Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Supporting the Exploration of Cloud in NIH-supported Research
Notice Number:
NOT-OD-24-078

Key Dates

Release Date:

March 27, 2024

First Available Due Date:
June 18, 2024
Expiration Date:
June 19, 2026

Related Announcements

  •  November 24, 2023- Competing Revisions to Existing NIH Single Project Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Clinical Trial Optional).See NOFO PA-23-317

Issued by

Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS)

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 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 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)

Fogarty International Center (FIC)

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Purpose

This notice announces the availability of funds from the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) to NIH-managed or NIH-majority-funded projects that may benefit from using the cloud. The purpose of this announcement is to explore and test potential opportunities for leveraging cloud solutions to enhance existing NIH activities.  Projects already using cloud may apply to explore and test cloud capabilities not yet leveraged. This initiative is aligned with the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science, which describes actions aimed at building a better data infrastructure and a modernized data ecosystem.

Background

The NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science seeks to enable a highly efficient and effective biomedical and behavioral research data ecosystem to meet the increasing data management and analysis needs of NIH researchers in an era when the data volume and complexity from NIH-supported research are increasing rapidly. In particular, NIH seeks to support its researchers to obtain the needed computational capabilities including the access to latest hardware and software. Large scale cloud computing platforms (see NIST SP 800-145 for a definition of Cloud Computing) provide on-demand storage and computing power as well as various software and access to specialized hardware such as GPUs, making big-data research more accessible to the individual biomedical or behavioral researcher.

The potential impact and benefits from cloud computing can be difficult to realize for multiple reasons, many of which are disproportionately felt by under-resourced institutions and communities, and this understanding is consistent with the discussion in recent NIH Virtual Workshop on Broadening Cloud Computing Usage in Biomedical Research and responses from the RFI: NIH Programs to Increase Access to Cloud Computing to Diverse Biomedical Research Institutions. Challenges include a lack of resources for testing cloud-based solutions; uncertainty about costs associated with specific jobs and use cases in a cloud environment; and uncertainty about which workflows would benefit most from the cloud.

To address these challenges, NIH has introduced a cloud sandbox environment named Cloud Lab. This environment allows NIH researchers to explore cloud usage. Cloud Lab provides access to a comprehensive array of native cloud services. Users of Cloud Lab are incentivized with a small allocation of cloud credits for a predefined duration. Within Cloud Lab, researchers can delve into the realm of cloud computing, deploy prototypes of their data science projects, estimate the costs of their workloads, engage in practice exercises following cloud training, and experiment with new cloud technologies, etc. Currently, Cloud Lab provides access to three major commercial cloud platforms, and it is accessible to both NIH intramural and extramural users.

While Cloud Lab offers NIH researchers a chance to experiment with cloud technology and is beneficial for training and testing purposes, its support falls short for in-depth research projects. This funding opportunity aims to bolster the utilization of cloud resources beyond the capacity provided by Cloud Lab. Particularly, it seeks to back projects that aim to leverage the full potential of cloud computing in innovative and unexplored ways.

Research Objective

The goal of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to encourage and enable researchers to explore and test opportunities to enhance their research projects by incorporating cloud capabilities. Projects already using cloud may apply to explore and test cloud capabilities not yet leveraged.  Projects supported through this NOSI should result in improved understanding of how to best use cloud resources. Specifically, this opportunity is to support proof-of-concept explorations, measurements, or other tests of the suitability and feasibility of using cloud resources to enhance NIH-supported research projects. Proposed projects should result in a better understanding of which use cases are cost-effective or enable significant enhancements to strategic data science goals such as facilitating new discoveries through access to modern computing and storage platforms at scale; broadening and diversifying participation in NIH research; facilitating the interoperability of NIH data, for example, by enabling multi-cloud or cross-cloud architectures; enhancing existing projects by utilizing new cloud technologies; or improving the computational and cost efficiencies of research.  Applicants should consider the expertise needed for the proposed work and incorporate new partners, as needed.  

Applications in response to this NOSI are strongly encouraged to include the following information:

  1. A description of the research project that will be explored and tested in the cloud environment.
  2. A description of the cloud solution, which includes but not limited to the cloud services, the cloud service providers (CSPs), and the cloud architecture; and a description of the whole solution if any non-cloud specific software and non-cloud hardware is utilized. Applications may include a diagram(s) for the cloud and/or whole solution architecture.
  3. How the cloud solution will be leveraged.
  4. An assessment of the potential impact of cloud solutions on the project if shown to be successful.
  5. A plan to test and evaluate the impact of cloud solutions with respect to explicitly stated aims, what metrics will be used.
  6. Assurance that controlled access data or other sensitive information will be appropriately handled, and assurance that the proposed project will not be delayed due to the lack of required regulatory document(s). E.g., a description of the IT security certificate and/or data regulatory approval and/or other policy approval documents if applicable.
  7. Personnel and their expertise to carry out the proposed work, including collaborators with relevant cloud skills if needed.
  8. Timeline and milestones to carry out the proposed work in the funding period.

The funds provide in this funding opportunity may be used to support a variety of activities including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Assessing the feasibility and establishing a cost-effective cloud instance of an existing on-premises project; or of running on-prem jobs or workflows in the cloud.
  2. Assessing the feasibility of and establishing hybrid solutions that make use of both on-prem and cloud resources.
  3. Testing the feasibility of porting existing research projects, or parts of projects, to new hardware, using cloud services.
  4. Developing best practice of processing sensitive data such as Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the cloud.
  5. Exploring the benefits of shared computational environments or scaling of environments using cloud.
  6. Exploring potential efficiencies or computational benefits of running workflows, or parts of workflows, in the cloud.
  7. Exploring options that avoid or reduce data download/egress costs by carrying out data analysis in the cloud.

Awardees should be willing to participate in meetings organized by NIH.

Applications that are not appropriate and out of scope for this NOSI include:

  • Projects with no potential benefit from cloud resources.
  • Projects that do not include a way to measure or assess the suitability of cloud resources for particular aims. Projects that are unlikely to result in improved understanding of how to best use cloud resources.
  • Projects that need additional documents such as IT security certificate and/or data regulatory approval and/or other policy approval in order to conduct the proposed work after the application submission.
  • Applications that require more than one year to conduct the proposed scope of work.
  • Applications that do not explicitly meet all the requirements stated elsewhere in this NOSI.
  • Applications that are not an expansion of scope of the parent award.

ICO Specific Considerations

All of Us Research Program

As one of the largest, most diverse, and curated data sets in the U.S. the All of Us Research Program is a world-class scientific resource that provides the data, tools, and cloud-based infrastructure that enables diverse researchers at all career levels and multiple types of institutions to investigate complex, multidimensional, and intersecting influences on human health. The Researcher Workbench provides the opportunity to gain practical experience in advanced research and big data science, work with leading scientists, collaborate on team projects in shared spaces, support training and education, catalyze capacity building, facilitate knowledge mobilization, and generate findings for future grant support.  

The data available are described at Data Resources*, which is near the bottom of the web page on “Opportunities for Researchers”. Once registered (https://www.researchallofus.org/apply/), researchers can create research projects using collaborative workspaces, cohort-building tools, interactive notebooks, and more. Additional training is required to access the controlled tier, which includes more granular data on participants as well as whole genome sequence and genotyping data. The All of Us Research Hub (https://www.researchallofus.org/) and Support Hub (https://support.researchallofus.org/hc/en-us) can more information about accessing this resource. 

Application and Submission Information

Budget

To be eligible, the applicant must have an active parent NIH award with a minimum of two years remaining within the current project period at the time of application submission. The requested budget period cannot be more than 1 year and must be within the budget period of the parent award.

The total requested budget cannot exceed $200,000 direct cost including cloud resources. Please see Additional Information section if requesting budget for cloud services. The number of awards will be contingent on availability of funds and receipt of meritorious applications.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the program officer of the parent award to confirm eligibility and the allowed up limit of the requested budget.

Eligible Activity Codes

Applications must be submitted as Revision applications to the parent awards by using  PA-23-317 “Competing Revisions to Existing NIH Single Project Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Clinical Trial Optional)” , or any reissues of   PA-23-317  through the expiration date of this notice. The following activity codes are ELIGIBLE: R01, R15, R24, R33, R35, R37, R61, RF1, U01 and U24. Applicants are  strongly encouraged to consult the program officer of the parent award to confirm eligibility.

Additional Information

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and PA-23-317 must be followed, with the following additions:

  • For funding consideration, applicants must include "NOT-OD-24-078" (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B may not be considered for this initiative.
  • Applications in response to this Notice must follow application instructions and be submitted by the following dates: June 18, 2024; June 18, 2025; and June 18, 2026 by 5pm at the local time of the applicant organization to be considered in the corresponding Scientific Merit Review and Advisory Council Review cycle.
  • Select “Revision” in the “Type of Application” field.
  • The "Descriptive Title of the Applicant's Project" must match the title of the currently funded grant.
  • The Project Summary should briefly summarize the parent award and describe the goals of the proposed project.
  • Biosketches for additional staff may be included beyond the Key Personnel in order to document the strength of the cloud development staff.
  • The Introduction page should succinctly describe the parent award goals and relevant background for the project and indicate how the proposed supplement is in scope of the parent award.
  • The Specific Aims page should provide the name or clearly identify the project that is the subject of the proposed project.
  • The Research Strategy section of the application should succinctly justify the value of the project to the scientific community such as significant user base or clear potential for increased adoption and community access. Research Strategy should describe how the proposed project will be implemented including the cloud implementation, and how the implementation will be assessed, and provide an implementation and assessment plan with timelines for the proposed activities. This section should follow all guidelines and page limits as described in PA-23-317.
  • The applicants must outline the requested cloud resources including, but not limited to, data storage, computing, cloud software, data movement/egress, and other related cloud services in the Budget Justification section. The applicants must clearly state the CSP(s) they want to use and the budget they want to request for each CSP. Applicants are strongly encouraged to support their budget requests by including estimates from CSP’s pricing calculators if using commercial CSPs. Applicants affiliated with institutions enrolled in the NIH Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation, and Sustainability (STRIDES) Initiative are expected to reflect the STRIDES discounts in their budget requests if using STRIDES partnered CSPs.
  • The applicants are strongly encouraged to request an account in NIH Cloud Lab to test the feasibility of the proposed cloud approach.
  • The applicants must disclose cloud support they obtained for the proposed work from other sources, and provide justification why additional cloud support is needed.
  • The applicants must have obtained the necessary documents including but not limited to IT security certificate and/or data regulatory approval and/or other policy approval in order to perform the proposed work prior to the submission if applicable.

Evaluation Process

Submitted applications must follow the guidelines of the IC that funds the parent award. The applications will be evaluated by NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) by using the criteria described in PA-23-317. Following the CSR review, chosen applications will proceed to the Advisory Council of the parent awards for a second-round review before the final selection for award.

Other Information:

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

Potential applicants may contact the scientific contact listed on this NOSI in advance of the application receipt date for clarifications about the scope of this funding opportunity.

Applications nonresponsive to terms of this NOSI will be withdrawn from consideration for this initiative.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to the contacts in Section VII of the listed notice of funding opportunity with the following additions/substitutions:

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
cloudsupport@nih.gov