Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Administrative Supplements to Support Enhancement of Software Tools for Open Science
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

April 5, 2021

First Available Due Date:
May 15, 2021
Expiration Date:
May 16, 2021

Related Announcements

PA-20-272 - Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)

NOT-OD-20-073 - Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Administrative Supplements to Support Enhancement of Software Tools for Open Science

Issued by

Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)

National Eye Institute (NEI)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

National Library of Medicine (NLM)

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)


This Notice announces the continuing availability of administrative supplements NOT-OD-20-073 to active awards that focus on biomedical software development or have a significant software development component. The goal of these supplements is to invest in research software tools with recognized value in a scientific community to enhance their impact by leveraging best practices in software development and advances in cloud computing. This initiative is part of a plan for implementing the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science which describes actions aimed at modernizing the biomedical research data ecosystem and making data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) with high impact for open science. The supplements are intended to support collaborations between biomedical scientists and software engineers to enhance the design, implementation, and “cloud-readiness” of research software. Through these awards, the NIH Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) intends to help researchers who have developed scientifically valuable software to make tools sustainable, contribute to open science, and take advantage of new data science and computing paradigms.


As part of their research projects, investigators often produce innovative, scientifically valuable software tools. The tools have enabled scientists to efficiently process, manage, mine, analyze, visualize, and interpret biomedical research data. However, much of this valuable software has been built and supported under conditions that are no longer optimal in a rapidly changing technical and scientific landscape. Additionally, investigators lack the resources to adapt and revise the software to take advantage of new technologies and computing paradigms. As part of the ODSS mission to catalyze data science strategy and implementation at NIH, the goal of this opportunity is to help researchers redeploy and optimize these research software tools to be robust and sustainable in a shared data and cloud computing ecosystem envisioned by the NIH, to meet growing computing challenges of big data processing and analysis, and to be accessible to a broader community.

The challenges are considerable. For example, many tools were developed and customized for data held on-premises, often optimized for local computing platforms (including the supporting libraries) and cannot be readily scaled or applied to open science data, such as data stored in a cloud environment. Software tools have often been developed in academic settings in absence of input from software engineers or industry professionals who could aid in this transition to operational efficiency and sustainability. There have been few practical ways to support joint efforts between researchers and software engineers with skills to develop and revise research tools for robust design, accessibility and scalability on modern computing platforms. The traditional grant funding process has emphasized innovation for research progress over the use of software engineering best-practices and design principles, which are essential for reliability and sustainability in an era of large-scale, integrated data.

Building a robust software foundation is expected to speed progress across biomedical research and clinical translation. A first round of ODSS software supplements (supported by NOT-OD-20-073) includes a wide range of projects across NIH ICs and diverse approaches.

It is the NIH vision to establish a modernized and integrated biomedical data ecosystem that adopts the latest data science technologies, including cloud computing, AI technology, and best practice guidelines arising from community consensus, such as the FAIR principles and open-source development. This effort is described in the NIH Data Science Strategic Plan and led by ODSS. In addition to major efforts in IT infrastructure, data resources, workforce development, and policy considerations, the data science strategic plan includes goals to enhance software and workflows for the modern data ecosystem.

Research Objective

The goal of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to encourage researchers to engage in new types of collaborations that focus on improving the quality and sustainability of research software from a software engineering perspective. Supplements will support efforts that address robustness, sustainability, reusability, and scalability of existing biomedical research software tools and workflows of recognized scientific value. These efforts are expected to adhere to software engineering best practices and design principles and take significant steps toward sustainability in open source cloud-based environments. A broad range of projects that have significant biomedical research software or workflow development components are eligible, regardless of the scientific area of emphasis. The scope of each proposed project is defined by and limited to the aims of the funded project for which the supplement is being sought. Significant software engineering skills are expected to be needed to develop robust implementations and to adapt the software to changing computing paradigms.

These skills may need to be found through new collaborations either within or across institutions. Thus, the supplements are primarily intended to provide support for software engineering staff and storage and computing costs that are required to improve software tools with significant user base or demonstrated potential for community adoption.

Delivering reliable, sustainable, and reusable software across multiple platforms is a whole-lifecycle effort, as illustrated in the following examples. Software development can be improved with enhancements to the development environment, including resources for building, testing, and community contribution. Robustness and reliability can be improved through active community engagement to contribute to code made available with appropriate open source licensing. Reusability can be enhanced by improving dissemination channels for important algorithms and tools (e.g., inclusion in package distribution channels), by publication of tools in shared container registries, and by refinement of operating manuals. Interoperability and reusability can be enhanced by adding compliance with open interfaces and data formats, especially through engagement in relevant communities and standards efforts. Refactoring can be performed to take advantage of new hardware or compute environments (e.g. parallelizing a process or using a standard workflow language that can run in cloud environments).

Projects can propose to test cloud-readiness in a local, commercial, or public cloud environments. Working with the NIH STRIDES initiative ( is strongly encouraged. Cloud readiness is a blanket term that can encompass a range of activities. In this announcement, cloud readiness refers to adapting to cloud architecture and extending the usefulness of software.

Examples to produce robust, sustainable or cloud-ready research software include, but are not limited to:

  • Adding APIs and services and reducing coupling and complex shared state
  • Decomposing and decoupling services from explicitly encoded data sources
  • Employing standard security that relies on cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM) models
  • Improving architecture to reduce chattiness over the network and to minimize data ingress/egress charges in cloud environments
  • Adopting standard input and output data formats
  • Factoring configuration of services into environment variables and configuration properties for deployment
  • Implementing standard logging models
  • Converting tools to provide clean input, output, and configuration that make them more usable in composition via workflow languages
  • Enhancing source code and build/test tools to support community open source development,
    • developing standard build and packaging tools to manage dependencies and produce containerized runtimes
    • formatting packages for sharing via common package management tools appropriate to the language and environment
  • Enhancing standard unit and functional testing support and sample data sets for testing patches and upgrades
  • Improving performance through improved logging, monitoring, code profiling and optimization, taking advantage of parallelization, or use of GPUs

The supplement application must provide details of how the best software engineering practices and design principles will be employed in the supplement project. Examples of relevant projects that address one or more of the challenges toward becoming ready for open science and cloud environment include, but are not limited to:

  • Provisioning of standard source code structure, documentation, version management, build and test support in codebases that promotes community open source enhancement.
  • Refactoring of software to incorporate standard interfaces and data formats, replacement of built-in dependencies with standard and hardened libraries.
  • Adding APIs and services to software, especially when compliant to community standards
  • Refactoring software to scale efficiently on the cloud.
  • Containerization of software and entry into a tool registry.
  • Enhancing usability, interoperability and scalability under increasing load, including making use of enhanced hardware and clustering technology.
  • Enhancing security and privacy protection.

Supplement applications must i) demonstrate that to-be-improved software is being used by the scientific community by describing its user base or demonstrate clear potential for increased adoption by the user community and ii) discuss how the proposed improvements will help to increase the number of users and community diversity as well as the usage, and impact of the software.

Projects involving significant new scientific features as opposed to software engineering are NOT appropriate for this NOSI.

Projects with no active software development components that would like to add one are NOT eligible for this NOSI.

Application and Submission Information


To be eligible, the parent award must be able to receive funds in FY2021 (Oct. 1, 2020 - Sept. 30, 2021) and not be in the final year or in a no-cost extension period at the time of the award.

Projects that have already received awards under NOT-OD-20-073 are NOT eligible for this NOSI.

One-time supplement budget requests cannot exceed $150,000 direct costs. The number of awards will be contingent on availability of funds and receipt of meritorious applications. It is currently anticipated that 15 awards or more will be made depending on available funds.

Eligible Activity Codes:

Additional funds may be awarded as supplements to parent awards using any Activity Code, with the following exceptions. Small business activity codes (e.g. R41, R42, R43, R44, U44, and Fast Track), as well as G20, PS1, P60, R13, U13, U42, UG1, and S10 are NOT ELIGIBLE. Note that not all participating NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) support all the activity codes that may otherwise be allowed. Applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to consult the program officer of the parent grant to confirm eligibility.

Centers and multi-project grant mechanisms are eligible but must provide a strong justification for why existing funds cannot be reallocated toward the proposed project.

For awards that are already primarily funded to deliver software resources to the community (e.g., R24, U24, P41), applicants should provide strong justification for why additional funds are needed to support software enhancement and best practices, given that these activities could already be supported through the parent award.

Additional Information

Applications for this initiative must be submitted using the following opportunity or its subsequent reissued equivalent.

  • PA-20-272 - Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and PA-20-272 must be followed, with the following additions:

  • Application Due Date(s) – May 15, 2021 by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization.
  • For funding consideration, applicants must include "NOT-OD-21-091" (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.
  • Requests may be for one year of support only.
  • The Project Summary should briefly summarize the parent grant and describe the goals of the supplement project.
  • The Specific Aims page should provide the name or clearly identify the software that is the subject of the supplement project.
  • The Research Strategy section of the application is limited to 3 pages. Research Strategy should include justification of the value of the software to the scientific community such as significant user base or clear potential for increased adoption and community access. Research Strategy should clearly indicate how supplement uses best software engineering practices and design principles and provide a software engineering plan with timelines for the activities proposed. The software engineering team skills and expertise should be described.
  • The Budget Justification should clearly explain team member contributions to the proposed work.

Administrative Evaluation Process

Submitted applications must follow the guidelines of the IC that funds the parent grant. Administrative Supplements do not receive peer review. Each IC will conduct administrative reviews of applications submitted to their IC separately. The most meritorious applications will be evaluated by a trans-NIH panel of NIH staff and supported based upon availability of funds. The criteria described below will be considered in the administrative evaluation process:

  1. Is the work proposed within the scope of the active award?
  2. Is the active award to be supplemented focused on software tool/workflow development, or is it a significant component of the award?
  3. Does the user base justify this additional support? Will the proposed improvements help to increase the number of users and the impact of the software significantly?
  4. Is the proposed project technically feasible within the supplement's funding period?
  5. Are the proposed timelines adequate and realistic?
  6. Is the proposed supplement project focused on software engineering for robust, sustainable software that is “cloud ready” (as opposed to enhancing scientific value)?
  7. Does the project demonstrate sound software development practices, improve performance, interoperability, portability or reliability, community engagement, sustainability, and adoption?

Other Information:

It is strongly recommended that the applicants contact their respective program officers at the Institute supporting the parent award in advance to:

  • Confirm that the supplement falls within scope of the parent award;
  • Request the requirements of the IC for submitting applications for administrative supplements

Investigators planning to submit an application in response to this NOSI are also strongly encouraged to contact and discuss their proposed research/aims with the scientific contact listed on this NOSI in advance of the application receipt date.

Following submission, applicants are strongly encouraged to notify the program contact at the IC supporting the parent award that a request has been submitted in response to this FOA in order to facilitate efficient processing of the request.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Fenglou Mao

Office of Data Science Strategy
Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives
Office of the Director
Telephone: 301-451-9389

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