February 7, 2022
PA-20-272- Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)
NOT-OD-21-091 - Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Administrative Supplements to Support Enhancement of Software Tools for Open Science
NOT-OD-20-073- Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Administrative Supplements to Support Enhancement of Software Tools for Open Science
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
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)
This Notice announces the continuing availability of administrative supplements 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 and design principles in software development and advances in technology including 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 to make data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) and provide robust, scalable, sustainable tools and workflows with high impact for open science. The supplements are intended to support and encourage 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 their tools robust and sustainable, take advantage of new data science, software engineering, and computing paradigms, reach a broader community and contribute to open science.
As part of their research projects, investigators often produce innovative, scientifically valuable software tools that are essential for scientists to make use of 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.
The traditional grant funding process has emphasized innovation for research progress over the use of robust software engineering practices that have become essential for reliable software tools in an era of large-scale, integrated data. There have been few practical ways to support joint efforts between researchers and software engineers to develop and revise research tools according to well-recognized software engineering best practices and design principles. Thus, software tools for biomedical research to efficiently process, manage, mine, analyze, visualize, and interpret biomedical data have often been developed in academic settings in absence of input from software engineers or industry professionals that is needed for the transition to operational efficiency and sustainability that is envisioned by ODSS.
Two previous rounds of ODSS software supplements (supported by NOT-OD-20-073 and NOT-OD-21-091) have encompassed a wide range of research and translational projects reaching across NIH ICs and spanning many scientific domains. Building a robust software foundation is expected to speed progress across biomedical research and clinical translation and contribute towards 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 for open science arising from community consensus, such as FAIR principles and open-source development.
The goal of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to encourage and enable 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, portability, and scalability of existing biomedical research software tools and workflows of recognized scientific value. The goal of the opportunity is to improve software engineering fundamentals, going beyond software hardening or high-level user interaction. These projects are expected to adhere to software engineering best practices and design principles and take significant steps toward open science and sustainability in modern computing environments such as cloud or hybrid, distributed computing, and workflow systems. Projects to improve software engineering of significant research tools are sought regardless of the scientific area of emphasis. However these projects should not direct effort towards new research functions and must be in scope of the funded grant for which the supplement is being sought.
Significant software engineering skills are expected to be needed to develop robust tool implementations and to adapt software to changing computing paradigms. Thus, the supplements are primarily intended to provide support for software engineering staff with some allowance for other costs such as storage and computing that may be required to improve tools with significant user base or demonstrated potential for community adoption. New collaborations either within or across institutions are expected to be needed, which may include industry or academic partners. The notion of a “research software engineer, or RSE, has been offered as an important enabler of sustainable research software in academic settings, both in the US-RSE and internationally. Developing these skills, enhancing team science, and building a supporting ecosystem, are understood to be other potential benefits of these collaborations, along with extending reach across boundaries to engage new diverse participants.
Delivering reliable, sustainable, and reusable software across multiple platforms is awhole-lifecycleeffort, as illustrated with a few instances. Software can be improved by enhancing the development process, including addition of resources for building, testing, and managing change in an open source community. 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 with well-crafted operating manuals. Interoperability can be enhanced by incorporating open interfaces and data formats, especially through engagement in relevant communities and standards efforts. Refactoring can enhance portability and take advantage of new hardware or compute environments (e.g. parallelizing a process or using a standard workflow language that can run in cloud or hybrid environments).
Making software “cloud ready” can encompass the range of qualities of the ecosystem and software that allow it to be successfully adapted to environments (container, cloud/hybrid environments, distributed workflow systems) in a sustainable, secure, and scalable manner. Projects can propose to test software in a local, commercial, or public cloud and/or hybrid environments. Working with the STRIDES initiative is encouraged as relevant to the plan. It is further noted that portability of software tools across different cloud providers or environments is an important implication of the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science, and interoperability across clouds to support distributed analysis is a key goal of this effort.
The supplement application must provide details of how the best software engineering practices and design principles will be employed in the supplement project, including a plan for how the software will be shared (see https://datascience.nih.gov/tools-and-analytics/best-practices-for-sharing-research-software-faq). The plan should also describe how the software will be improved for open science and community engagement.
Examples that address one or more challenges toward building robust software suitable for open science and modern computing include, but are not limited to:
Supplement applications must (1) 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 (2) 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 for open science.
Projects involving significant new scientific features or developing new tools 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 FY2022 (Oct. 1, 2021 - Sept. 30, 2022) and not be in the final year or in a no-cost extension period as of July 1, 2022.
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 20 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 and the grant management 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 and clearly demonstrate benefit to open science and a broader community.
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.
Applications for this initiative must be submitted using the following opportunity or its subsequent reissued equivalent.
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:
It is strongly recommended that the applicants contact their respective program officers and grant management officer at the Institute supporting the parent award in advance to:
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.
Office of Data Science Strategy
Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives
Office of the Director
Division of Genomic Medicine
National Human Genome Research Institute