Review of Modular Research Grant Applications
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expanding its use of the Modular Grant Application and Award. In modular grant applications, total direct costs not exceeding $250,000 per year in any year, will be requested in $25,000 increments instead of being compiled from detailed and separate budget categories. Beginning with the June 1, 1999 receipt date, modular application, review, and award procedures will apply to all competing individual research project grants (R01), small grants (R03), and exploratory/developmental grants (R21). Unsolicited, investigator-initiated applications requesting more than $250,000 in any year will be required to follow the traditional application instructions and applicable NIH policies.
The modular grant initiative expands the existing streamlining and reinvention initiatives that are designed to concentrate the focus of investigators, their respective institutions, peer reviewers, and NIH staff on the science that NIH supports, rather than on the details of budgets. Through its simplified budget reporting features, the modular grant application also will help address the broader NIH goal of reducing the length of time between application receipt and grant award. These goals are consistent with the understanding of the research grant award as a grant-in-aid.
Modular grant application and award procedures have been extensively pilot tested during the past four years in more than 25 separate solicitations, covering a wide variety of award mechanisms issued by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). The procedures to be implemented are the result of input from numerous NIH staff members, NIH-supported investigators, grantee institution administrators, and members of peer review groups. Finally, NIH data indicate that almost 90 percent of competing individual research project grant (R01) applications request $250,000 or less in direct costs. On the basis of this experience, the size of the modules and the maximum of $250,000 were selected.
The first full year of implementation will be a period for comment. NIH welcomes comments on the experiences and concerns of investigators, reviewers, applicant organizations, and staff. Adjustments and refinements to the procedures will be made after the comment period. A formal assessment of the process will follow.
No Longer Required and Should Not Be Submitted
Reviewing Modular Budgets
As part of the modular application initiative, NIH has changed the focus of budget review from an examination of annual categorical budgets to an evaluation of the total resources needed to complete the project. Reviewers should consider the entire proposed research project and the total direct costs needed to complete the project in the recommended period. Based upon the reviewer's understanding of the research proposed and the costs and services associated with such research, the annual recommended budgets should be in modules of $25,000. In addition:
Non-Compliant ApplicationsThe NIH will continue to screen applications for obvious problems with the required format. When applications are identified that are not in compliance, the investigators will be contacted and given four business days to correct the problem. If the application cannot be corrected in that time period, deferral to the next receipt and review cycle may be necessary. This spot-checking will not necessarily identify all applications with format compliance problems. If reviewers or other NIH staff identify noncompliant applications later in the process, applications may still be returned or deferred at that time. See the May 4, 2001 NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.