Recently I had the opportunity to make a new friend in Texas (shout out to Suzanne). We were talking about our pending forms update (FORMS-D) and she mentioned that there is some angst in the community about it. The truth is NIH grants policy and the application process are continuously changing and adapting to new requirements. New policies and form updates are par for the course. It's the unknown that makes us anxious. If we know exactly what to expect and how to plan for a change, we can deal with it. So, this edition of Items of Interest is dedicated to reducing angst by removing the unknown and pointing out resources already available to help you plan ahead.
FORMS-D Application Changes
Let's start by talking about what's changing with FORMS-D.
Although FORMS-D application guides will not be available until March 25, NOT-OD-16-004 and the guide notices linked from it give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from a policy perspective. Since that notice was issued, we've delayed the rigor and transparency changes for individual fellowship and training FOAs (NOT-OD-16-034) and we won't be posting a new appendix policy right now, but the rest stands.
Curious about what the forms themselves will look like? This annotated form set provides a preview of the forms and how the new fields will be enforced. It displays the forms as they would show if you use Grants.gov's downloadable forms option for submission, but the same forms, form fields and guidance apply regardless of submission option even if the display is slightly different. You might also find this high-level list of FORMS-D pre-award form changes handy.
You'll find most of the forms haven't changed substantially. However, there has been a significant reorganization of fields on the following forms that you'll want to become familiar with:
- PHS 398 Career Development Award Supplemental Form
- PHS 398 Research Training Program Plan
- PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form
Now let's talk timing.
You must use FORMS-D for applications to due dates on or after May 25, 2016. The choice of forms is determined by the actual due dates listed in the funding opportunity announcement, not the date you submit your application.
It is important that applications reviewed together use the same forms and instructions to provide consistent and fair review. Consequently, you can't use FORMS-D for due dates prior to May 25 and you can't use FORMS-C for due dates on or after May 25. If you are submitting late for a due date before May 25, you must use FORMS-C. If you are submitting early for a due date on or after May 25 you must use FORMS-D.
We'll start posting FORMS-D in a few weeks. We'll post new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) with FORMS-D packages for all parent, fellowship and career development announcements. We'll add FORMS-D application packages to all other active FOAs without reissue.
We will do our best to have the updated forms available 60 days prior to the first FORMS-D due date. Some reissued fellowship and career development FOAs may not be available a full 60 days in advance, but all will be available at least 30 days prior to their first due date.
Selecting the Correct Forms – FORMS-C vs. FORMS-D
For a short time during our transition between FORMS-C and FORMS-D, it will be possible to get through our electronic systems with the incorrect form version. During this period, NIH receipt and referral staff will check your form version after you submit as part of the manual validations they typically perform. If everything is OK, they will assign your application for further processing. If a problem is found, you will be notified that your application will not be accepted for funding consideration. You will not be allowed to submit a late application to correct the version of forms used.
We'll help you make good form choices by adding:
- Splash screens displayed when you click the "Apply" buttons in your FOA;
- Descriptions with FORMS-D packages to "Use for due dates on or after May 25, 2016";
- ASSIST warning messages upon initiation of an application;
- Warning messages presented with your validation results upon submission; and
- Reminders in NIH Guide notices, Nexus articles, presentations and any other place we can think to put them.
But, ultimately it is up to you to choose correctly.
If you are working with applications that are already in progress and you want to verify which form set is being used, the "Do I Have The Right Forms For My Application?"resource describes how to tell FORMS-C from FORMS-D.
Administrative Actions & FORMS-D
Administrative supplement, successor-in-interest, and change of institution requests are non-competing so we don't have the same concerns regarding fairness of review that are present with grant applications.
We have one successor-in-interest, one change of institution FOA and three administrative supplement parent announcements that will be reissued on May 25 with FORMS-D. We also have an additional eight administrative supplement FOAs that will be updated on May 25 to add a FORMS-D package to the existing FOAs without reissue (NOT-OD-16-068).
Any requests started on or after May 25 must use FORMS-D. If you started a request using FORMS-C, make sure you complete the submission process by June 24 when our systems will stop accepting FORMS-C administrative supplement, successor-in-interest, and change of institution applications.
Continuous Submission & FORMS-D
Planning on submitting a R01, R21 or R34 application under our continuous submission policy in the coming months?
I indicated earlier that the due date you are submitting to determines your form package. For continuous submission, use the due date you would have been held to if not eligible for continuous submission.
- February/March 2016 due dates – use FORMS-C; your applications will be assigned to October council if you submit on or before April 16
- May 7, 2016 AIDS due date – use FORMS-C and complete your submission by May 23 to be assigned to October council (note this is an earlier cut-off than is standard)
- June/July 2016 due dates – use FORMS-D; you will be able to begin submitting FORMS-D applications as early as April 17 for January council
FORMS-D Application Guides
* Draft application guide home page teaser *
Last fall we asked for your input on how we could simplify and improve our application instructions. Hopefully some of you provided feedback. We are now starting to act on the feedback received. It's pretty exciting. We've teased out the logistics of submitting (stuff like registrations, submission options, formatting information, etc.) and developed web pages for that content to link to. The new web pages use plain language and bulleted content to make the information more consumable.
We have also revamped the form instructions to be more clear, consistent and concise. We'll provide HTML and PDF versions of the general application guide that can be used for any opportunity announcement. We'll also provide a set of filtered application guides in PDF format that pull out the information from the general guide needed for specific program types (research, small business, fellowship, career development, training and multi-project).
This is the first phase of our application guide project. Later phases will allow you to filter the HTML version by program type and potentially even FOA.
Quote of the Day
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
At least none of us have to go to the dance alone.
Communications & Outreach
NIH Office of Extramural Research