April 18, 2007

Grants.gov Transition to Adobe

The April 18 Grants.gov Stakeholder webcast included a status update on the transition from PureEdge to the Adobe platform. Grants.gov will continue testing the Adobe platform during April, and release the new 2007 system on May 1. However, the transition will be phased in slowly, with the goal of making the change seamless and simple for both agencies and applicants. The complete transition will be made to the Adobe platform by September 30, the end of FY 2007.

The webcast included a demonstration of the new platform. The steps for applicants are the same as in the current system, and the forms appear approximately the same. Applicants should not have any trouble learning to use the new forms. The only software required is the free Adobe Reader, version 7.0.9.

The Grants.gov staff will be updating the user guides and FAQs soon, and adding a new section to the Grants.gov web site for updates on the transition.

Grants.gov is hosting an “Adobe Day” webcast on May 3 from 11:00 a.m. until noon. Adobe Day will provide information on using Adobe Reader to complete grant applications, show how the new forms will look and act, and discuss changes between PureEdge and Adobe. Check the Grants.gov “What’s New This Week” in the coming days for more information.

The presentation slides and the webcast are available on the Grants.gov site at http://www.grants.gov/resources/stakeholder_communications.jsp.

April 16, 2007

New NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide

The National Science Foundation published the new NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (NSF 07-140) on April 12 at http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf07140. The new guide is effective for proposals submitted on or after June 1, 2007.

The document comprises two previously stand-alone policy documents: the NSF Grant Proposal Guide and the Grant Policy Manual. The new Guide has two sections: the Grant Proposal Guide and the Award and Administration Guide. Each section has a summary of significant changes.

One change is NSF specifies the four fonts that may be used when preparing an NSF proposal. The page formatting section also has been revised to state that a standard, single-column format should be used in the body of the proposal.

Another changes eliminates the previous statutory (one percent) cost-sharing requirement. In accordance with prior Congressional requirements, NSF previously required that each grantee share in the cost of research projects resulting from unsolicited proposals. The appropriations providing funds to NSF no longer contain this language.

April 15, 2007

Exceptional PI Status Policy Revised

The Vice Chancellor for Research Office recently modified the Berkeley campus Principal Investigator policy (the Policy On Eligibility For The Submission Of Extramural Support Proposals And Procedures For Obtaining Exceptions). The following changes are in effect as of March 20, 2007:
  • Detailed definitions have been added to differentiate between Principal Investigator status and Project Director status.
  • All references to “Program Director” have been deleted (throughout).
  • Statement governing University employment has been revised to reflect current campus appointment procedures (2.-d.).
  • Statement added regarding “continuing status” remaining in effect until revoked by the requesting campus department or unit (4.-a.).
  • Procedures have been updated to comply with current campus review procedures (5.).
  • All references to “co-Principal Investigator” status have been removed to comply with federal agency policies (throughout).
The full revised PI policy can be found at: http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/principal-investigator-status.

Please direct any questions regarding this revised policy to Laura Mays in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at 642-9689, or redbeard@berkeley.edu.

Campus Reissues Policy on Cost Principles for Sponsored Agreements

The Berkeley campus has reissued the policy on “Cost Principles for Sponsored Agreements (Contracts and Grants).” To accompany the policy, the campus is providing supporting Frequently Asked Questions, and a Quick Guide intended to provide guidance with proposal preparation. In addition, a series of training sessions was offered for department staff and interested faculty.

The policy describes how contract and grant funds must be spent for the campus to be in compliance with applicable state and federal law, and other sponsor terms and conditions. Campus policy is dictated by cost principles contained in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21, which governs our grants, contracts and other agreements with the federal government. For federally sponsored projects, including federal flow-through awards, administrative costs may be charged directly to a sponsored project only under certain specified circumstances. The campus policy and associated materials define administrative and technical costs and provide a framework for determining whether various costs qualify as direct charges to sponsored awards.

The staff of the Controller’s, Extramural Funds Accounting, and Sponsored Projects Offices, and those of Financial and Management Analysis are available to assist investigators and staff with questions.

Cost Principles for Contracts & Grants (Sponsored Agreements):

Frequently Asked Questions - Cost Principles for Sponsored Agreements (Contracts and Grants):

Quick Guide on Administrative Costs on Federally Funded Projects:

Sponsored Projects Office Updates

PRF Revised
The Sponsored Projects Office Proposal Review Form (PRF) has been revised to include “major project” administrative costs and use of human stem cells. The revised form also has yes/no checkboxes instead of yes and includes web links to related policy and procedure. The PRF instructions have also been updated. Please begin using the revised PRF immediately. The form is available online at http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/forms/UCForms.html#PRF.

Limited Submission Form Revised
The Limited Submission Cover Sheet has been updated with a new field for other information that might be requested for campus review purposes, depending on agency program requirements. Also, some of the form field names have been changed for clarity. Please use the new form immediately.The form and information on limited submission programs is available at http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/fund/limited.html.

In limited submission programs, the sponsor restricts the number of applications or proposals a campus can submit to the agency. The guidelines for these programs require institutions to screen preproposals or nominations to determine which applications will be submitted for competition. The Cover Sheet is submitted with campus applications.

Non-Federal Team News
The Sponsored Projects Office has made some changes to non-federal team assignments. SPO has recruited Deborah Rutkowski-Howard (formerly in Molecular and Cellular Biology), and Roslyn Kartychak is now serving as Proposal Coordinator for the non-federal team.
The non-federal team has also recently assigned research administrators by department instead of by sponsor. Nonprofits, private foundations, UC-funded programs, foreign agreements, and other state and local government agreements are assigned by department. State of California agencies are the exception — all State agencies will continue to be handled by Betsy Quayle. Another exception is non-federal limited submission programs, which will be handled by Deborah Rutkowski-Howard.

Please refer to the SPO agency assignment list (http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/Staffnonfederal.html) to locate the research administrator assigned to your unit. If you have questions or concerns about this change, please contact Paula Burkhart, Assistant Director, Non-Federal Projects (pkburkhart@berkeley.edu, 2-8110). SPO believes departmental assignments for these sponsors will serve the campus better and is interested in feedback about the rearrangement of responsibilities.

Federal Team News
The SPO federal team now has a department assignment list for NIH and NSF agencies. The list is available at http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/StaffNIHNSF.html. Research administrators are assigned to the most active units. If your department does not have a staff person assigned, you can contact any of the one of the three SPO research administrators for NSF or NIH, or when you submit a proposal it will be assigned to a specific administrator.

New Web Page Lists ERA Links
The SPO web site has a new page that lists federal, UC, and nonfederal funding agencies and the systems each uses for electronic research administration. The page is available at http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/Procedures/eralinks.html.

Human Subjects Updates

New Forms
The Committee for Protection of Human Subjects posted revised forms on March 5, 2007, and is now requiring use of these new forms. Forms are available on the CPHS web site at http://cphs.berkeley.edu/content/forms.htm. Please delete all old versions that you may have downloaded to your local PC.

SPO Proposal Number
The Office for the Protection of Human Subjects must have the SPO Proposal Number on the CPHS Cover Sheet for all funding supporting human subjects research when the funding requests have been submitted through the Sponsored Projects Office. Please make sure you list the SPO Proposal Number in the appropriate box under Part III of the Application Cover Sheet if the funding is pending or even if an award has been made.

The SPO Proposal Number is an eight-digit number beginning with the fiscal year (e.g., 20071234) and is available for Coeus web users immediately after proposals are logged in by SPO. The number is included in the proposal notice that is sent by email to investigators and administrative staff after the proposal has been submitted.

For access to Coeus web site reports, please check with your departmental administrator. For more information about Coeus department accounts, please contact Neil Maxwell or Nancy Han in RAC Information Systems.

Revised Requirements for Continuing Review Submissions
To ease the administrative burden on investigators, CPHS/OPHS has changed the submission requirements for applications for Expedited or Full Committee Continuing Review and Approval. Effective immediately, submission of copies of the current, approved protocol narrative will not be necessary under the following specific conditions:

(1) At the time of renewal submission, NO CHANGES are being proposed to the protocol, including personnel or funding changes. The research that will be conducted in the coming year is exactly as described in the current, active approved protocol on file with CPHS/OPHS; and

(2) The current, approved protocol – which includes any amendments that may have been approved and incorporated in the narrative during the past year – must be written in the CPHS narrative format of September 2005 or the most recent version revised in March 2007.

Also, for studies that are moving into a “data analysis-only” phase, investigators will no longer need to submit consent forms, recruitment materials, or a protocol narrative at the time of continuing review, as long as the only change to the approved protocol is that there is no longer any data collection or subject intervention occurring. If the protocol format has not been updated since September 2005, but the study is moving into a data analysis-only phase now, an updated protocol version will not be required. However, if an investigator wishes to collect additional data and/or recruit new subjects, the protocol narrative in the current version as required at that time must be submitted before the protocol amendment will be reviewed and approved.

Submit Protocols Early
CPHS/OPHS is in the midst of the busiest time of the year as investigators want to get protocols reviewed and approved in time for summer research activities. OPHS strongly advises investigators to submit their projects as soon as possible as all but the full committee protocols are reviewed on a rolling, first-come, first-served basis. Between March and June we are essentially unable to handle “rush” requests due to the huge volume of protocols, so get your protocols in as soon as possible!

Animal Care and Use Update

The organization that examines and accredits animal care and use programs around the world has given the UC Berkeley's animal care and use program another thumbs up, awarding it the prized accreditation it has maintained through five site visits since 1994. Three representatives of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, known as AAALAC, visited the campus on October 2 and 3 last year, touring every animal facility on campus, reviewing many animal care and use records and visiting many faculty laboratories. The team’s comments were uniformly positive, and their recommendation for full accreditation was approved by the AAALAC Council on Accreditation. In a March 21 letter to UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Research Beth Burnside, Dale G. Martin, president of the Council on Accreditation, wrote, “The Council commends you and your staff for providing and maintaining an exemplary program of laboratory animal care and use.”

For more details see the ACUC web site or the April 4 article on the accreditation in the campus Berkeleyan, “Campus animal-care program earns three-year accreditation.”

Organizing Efforts to Address Broader Impacts Requirements of Proposals for Individual PIs

Committee on Student Development and Academic Development

Description of efforts to broaden the impact of federally funded grants is becoming an increasingly important part of proposal writing. Individual PIs with little time on their hands are being asked to answer questions such as: How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society? Like most endeavors in teaching and research, it is very difficult to accomplish these tasks unless one is organized.

The Committee on Student Development and Academic Development was established in 1964 (under the name Special Scholarships Committee) to enhance the diversity of faculty and students at UCB and other prestigious institutions of higher education. In 1974, this committee established the Professional Development Program (PDP) to encourage students from disadvantaged groups to come to UCB and enroll in all degree programs in substantial numbers. Today, PDP works closely with more than 500 students and their instructors in middle school, high school, and at UCB to ensure that students receive a strong academic foundation and valuable research experiences in their pursuit of college and graduate or professional school.

We, the members of SDAD and PDP, would like to offer organized avenues for faculty who wish to broaden the impact of their federally funded grants. We will provide documents and inputs that will be tailor-made for inclusion in proposals, (e.g., NSF, NIH, DOE). We will also ensure that your commitments toward broader impacts are met efficiently after your proposal has been approved and funded.

Here are two examples of activities that faculty can participate in:

(1) The PDP has an ongoing program with local schools (for example, Willard Middle School and El Cerrito High School) where faculty can observe teachers while they teach. At the end of the teaching session, the professor and teacher might share their uses of the material taught, or talk about various ways to introduce that material, or about related math or science topics and resources that might interest the teacher.

(2) Every summer, high school students going into 7th through 11th grades come to UC Berkeley for a six-week series of Pre-Engineering and Mathematics. We would like to identify professors who would be willing to give one lecture to the students. This might deal with the use of math, science, or engineering in their own research, or could be on any topic of their choosing.

In Fall 2005, one of the members of SDAD and a coauthor of this article (Nitash Balsara) obtained an NSF grant with a broader impact program that was coupled to the summer high school program run by the PDP [example (2)]. It was convenient to conduct broader impact activities in the summer. A very knowledgeable PDP teaching assistant (TA) met me at the beginning of the summer to discuss the contents of the lecture. Demonstrations and hands-on activities were important and the TA helped in the design of these activities. An apparatus for demonstrating the concepts that were being taught was designed and built. A three-hour lecture/demonstration class was given on July 14, 2006, to students from Willard Middle School. It was clear that the lecture that might have been delivered without the assistance of the PDP staff would have made no sense to the high school students.

It is now quite common to include the cost of broader impact activities in proposed budgets. A faculty member wishing to include such material is invited to contact PDP or members of SDAD. We will help with the proposal writing, and will suggest inclusion of specific funds that will be used by PDP to complete the proposed broader impact mission. With your help, the University of California, Berkeley can continue to enrich the lives of students and teachers in local schools — despite the State of California’s abandonment of University broader impact efforts.

Examples of paragraphs taken from the broader impact section of successful grants are displayed here. If you are interested in this, or if you have established similar programs already and would like to join forces with us please contact: Steven Chin, PDP Director at pdpsteve@berkeley.edu or 643-6260 or Nitash Balsara, Professor of Chemical Engineering at nbalsara@cchem.berkeley.edu or 642-8973.

- Professor Nitash Balsara

FDP Issues Report on Faculty Burden Survey

The Federal Demonstration Partnership has published A Profile of Federal-Grant Administrative Burden Among Federal Demonstration Partnership Faculty. The report is based on the FDP 2005 Faculty Workload Survey. The survey was designed to assess the extent to which faculty have experienced undue administrative burden as a result of new federal regulations and changes in cost-accounting standards.

The report outlines the findings from the survey, discusses the potential implications, and enumerates steps that might be taken by research institutions and federal agencies.
Key findings include that of the time that faculty committed to federal research, 42 percent was devoted to pre- and post-award administrative activities, not to active research. The overall top burdens reported by faculty included grant progress-report submissions, personnel hiring, project-revenue management, equipment and supply purchases, IRB protocols and training, training personnel and students, and personnel evaluations.

The 45-page report is available at http://www.thefdp.org/Faculty_Committee.html#P11_2305.

COGR Letter Addresses Electronic Submission Problems

The Council on Governmental Relations sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health Director in March about problems that exist with electronic proposal submission. As of February 5, NIH required electronic submission of all R01 grant applications. The letters states that while the transistion from paper was “relatively successful,” a number of problems still need to be addressed, such as confusing error messages, complicated instructions, and unclear advice on identifying multiple principal investigators. The letter is available on the COGR web site:

UC Irvine Chancellor Testifies on Public Investment in Universities and Economic Growth

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake testified in March before the House Financial Services Committee about the role that federal investment in university research and education has played in promoting economic growth. He made his presentation at a hearing on the role of public investment in promoting economic growth. A webcast of the hearing and copies of speeches presented, including Chancellor Drake’s testimony, are available at http://www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs_dem/ht032307.shtml.

Report on NIH Funding and the Status of Biomedical Research

A group representing nine research institutions, headed by Harvard University and including the University of California, issued a report in March on how years of flat NIH budgets have harmed progress in disease treatment and prevention and have undermined U.S. competitiveness in biomedical research. The report, “Within Our Grasp—Or Slipping Away? Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical Progress” is available on the Association of American Universities web site at http://www.aau.edu/research/NIH_Basic_Research_Brochure-2007-03-19.pdf.

Feds Ask for Comments on Awards Database

The Office of Management and Budget is developing a new congressionally mandated searchable database of all federal contract and grant awards. OMB is requesting feedback from the public on what they would like to see in the final product.
  • Congress has required the database have these components:
  • the name of the entity receiving the award;
  • the amount of the award;
  • information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
  • the location of the entity receiving the award; and
  • a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.
Database development is scheduled to start in April 2007. Comments may be submitted at http://www.federalspending.gov/comments/comments.do.

NIH Offers New Innovator Award for Young Investigators

The National Institutes of Health is offering a new grant program, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program, to support young researchers who have not yet been awarded an NIH research project grant or similar.

Applicants must hold an independent research position at a U.S. institution as of September 20, 2007, and must have received their most recent doctoral degree or completed their medical internship and residency in 1997 or later. Applicants may not have served as a PI on an R01 or equivalent grant (e.g., R23, R29, R37, or U01) or leader of a P01 or center grant peer-reviewed project.

Awards will be for up to a total of $1.5 million in direct costs (average of $300,000 per year) for a five-year period. NIH anticipates making 14 awards.
The application deadline is May 22, 2007. More information is available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/innovator_award/.

NSF Division of Chemistry Changes Unsolicited Proposal Window

The National Science Foundation Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Division of Chemistry has changed its proposal submission window for unsolicited proposals from the current single long window (second Monday in July until the second Friday in January) to two shorter windows; one between July 1 and July 31 and another between November 1 and November 30. The new windows will provide increased opportunities of co-review and co-funding of awards with other divisions within the NSF. The Division’s website is http://www.nsf.gov/chem.