NIH Guide, Volume 25, Number 23, July 12, 1996


P.T. 34


  Grants Administration/Policy+ 



National Institutes of Health

This is the fourth status report on NIH reinvention activities.  The

previous reports were published in the NIH Guide for Grants and

Contracts, Vol. 23, No. 44, December 16, 1994; Vol. 24, No. 14, April

14, 1995, and Vol. 24, No. 40, November 24, 1995.  The initiatives

described below represent the high priority areas for the NIH at this

time.  Initiatives that have been fully implemented and described in

previous status report are not repeated below, nor are other

initiatives that are under preliminary discussion and not yet at the

pilot testing stage.


As the NIH continues to undertake reinvention activities and new

initiatives, we recognize the need to establish a framework to

provide the necessary structure for optimal interactions and

complementarity of the various reinvention activities.  The framework

delineates four major goals for reinvention: (1) maximize scientific

opportunities through optimal use of resources; (2) enhance NIH

interactions with the scientific community; (3) clarify and

streamline decision-making processes; and (4) focus internal

operations on outcomes and results.  Each of these goals are further

developed into specific reinvention objectives, and the plan is to

use these goals and objectives as guide-posts as the NIH moves

forward with the myriad of reinvention projects.


The initiatives described in this report support the reinvention

goals mentioned above.  For example, the electronic research

administration (ERA) initiative is developed as a set of tools and

systems that enable the NIH to improve its interactions with the

scientific community.  Other reinvention goals are met through

initiatives that streamline the application processes, focus peer

review and Council or Board functions, reduce administrative burdens

for the grantee institutions and the NIH staff, etc.  Collectively,

they are aimed to achieve the NIH mission: to improve health through



The NIH reinvention laboratory, as designated under Vice President

Gore's National Performance Review (, is an open

forum, grounded on the important principles that value its employees

and their input as well as feedback from the scientific community.

Reinvention is an evolving operation, which will continue to rely on

the valued input of all interested parties.


Comments or suggestions on the implemented changes and pilot

experiments are welcome and may be sent to the following email







under way) -- This initiative represents a commitment to improve

administrative operations through information technologies and

reengineering of process.  A key feature of the reengineering effort

is the idea of maintaining the information required for various NIH

processes within a client-server common file database.  This common

file is envisioned as the electronic interface between the NIH and

the awardee community and the repository for information generated

during the life cycle of each award.  The database would be

accessible to authorized applicants, awardees and NIH staff, who

could each review and add information as required.  Proposed

components of the system include the application shell, institutional

profile, status system (including review dates, scores, and summary

statements), notice of grant award, invention reporting, progress

reporting, and other required reporting (e.g., women and minorities

in clinical research, trainee appointments, and financial reporting).

Of these, four are currently in pilot mode: the application shell,

invention reporting (EDISON), trainee appointments, and streamlined

noncompeting award process (SNAP).  (updated 7/96)


under way) -- Under a Department of Energy (DOE) Cooperative

Agreement, the NIH and several Department of Defense (DoD) agencies

are participating in a pilot study to test a new system for the

submission of grant application information. These agencies and eight

research institutions will test the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

standards developed collaboratively by the Federal agencies. Key

administrative information in R01 grant applications, such as face

page information, scientific abstract, certain budget items, and

personal data for the Principal Investigator (but not including the

project description), will be submitted directly into NIH's database,

without intervening paper copies or manual rekeying of data.  The

rest of the application will be submitted on paper.  The

"institutional profile" will contain administrative information

specific to each grantee organization that can be electronically

linked to grant applications through the use of unique,

organizational, identifying numbers.  The institutional profile

database will eliminate the need to provide the same information for

each application submitted by an organization.  By using EDI

standards, commercial software vendors will be able to develop

software that can create data streams for transmission to the NIH

without the need for compatible processing systems.  In December

1995, the NIH began receiving test EDI submissions from several of

the cooperative agreement participants.  The next phase of the pilot

is to test the integration of grant application information submitted

electronically with the IMPAC II data system. (updated 7/96)


EDISON INVENTION REPORTING: (on-going production) -- The system,

designed to receive, store, sort, and report, is now in production

with forty grantee organizations authorized to report inventions,

patents, and licensing information resulting from NIH support.

Additional organizations continue to participate, and all grantee

organizations are encouraged to explore the EDISON homepage

(  EDISON uses a world wide web

(WWW) interface in a client server architecture whereby authorized

grantee organizations and NIH staff can access a shared relational

database. By using a browser that supports secure socket layer

standards, e.g., Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer, grantees

are able to send their information in a fully secured electronic

environment.  Data can be viewed and modified in real time in an

interactive setting.  An additional version of EDISON has been

designed to simplify submission of invention information for grantee

organizations with resident databases.  Rather than asking these

organizations to rekey information into EDISON via the web browser,

the NIH has developed software, available free for use on all

platforms.  The software, called Internet Talkers, will enable

computer to computer transfer of data and is now in beta testing.


As a result of interagency cooperation and collaboration, most of the

Federal agencies with invention reporting requirements such as DoD,

USDA, NSF, DOE, USAID will be using EDISON as the common interface to

government invention reporting in the near future.  Further efforts

to this end involve elaboration of the EDISON data elements to become

a full public standard and finalization of a transaction set to be

presented to the American National Standard Institute X12 committee.


Many features of the user friendly EDISON prototype such as

differential access to data, electronic security, and establishing

test accounts to try out the system will be incorporated in future

electronic research administration projects deployed by NIH such as

the Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP), the status system,

and institutional profile.  (updated 7/96)



way) -- The Office of Extramural Research (OER) has developed an

interface for the collection of trainee appointment information. Like

EDISON, the trainee appointment system is an interface on the world

wide web (WWW) through which information about trainees appointed to

a National Research Service Act (NRSA) Institutional Research

Training Grant may be entered. This system will replace the printed

Statement of Appointment form 2271.  All eight DOE Cooperative

Agreement demonstration centers are participating in the pilot

project.  It is anticipated that this system of reporting will be

expanded to additional grantee users in FY 97.  (updated 7/96)



will be piloted in September 1996)--In FY 95, NIH instituted a

simplified noncompeting award process (SNAP) for the majority of

noncompeting continuation awards that carry the expanded authorities

(see notice in the NIH GUIDE 1/20/95 and the PHS 2590).  Under SNAP,

certain components of the noncompeting application are not required

if there are no significant changes.  This streamlined process

eliminated, where nonessential, two of the financial documents that

were part of the noncompeting application kit (PHS 2590): a

categorical budget for the next budget period and an estimated report

of expenditures for the current budget period.  Three key questions

must be answered in the annual progress report pertaining to

significant changes in budget (rebudgeting or unobligated balance),

other support, and effort of key personnel.  If these responses

indicate significant changes, then the supporting documentation

(e.g., budget page) must be provided; if they are in the negative,

then the budget and/or other support pages do not need to be

submitted.  In FY 96, NIH implemented Phase II of SNAP (see the NIH

GUIDE 10/27/95), in which the Notice of Grant Award was changed to

reflect only direct and indirect costs and indirect costs are now

included in the future year recommended levels.


In an attempt to further streamline the non-competing process, in FY

97 the NIH is implementing Phase III of SNAP by modifying the

financial reporting requirements.  Effective for SNAP awards with

budget start dates of July 1, 1995 or later, the annual Financial

Status Report (FSR, SF 269) will no longer be required.  The FSR will

only be required at the end of each competitive segment rather than

at the end of the budget period.  It is important to stress that this

change in administrative requirements does not alter the grantee's

responsibility to account for costs on a project basis and ensure

that grant funds are expended in accordance with all applicable grant

regulations and policies in support of the approved project.  A

detailed notice is published in the NIH GUIDE (Volume 25, Number 22,

July 5, 1996) to further explain implementation guidelines for SNAP

Phase III.


Consistent with the ERA initiative, the Office of Extramural Research

(OER) is developing a World Wide Web-based procedure for electronic

submission of the SNAP information. This function, which eventually

will be a part of the common file, will permit the applicant to

submit electronically all the information necessary to initiate the

noncompeting award process for SNAP awards. The principal

investigator (PI) will see on the computer screen the information

that NIH has on file for that grant. The PI and institution business

official will then be able to make changes in that information, as

appropriate, and add the progress report. Once the information has

been submitted to NIH, it will be presented automatically to the

program and grants management staff responsible for preparing the

noncompeting award.  It is expected that the electronic SNAP pilots

will begin this fall and will involve testing with several Federal

Demonstration Project participants, including the 8 DOE cooperative

agreement participants.  (updated 7/96)



Beginning in 1993, 11 federal agencies began to develop an integrated

approach to electronic commerce in research administration.  The term

'electronic commerce' is used broadly to include any use of automated

information systems or electronic data that drives paper from the

work place -- in the agencies and in the research community.

Electronic commerce requires a variety of tools operating in many

different environments to be successful.  The tools include

electronic mail, electronic funds transfer (EFT), electronic data

interchange (EDI), World Wide Web (WWW), CD-ROM, electronic imaging,



The agencies have developed a strategic plan to guide their

electronic commerce activities.  The plan is grounded in the

important principles that government-wide standards and multiple

agency approaches should be developed wherever appropriate and

practicable, while providing flexibility for each agency's unique

mission and business requirement.  The agencies have implemented

several pilot projects, e.g., NIH Edison, NSF FastLane, DOE

Electronic Research Administration, and ONR Electronic Invoicing.

Based on the results of such pilot projects, the agencies will

develop standards and systems that provide a variety of

implementation assuring a common interface (e.g., a common interface

for retrieving status information for multiple agencies).  In

establishing a shared system for organization or institution

profiles, the obvious benefit is the reduction of applicants'

repetitive submission of standard, seldom changing information, e.g.,

when the same or similar proposal is submitted to multiple agencies.

Other benefits to the agencies and the recipient institutions are

cost and time savings in receiving and evaluating proposals and also

simplifying the awards process.


The agencies will continue to use a wide variety of outreach

mechanisms to assure the involvement of and communication with

institutions, researchers, and others affected by electronic commerce

in research administration.





experiments)-- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious

Diseases (NIAID) is posting all of its RFPs on the NIH Gopher server.

A substantial savings in the cost of mailing and copying, and in

contract staff effort will be realized through electronic

distribution of RFPs.  The re-engineered RFP provides information in

a more logical sequence, making the process of reviewing the document

much more efficient and effective for potential offerors.  For

example, the information generally used by potential offerors to

determine their interest in responding to a requirement (the Work

statement, Delivery/Reporting Requirements, and Evaluation Criteria)

is now contained in the first section of the RFP.  Instructions for

proposal preparation and other documents (the contract format,

clauses, and required forms) appear in separate sections.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung, and

Blood Institute (NHLBI) have developed standard language for RFPs

posted on the Gopher server.  Other ICDs are expected to begin

posting RFPs on the Gopher server using the standard language and

instructions.  (updated 7/96)


PAPERLESS ACQUISITION: (pilot experiment) -- The NIAID is developing

a system that will provide for electronic solicitation, receipt, and

review of proposals. The entire text of an RFP is being posted on the

Internet and will provide: information necessary for offerors to

assess the nature of the Government's requirement; instructions for

submitting an electronic proposal; and, details describing how

resultant proposals will be evaluated.  Proposals are planned to be

submitted by offerors and reviewed using electronic mail.  The

"paperless" acquisition system will reduce the time and expense of

all parties involved in the acquisition process.  (added 7/96)






AMENDED APPLICATIONS: ( October 1996) -- Beginning with the October

1996 receipt date, the NIH will no longer consider any A3 or higher

amendments to an application and, regardless of the number of

amendments, the NIH will not accept an amended application that is

submitted later than two years beyond the date of the receipt of the

initial, unamended application.


In FY 1995 the proportion of amended applications has risen to 34

percent of all research project grant (RPG) applications.

Approximately half of the unfunded grant applications are amended and

resubmitted in the hope that the quality of each resubmission will

have improved sufficiently to reach the payline.  Although a number

of these applications are eventually funded, the statistics also

indicate that investigators who receive initial funding based on an

amended application, whether for a new submission (Type 1) or a

competing renewal (Type 2), experience a lower success rate in

subsequent efforts to secure funding for a competing renewal

application, and the probability of subsequent success in the

competing renewal process diminishes as the number of amendments per

application goes up.  We believe that after three unsuccessful

attempts at funding, it is preferable for all applicants to take a

fresh start at their research plans.  Therefore, the NIH has adopted

a policy that limits the number of amendments to two.  This limit

allows principal investigators sufficient time to generate

preliminary data if it is required by the reviewers, and to consider

new findings in the area of research. (added 7/96)



APPLICATIONS: (fully implemented July 1994)-- The Division of

Research Grants (DRG) has the responsibility for the receipt and

assignment of all research grants to the appropriate ICs and initial

review group (IRG).  For each new application this referral process

requires time and careful attention to reference the aims of the

application with identified program areas of the ICs  and expertise

of the IRG.  Since amended and competitive continuation applications

have already gone through this referral process, the steps involved

in making the referral for these applications could be abbreviated by

automatically assigning these applications to the IC and IRG that

previously were assigned to the original application.  Of the 4,066

amended and competitive continuation applications that were received

in July 1994, 96 percent were successfully assigned using either a

fully automated referral to both ICs and IRG or partially automated

referral to ICs with re-evaluation of the IRG.  The most common

reasons for the need for re-evaluation of the IRG were that the

previous review had been conducted as a special review, thus the

review group no longer existed,  the investigator requested

assignment to a different review group, or the application had been

amended several times and required consideration for appropriate

assignment. (added 7/96)


JUST-IN-TIME:  (expanded pilot experiments) -- The basic principle of

"Just-in-Time" is to simplify and reduce the administrative and

paperwork burdens of preparing an NIH grant application without

compromising the initial review group determination of scientific

merit or reasonableness of the proposed budget.  Thus institutions

are not required to submit certain kinds of  information at the time

of application, such as detailed budget for the initial budget

period, the year-by-year categorical budget table, other support, and

the checklist.  An abbreviated budget justification and biographical

sketch will suffice.  The information for the applications with a

likelihood of funding is submitted "just-in-time" for awards to be

made.  This delayed exchange of information significantly relieves

the administrative burden for applicants who will not receive an



Beginning in FY 1996, all NIH ICs have been encouraged to incorporate

Just-In-Time procedures for RFAs, and the ICs may choose to

incorporate modular budget instructions as well (see below).  In

addition, beginning with the June 1, 1996 receipt date for

applications, all (new and revised) unsolicited First Independent

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