September 12, 2022
NOT-OD-22-049 - Notice of Change to NIH’s Policy on Special Council Review of Research Applications
NOT-OD-12-140- Notice of NIH Special Council Review of Research Applications from PDs/PIs with More than $1.0 Million Direct Costs in Annual NIH Support
NOT-NS-18-060 - NINDS Announces Modifications to Special Council Review Policy (Rescinded)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
This Notice announces modifications to the Special Council Review (SCR) policy, which pertains to well-funded Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) [PD(s)/PI(s)] submitting applications to NINDS. The policy: (1) sets an NIH funding threshold of $2 million in total costs, that requires special review of a pending application by the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council and; (2) sets a more stringent payline for pending applications that cause a PD/PI to exceed this threshold.
In September 2012, NIH implemented the SCR policy, whereby Advisory Councils were instructed to provide additional scrutiny of new and renewal applications from investigators already receiving $1 million or more in direct cost NIH Research Project Grant (RPG) funding. The 2012 NIH policy recognized that institute-specific variations of the general policy could be developed in consultation with individual Councils. The NANDS Council discussed the NIH policy at its September 2017 and February 2018 meetings, and approved the modified policy. The goals of this policy are: (1) to permit the Institute to fund a larger, more diverse pool of researchers and (2) to ensure that PIs have sufficient bandwidth to oversee rigorous research and effective mentorship in their laboratories.
In February 2022, NIH updated the SCR policy to align with updated Other Support disclosure requirements and to increase the threshold from $1 million in direct costs per year to $2 million in total costs (inclusive of direct and indirect) per year. The NANDS Council discussed the shift from 1 million direct costs to 2 million total costs at its May 2022 meeting and approved NINDS modified policy to be consistent with the NIH revised threshold (see NOT-OD-22-049). This modification notice serves to update to the NINDS Special Council Review (SCR) policy to be consistent with the NIH revised SCR threshold.
Under the NINDS SCR policy, a well-funded investigator is defined as an individual with NIH research support exceeding $2 million in total costs, including the pending application, at the time of the Council meeting. For the purposes of this policy, only research support for which the investigator is the PI or Co-PI will be considered.
All competing applications from well-funded investigators with primary assignment to NINDS (with exceptions noted below) will be subject to a percentile payline that is ½ of the NINDS payline for the Council round in question (https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Funding/About-Funding/NINDS-Funding-Strategy; if the payline is an odd number, the SCR payline will be rounded down to the next integer. For questions about applications that are not percentiled, applicants should contact the individual noted below for further information. Exceptions to this policy will be rare, and will be determined after review by NINDS staff, the NANDS Council, and NINDS leadership.
Competing applications for P01s, Centers, and other Multi-Component RPGs are included in this policy. Multi-PD/PI projects will also be subject to the policy if one or more of the PD/PIs has NIH research support exceeding $2 million total costs inclusive of the pending application. Applications that will be excluded from this policy include those intended to support training, conferences, core facilities, and research resources. Applications submitted in response to SBIR/STTR solicitations and to a small number of specially designated Funding Opportunity Announcements will also be excluded.
In identifying well-funded investigators, active NIH research support will be considered except awards that support training, conferences, core facilities, research resources, and SBIR/STTR activities. An individual PD/PI’s financial allocation on Multi-PD/PI and multi-component projects will be used to determine that individual’s level of support. Grants that are in a no-cost extension and single year competitive and administrative supplements will not be included in this determination.
Factors that may contribute to a funding recommendation beyond the SCR payline include conducting types of research that are inherently costly, the PD/PI’s available bandwidth to commit time and effort commensurate with the application’s complexity and scope, and the type, source and end dates of the PD/PI’s other NIH support. PDs/PIs will be permitted to temporarily exceed the $2 million threshold for a period of no more than 90 days to ensure continuity of funding support. PDs/PIs may also discontinue previously funded grants to begin work on the new project.
Please visit the NINDS website for additional details and a list of Frequently Asked Questions. NINDS recognizes that this policy may change the research plans for some laboratories, but the intent is to advance the mission of the Institute by supporting a larger, more diverse group of investigators.
Alisa Schaefer, Ph.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke