoring of space (environment) with sensors; playing a game; and height/weight measurements.

To qualify, the research must not involve any exclusions listed in the CPHS Policy Determination of Exemption.

For more detailed information, please see the CPHS Determination of Exemption Policy and CPHS Exempt Research Guidelines.

If you have questions about Category 7 exempt research, please call the OPHS Analyst of the Day at (510) 642-7461 or email us at: ophs@berkeley.edu.

March 19, 2015

NSF Publishes Public Access Plan

The National Science Foundation has announced a plan to increase public access to scientific publications and digital scientific data resulting from research the foundation funds.

According to the press release, “NSF will require that articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions be deposited in a public access compliant repository and be available for download, reading and analysis within one year of publication.”

The NSF Public Access site states that the “NSF requirement will apply to new awards resulting from proposals submitted, or due, on or after the effective date of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that will be issued in January 2016. This recommended change to the PAPPG will be announced in the Federal Register no later than April 2015 and will follow government-wide procedures for public notice and comment.”

The Association of Research Libraries maintains a list of federal agency public access plans and policies complying with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum, Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research, issued in 2013.

NIH iEdison Invention Disclosure Requirement

The National Institutes of Health has issued a new requirement that all invention disclosures, related reports and documents must be submitted electronically using iEdison: Notice Regarding Requirement of Grantees and Contractors to Submit Invention Disclosures, Related Reports and Documents Via iEdison (NOT-OD-15-080).

Previously, NIH only “strongly supported” its use. Please note that all required iEdison submissions that are submitted via fax, mail, drop offs, etc. will not be accepted and will be returned to the submitter by NIH.

Information about how to use Interagency Edison and information about the iEdison system which is managed by NIH and used by more than 30 federal agency offices is available at NIH iEdison Invention Reporting.

February 18, 2015

Federal Budget Analyses from AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) R&D Budget and Policy Program is publishing Notes on the President’s Budget, “a series of online in-depth analyses of the President’s FY 2016 budget request to Congress, prepared by AAAS staff and the Intersociety Working Group.” This marks the 40th edition of these AAAS analyses, published annually since 1976.

Another recent AAAS publication for those interested in federal funding is A Primer on Recent Trends in Federal R&D Budgets, “a short summary of some of the big trends in federal R&D budgets over the past several years.”

To find out more about how the federal budget process works, from the President’s budget through Congressional appropriations, see the AAAS Federal Budget Process 101.

February 05, 2015

NIH Issues Interim General Grant Conditions and FAQs - Uniform Guidance

On February 5, 2015, the National Institutes of Health issued Interim General Grant Conditions of NIH grant awards aligned with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations implementing OMB Uniform Guidance at 45 CFR Part 75.

The document highlights Uniform Guidance grants-related changes to previous NIH grant policies that went into effect December 26, 2014. This guidance is not designed to be a full delineation of the comprehensive terms contained in the annual NIH Grants Policy Statement (GPS). NIH will release a revised version of the NIH GPS after the comment period on Interim Final Regulation is over and final revisions have been made to the regulation.

NIH has also published new Frequently Asked Questions: Uniform Guidance and NIH Interim Grant Conditions that will be of interest to UC Berkeley’s NIH researchers and campus research administrators.

NIH announced the news in an NIH Guide notice NIH Interim General Grant Conditions Implementing New HHS Grants Regulations (Uniform Guidance) (NOT-OD-15-065).

See the Sponsored Projects Office OMB Uniform Guidance page for more information on the federal Uniform Guidance.

January 30, 2015

An ASSIST for NIH R03 and R21

The National Institutes of Health has developed an optional online system known as “ASSIST” to help principal investigators with the preparation and submission of certain types of grant applications through Grants.gov.

Key features of ASSIST:
  • Online data entry
  • Multiple user access
  • Verification of application against agency business rules prior to submission
  • Pre-submission preview of assembled application image in agency format
  • Submission to agency through Grants.gov
  • Tracking application status within single system
Available for some time for NIH’s complex, multi-project grant programs, NIH has just announced that ASSIST is now available for two additional programs:
  • NIH's Small Research Grant (R03)
  • NIH’s Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) programs
NIH provide the following resources are available to help applicants prepare their applications using ASSIST:
Throughout 2015, ASSIST will become an option for additional grant programs. The NIH hopes to open up ASSIST as an option for the NIH Research Project Grant Program (R01) by May 2015.

Note: All ASSIST users working on an application must have eRA Commons accounts (all standard registration requirements apply).

For additional information, see ASSIST Now an Option for Submission of R03 and R21 Applications (NOT-OD-15-062).

January 29, 2015

Adjustments to NIH and AHRQ Application Due Dates in February

The National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality are adjusting grant application due dates between February 13 and 18, 2015 to accommodate a scheduled Grants.gov downtime. See NOT-OD-15-057 for more details.

Grants.gov has a planned system outage from Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 12:01 AM ET to Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 6:00 AM ET.

January 16, 2015

NSF Updates to FastLane and Research.gov on January 26

The National Science Foundation NSF Business Applications Team forwarded the following notice on January 16, 2015.


On January 26, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will release updates to FastLane and Research.gov that may impact the way you work. This update will implement revised policy and incorporate feedback received from NSF staff and the research community.

Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1)

A revised version of the PAPPG was issued on November 20, 2014, which incorporates OMB’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), as well as other policy updates. On January 26, 2015, the following changes will be made to FastLane to support the revised PAPPG:
  • Budget Form Update: The budget form will be updated so that the “Residual Funds” line (Line K) will not be editable for all programs except Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR). As this field is currently used for the purpose of collecting fees, “Residual Funds” will be renamed to “Small Business Fee.”
  • Budget Justification Upload: Budget justification can no longer be entered as text. Awardees will be required to upload a budget justification for each organization added to the budget via an upload screen. Already, 95% of proposers take advantage of the upload option.
  • Cost Sharing Notifications Requirement: The existing requirement that only awards with cost sharing of $500,000 or more must submit a cost sharing certificate will be modified to support the revised policy which specifies that cost sharing notifications must be submitted by all awardees with awards that include cost sharing.
  • New Funding Mechanism: The FastLane proposal cover sheet will be updated to include the new funding mechanism type, Ideas Lab. Ideas Lab is designed to support the development and implementation of creative and innovative project ideas. These projects will typically be high-risk/high-impact as they represent new and unproven ideas, approaches, and/or technologies.
Automated Compliance Checks

Beginning January 26, 2015, FastLane will run an additional 24 automated checks on proposals to ensure they comply with requirements outlined in the PAPPG, Chapter II.C.2 of the Grants Proposal Guide (GPG). Detailed below, these checks will validate a proposal for compliance with page count, proposal sections per type of funding mechanism and budget-related rules for proposals submitted in response to the GPG, Program Announcements, and Program Descriptions. At this time, these checks will not be enforced for proposals submitted in response to Program Solicitations.
  • Page Count: Page count rules will be enforced on the following proposal sections:
    • Project Description: 15-page limit [exceptions: 8-page limit for Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), and 5-page limit for Rapid Response Research (RAPID)]
    • Budget Justification: 3-page limit for the proposing institution and a separate, 3-page limit for each sub-recipient organization
    • Mentoring Plan: 1-page limit
    • Data Management Plan: 2-page limit
  • Budget: Budget-related checks will focus primarily on proposal duration and requested amount. For example, the system will enforce a maximum requested amount of $200,000 for a RAPID proposal and $300,000 for an EAGER proposal.
  • Proposal Section: Proposal sections will be enforced by their funding mechanism for Program Announcement, Program Description and other GPG-type funding opportunities. For example, an error message will appear if a Project Description was not provided for an EAGER proposal.
The checks detailed above will be triggered when the “Check Proposal,” “Forward to SPO,” or “Submit Proposal” functions are selected by a proposer or proposing organization. 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 organization will not be able to submit the proposal until it is compliant. To view a detailed list of all compliance checks, click here.

Research.gov User Experience Enhancements

On January 26, 2015, NSF will complete another round of enhancements to Research.gov based on feedback received from the community and recommendations from usability experts. These changes will begin to prepare the research community for the Research.gov/FastLane integration while improving the awardee experience. The following enhancements will be implemented:
  • Updated Branding: An update to the logo, header, footer and background to make it consistent with current NSF branding
  • Improved Look & Feel: A modification to page widths and font size in project reports and the Award Cash Management $ervice (ACM$) in order to optimize layout for each visitor’s screen resolution and make it easier to read
  • Streamlined Navigation: A streamlining of the site by removing the left navigation bar and adding top-level navigation across Research.gov
  • Simplified Login: A consolidation of login options onto one page in order to simplify the process
  • Expanded Help: An expansion of the Research.gov Live Help service to now include support for logging in and changing a password
We encourage you to share this information with your colleagues. If you have any questions, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188, or ithelpcentral@nsf.gov.

Thank you,

The NSF Business Applications Team

January 14, 2015

SPO Service Schedule for March 18, 2015

On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, the majority of Sponsored Projects Office staff will be involved in a regional meeting with sponsored project officers from Stanford University and UCSF. SPO services on this date therefore will be limited to front-desk administrative duties. Proposal and award set-up activity will resume on Thursday, March 19. For the purposes of the VCRO’s five day proposal submission policy, March 18 will not count as a working day. Individuals submitting proposals or other time-sensitive transactions during this time frame should plan accordingly.