July 27, 2007

NIH Requiring eRA Commons for Financial Status Reports Beginning October 1

In a July 27 NIH Guide announcement, the National Institutes of Health announced that all Financial Status Reports (FSRs) (domestic and foreign) due on or after October 1, 2007, must be submitted using the electronic FSR system located in the eRA Commons. This includes all initial FSRs being prepared for submission and any revisions being submitted or re-submitted to NIH. The requirement does not affect other federal agencies and how they may handle FSRs.

The eRA Commons web-based FSR system allows participants to view information on currently due and late FSRs as well as submit FSRs electronically to the NIH. Additional resources including a user guide and an online demonstration can be found on the eRA Commons Support Page.

July 26, 2007

Grants.gov and Adobe Forms: Update

The July 19 Grants.gov Stakeholder Meeting webcast included an update on the transition to Adobe Forms for Grants.gov applications. The archived webcast, a very informative summary of questions and comments from the webcast, and a sample Adobe Cover Sheet are available at http://grants.gov/resources/stakeholder_communications.jsp.

No definite date was given for when federal agencies would begin using the new Adobe Forms for applications instead of PureEdge, but it appears likely that most if not all agencies will not be using Adobe until September at the earliest. The National Institutes of Health will not be finalizing plans until the new forms have been thoroughly tested, and once plans are finalized NIH will make every effort to give 60 days notice prior to transitioning any program.

As of July 19, all 147 Grants.gov forms had been converted to Adobe Forms. Both individual forms and form “families” are now being tested, with 60 forms in production. Grants.gov plans to have all 147 forms available for agencies to use on September 6.

Applicants need to be aware that currently Grants.gov Adobe Forms are compatible only with Adobe Reader version 7.0.9. Using Adobe Reader 8.0 or 8.1 may cause the application to fail validation after submission and thus be rejected by Grants.gov. Adobe is working on these incompatibility issues, and is targeting a permanent resolution for the September/October timeframe.


New Indirect Cost Rate for All Caltrans Budgets

Effective immediately, the indirect cost rate for agreements with Caltrans, the State of California Department of Transportation, is 17.5 percent applied to a modified total direct cost (MTDC) base as defined in OMB Circular A-21. All new budgets prepared for new and existing projects shall include the 17.5 percent MTDC rate. Any questions about this directive should be addressed to Paula Burkhart (pkburkhart@berkeley.edu) or to Jyl Baldwin (jbaldwin@berkeley.edu).

(revised on 9/12/2007 to include MTDC information)

July 24, 2007

New Policies and Procedures of the UC Berkeley Human Research Protection Program

A major revision of the Policies and Procedures of the UC Berkeley Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) has been approved by the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS), and published on the CPHS web site. The new Policies and Procedures (P&P), effective July 1, 2007, replace the CPHS Policies and Procedures of November 2000 and related guidance (e.g., “Guidelines of the UC Berkeley CPHS” and “CPHS Appeal Process”).

The CPHS follows the P&P in approving, recommending modifications, and in extremely rare cases, suspending or terminating research involving human subjects. UC Berkeley operates within the regulations and guidelines set forth by federal authorities, primarily the Office for Human Research Protections and the Food and Drug Administration, and other bodies such as the International Conference of Harmonisation, all based upon ethical principles elucidated in the Belmont Report. Many of the policies and procedures are derived from these regulations.

The P&P Table of Contents has embedded links to the document sections, making navigation easier. CPHS will post Attachments and Grant-Protocol Review sections soon.

July 16, 2007

NSF to Develop Research.gov Portal for Grants Management

The National Science Foundation is leading the effort to establish a Research.gov web portal. Research.gov is a collaborative partnership of federal, research-oriented, grant-making agencies with a shared vision of increasing customer service for applicants and awardees, while streamlining and standardizing processes amongst partner agencies.

Research.gov will be a one-stop web site that will provide a menu of services in a single portal for research institutions and grantees to conduct electronic grants business with federal agencies and to find information about agency policies and upcoming events. The portal will also help federal agencies share grants management best practices as part of the Grants Management Line of Business. The portal is intended to focus on the needs of grantees, provide maximum flexibility to account for differing agency strategies, and allow the best tools to be offered from any research agency.

NSF plans to deploy the portal and initial set of services in fiscal year 2008. Presentations on Research.gov are available at NSF: November 2006 Powerpoint and Spring 2007 NSF Update (starting on page 57). The latter includes a sample image of features and tools the portal might offer.

Services planned for the portal include a tool for grant applicants to check a list of all proposals submitted to Research.gov partner agencies, a tool to submit federal financial reports, a project-reporting tool, and tools to request funds disbursement and payments. The portal would also link to Grants.gov to find grant opportunities and apply for funding, iEdison to report inventions, NSF FastLane, as well as other services and systems.

According to NSF, federal research agencies will sign up to offer services to grantees through these tools, and NSF will recover operations costs through a fee-for-service arrangement. NSF has already successfully conducted an Application Status pilot with the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), which allows principal investigators to check the status of their USDA CSREES and NSF proposals at one site.

July 12, 2007

NIH Seeks Comments on Improving System

The National Institutes of Health is seeking comments from reviewers, applicants, and members of the public on the system used by NIH to support biomedical and behavioral science, including peer review, with the goal of examining the current process to optimize its efficiency and effectiveness. NIH is especially interested in creative suggestions, even if they involve radical changes to the current approach. Ultimately, NIH wants to ensure that the most meritorious science is supported while minimizing bureaucratic burden.

Comments are due by August 17, 2007 September 7, 2007, and may be submitted online.

UPDATE: NIH has extended the deadline for comments to September 7, 2007 (August 9 NIH Guide notice).

July 06, 2007

NSF Asked to Plan New Transformative Research Initiative

The National Science Board (NSB), the governing body of the National Science Foundation, established a Task Force on Transformative Research in 2004 to better understand NSF policies to solicit, identify, and fund innovative, potentially transformative research. Transformative research is defined as research driven by ideas that have the potential to radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or lead to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science or engineering.

The NSB recently published a report, Enhancing Support of Transformative Research at the National Science Foundation, that recommends that NSF “enhance its ability to identify and fund transformative research” and develop a new Transformative Research Initiative “distinguishable by its potential impact on prevailing paradigms and by the potential to create new fields of science, to develop new technologies and open new frontiers.”

The report states that the “Initiative is meant to be only the first step toward achieving a broader and longer-term capacity for supporting revolutionary ideas within NSF and, more importantly, toward providing the freedom that encourages greater boldness of ideas and aspirations within the research community.”

The NSB has asked NSF to report back with a preliminary plan for the Transformative Research Initiative by the August 2007 Board meeting.