Notice of Assistance Available to Institutions Impacted by Super Storm Sandy

Notice Number: NOT-OD-13-013

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

  • July 30, 2014 - Notice of Annual Reporting Requirements and Revised Financial Closeout Requirements for NIH Administrative Supplements Awarded to Recover Losses Due to Hurricane Sandy under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. See Notice NOT-OD-14-112.
  • August 28, 2013 - See Notice NOT-OD-13-106. Notice of Special Terms and Conditions for NIH Hurricane Sandy Recovery Awards.
  • May 16, 2013 - See Notice NOT-OD-13-067. Change in the Application Due Date for RFA-OD-13-199 Due to Hurricane Sandy Under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act – Non-Construction (Admin Supp).
  • January 29, 2013 - See Notice NOT-OD-13-030. Reminders and Updates: NIH Policy on Post-Submission Application Materials.

Key Dates
Release Date: December 4, 2012

Related Announcements
NOT-OD-13-006: Delays in Grant Application Submission due to Hurricane Sandy
NOT-OD-13-007: Deadline Extended for Applications due on October 29 and 30, 2012

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Purpose

In emergency situations, the NIH’s immediate concern is for the health and safety of people and animals in the programs we oversee. We are also deeply concerned about the health of the biomedical enterprise in the affected area, and we are committed to working with researchers and institutions to do all that we can to ensure that NIH-funded research continues.

To assist in that effort, this notice describes actions NIH is taking and lists resources available from NIH to assist researchers and research institutions recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

NIH Recovery Actions and Available Assistance

The following list of available resources and actions being taken by NIH is not a complete list.  Individual circumstances may require a tailored response.  Investigators and institutions are encouraged to talk with their assigned Grants Management and Program Officials about their specific situation.  Additionally, NIH has a collection of disaster recovery resources and answers to FAQs available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/natural_disasters.htm.

Administrative Supplement Funding for Existing Grants
To help restore time and materials damaged by the storm, NIH plans to offer funded extensions and/or one-time administrative supplements to current awards targeted at institutions in particularly impacted areas (including grantees collaborating closely with subaward institutions impacted by Sandy).  The details of this opportunity are still being finalized; however, a Funding Opportunity Announcement is expected to be published soon. 

Payment of Salary and Fringe Benefits Under Unexpected or Extraordinary Circumstances
NIH understands that many researchers were unable to work during and as a result of the storm, and this unproductive time may last weeks or even months.  NIH reminds institutions that the limited expenditure of award funds is allowable, in accordance with grantee policy, to continue paying salaries and fringe benefits to researchers under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances.  This will enable PDs/PIs and research staff to continue NIH salary support while recovery efforts continue.

Extensions of Time for Financial and Other Reporting
Progress reports are typically required annually as part of the non-competing continuation award process.  While late submission or receipt of incomplete progress reports may delay the issuance of an award or result in a reduced award amount under normal circumstances, NIH understands that some progress report delays due to the storm are unavoidable.  Therefore, if researchers are unable to complete progress reports before the scheduled due date, they should promptly contact the assigned grants management and/or program official. 

In limited circumstances institutions may also have difficulty submitting financial (cash transaction) reports through the HHS Payment Management System, or submitting invention reports required under the Bayh-Dole Act.  In these cases institutions should contact the Grants Management Specialist assigned to the specific NoA for assistance.

Peer Review of Competing Applications
One of the five scored review criteria in the NIH Peer Review process for research grant applications is an evaluation of the institutional environment.  Because many institutional facilities have been temporarily damaged by the storm, NIH peer reviewers are being instructed to focus on the scientific and technical merit of the work proposed, and assume that NIH staff will work with the applicant institution to restore the facilities, equipment, personnel, and other resources required to perform the work, if an award is made.  This should allow the majority of previously submitted applications to continue through the Peer Review process without requiring any post-submission application materials.

In cases where permanent damage has rendered the application no longer viable, applicants may choose to submit post-submission grant application materials to revise information that must be made as a result of the storm (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-115.html).  Changes to the Specific Aims or Research Strategy sections are not considered acceptable post-submission materials, except in the cases described below; therefore, applicants from institutions affected by the storm should consider withdrawing pending submissions and re-submitting applications at the next available due date, if changes to the Specific Aims or Research Strategy pages are needed. 

Applicants may submit post-submission grant application materials to revise information that might have changed as a result of the storm.  Accepted post-submission materials include:

  •  Revised budget page(s) (e.g., change in budget request due to new funding or institutional acquisition of equipment)
  •  Biographical sketches (e.g., change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator)
  •  Letters of support or collaboration resulting from a change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator
  •  Adjustments resulting from natural disasters (e.g., loss of an animal colony)
  •  Adjustments resulting from change of institution (e.g., PI moves to another university)
  •  News of an article accepted for publication (a copy of the article should not be sent)

All post-submission materials must conform to NIH policy on font size, margins, and paper size as referenced in Part I.2.6 of the applicable application instructions.  NIH additional form pages such as budget, biographical sketches, and other required forms must follow NIH standards for required NIH form pages.  If post-submission material is not required on a form page, each explanation or letter is limited to one page (see Acceptable Late Materials above).   If the application has subprojects or cores, each subproject or core is allowed explanations or letters (see Acceptable Late Materials above), but each explanation or letter is limited to one page.

However, unacceptable post-submission materials include:

  • Updated Specific Aims or Research Strategy pages
  • Late-breaking research findings
  • New letters of support or collaboration that do not result from a change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator

The NIH policy on post-submission materials allows certain exceptions for applications submitted to Requests for Applications (RFAs) with single due dates:

  • Updated Specific Aims or Research Strategy pages, late-breaking research findings and new letters of support or collaboration are allowed.
  • If additional material is not required on a form page, the page limits below apply:

Page Limit for Research Strategy Section

Page Limit for Post-Submission Materials

More than 12 pages

3 printed pages

12 pages

2 printed pages

Fewer than 12 pages

1 printed page

If the application has subprojects or cores, the page limits for post-submission materials follow the page limits of the Research Strategy of each subproject or core, as indicated above.

During this storm recovery period, in addition to the exceptions for applications submitted in response to Requests for Applications (RFAs) with a single due date given above, the following exceptions will apply to applications submitted to RFAs by institutions affected by the storm:

  • For multiple date RFAs, updated Specific Aims pages or Research Strategy pages, late-breaking research findings and new letters of support or collaboration will be allowed as post-submission materials; and

  • Post-submission materials will not be subject to the usual requirement for submission at least 30 days before the review meeting.  Instead, the applicant must contact the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) managing the review, who will determine the last possible date when post-submission materials may be submitted.

Clinical Trials and Human Subjects Research
Due to the damage to clinical facilities inflicted by Super Storm Sandy, and due to the need to evacuate patients in the storm’s path, NIH anticipates a significant amount of clinical research was disrupted.  After a full assessment of the status and requirements for a project can be determined, investigators should contact their NIH program official to discuss the status of the project and what is needed to resume productive research (in accordance with the approved aims of the project.)  Despite the disruption assistance may be available from NIH to continue and preserve the research.

Modifying Specific Aims
In rare circumstances, the loss of time and resources caused by the storm may irreparably impact the grantees' ability to successfully complete all specific aims within the current budget/project period of existing awards.  Such damage, in some cases, even may not be overcome with the assistance of additional time or supplemental funding.  In these cases researchers may request prior written approval from NIH to modify or reduce the specific aims in a way that preserves the overall programmatic goals of the grant while still ensuring its successful completion.  Please note that changes to specific aims may also involve significant changes to grant budgets and effort requirements for Senior/Key Personnel, and researchers should be prepared to discuss these issues by NIH Program and Grants Management Officials.

Animal Welfare Issues
NIH has received notice of disruptions to the care and use of vertebrate animals at some impacted institutions.  Investigators whose research depends on these animal resources should coordinate closely with respective Institutional Officials and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees to ensure recovery efforts proceed in a humane and scientifically appropriate manner.  Staff from the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare are also available for any questions that may arise.  Additional information on animal welfare issues before and after a disaster is available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/disaster_planning.htm.

Temporary Relocation of Supported Investigators
Damage to facilities and laboratory equipment may have forced some investigators to temporarily relocate to other institutions to continue their research.  In these cases, Investigators need to contact their institutions to obtain approval for the provision of interim space and implement procedures for supporting the cost of such space. Once the lab is re-opened and research activity can resume or an interim location has been established, investigators may, in accordance with the policy of their institution, purchase replacement supplies and/or equipment with current funds. Unless restricted by term of award, unobligated balances may be used without prior approval. If specific funds are restricted, you should contact the Grants Management Officer listed on the NoA.  For the temporary host institutions, if a project is temporarily relocated and a consortium is developed between the two institutions, the host institution can receive their full F&A costs.  If deemed necessary, administrative supplements may be requested to provide additional funds.

Reminders on Existing Authorities under NIH Standard Terms of Award
As a general reminder, NIH Standard Terms of Award include several automatic authorities that may prove helpful for impacted grantees.

  • No-Cost Extensions:  Unless otherwise restricted, all NIH grantees retain the authority to extend the final budget period of a project period without additional funds.  Notification of this action is required through the eRA Commons No-Cost Extension feature.
  • Carryover of Unobligated Balances:  Many NIH grants include a provision to automatically carry over an unobligated balance from one budget period to any subsequent budget period.  Grantees should check the Notice of Award to determine if carryover is an automatic provision or requires NIH prior approval.
  • Cost Related Prior Approvals:  NIH prior approval is not required to rebudget funds for any direct cost item that the applicable cost principles identify as requiring prior approval, unless the incurrence of costs is associated with, or is considered to be, a change in scope. 
  • Transfer of Performance of Substantive Programmatic Work to a Third Party:  Prior approval by the NIH awarding IC is not required to transfer the performance of already peer reviewed programmatic work unless the activity constitutes a change in scope or results in the transfer of substantive programmatic work to a foreign component. 

For more information on these authorities, as well as authorities that do require NIH prior approval, see Sections 8.1 and 8.2 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement.  

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Division of Grants Policy
Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration
Office of Extramural Research
(301) 435-0949
NIHGHR@nih.gov
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/natural_disasters.htm

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