Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information

Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Funding Opportunity Title

NIMH Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (NIMH BRAINS) (R01)

Activity Code

R01 Research Project Grant

Announcement Type

Reissue of RFA-MH-15-600

Related Notices
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number


Companion Funding Opportunity


Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)


Funding Opportunity Purpose

The NIMH Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) award is intended to support the research and research career advancement of outstanding, exceptionally productive scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers and who plan to make a long term career commitment to research in specific mission areas of the NIMH. This award seeks to assist these individuals in launching an innovative clinical, translational, basic or services research program that holds the potential to profoundly transform the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of mental disorders. The NIMH BRAINS program will focus on the research priorities and gap areas identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan and the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.

Key Dates

Posted Date

February 17, 2017

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

May 20, 2017

Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

30 days prior to the application due date

Application Due Date(s)

June 20, 2017, June 20, 2018, June 20, 2019, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on these dates.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early to allow adequate time to make any corrections to errors found in the application during the submission process by the due date.

AIDS Application Due Date(s)

Not Applicable

Scientific Merit Review

October 2017, October 2018, October 2019

Advisory Council Review

January 2018, January 2019, January 2020

Earliest Start Date

April 2018, April 2019, April 2020

Expiration Date

New Date January 24, 2018 per issuance of NOT-MH-18-018. (Original Expiration Date: June 21, 2019)

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the Research (R) Instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. Applicants must read and follow all application instructions in the Application Guide as well as any program-specific instructions noted in Section IV. When the program-specific instructions deviate from those in the Application Guide, follow the program-specific instructions. Applications that do not comply with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Overview Information
Part 2. Full Text of the Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Section II. Award Information
Section III. Eligibility Information
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
Section V. Application Review Information
Section VI. Award Administration Information
Section VII. Agency Contacts
Section VIII. Other Information

Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Research Objectives

The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for recovery, prevention, and cure. An essential element of this mission is the support and career promotion of the future generation of exceptionally talented and creative new scientists who will transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses and enable NIMH to fulfill its vision of a world in which mental illnesses are prevented and cured. The NIMH supports a number of training and fellowship programs for pre- and postdoctoral training, as well as mentored career development awards for faculty in the early stages of their career. However, even with these career development mechanisms in place, to fulfill its mission of assuring a cadre of productive, highly innovative mental health investigators for the future, NIMH needs to support additional programs to identify and inspire the best new investigators and facilitate their establishing high impact, independent research programs in areas relevant to the mission of the NIMH. This award is intended to provide support for highly promising early stage investigators who may lack the preliminary data required for a traditional R01 and allow them to pursue their most innovative, creative, and potentially most impactful ideas at an earlier stage in their career.

Research Scope and Goals

To support its mission, NIMH has formulated a Strategic Plan with the following four overarching objectives:

1. Define the mechanisms of complex behaviors:

2. Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene:

3. Strive for prevention and cures:

4. Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research:

These four Strategic Objectives can be viewed as a cumulative progression that begins with promoting discovery in the brain and behavioral sciences in order to better understand the workings of the brain that can be translated to the study of mental disorders. In effect, our efforts to understand how changes in the brain can lead to mental illness will inform (and be informed by) fundamental research to understand the trajectories of mental illnesses across the lifespan and across diverse populations. By learning more about the trajectories by which mental illnesses develop, we hope to stimulate innovative psychosocial and biomedical approaches that can preempt or change these trajectories before mental illness occurs. Finally, we will retain a strong focus on public health impact and create better methods for ensuring that our research reaches all whose lives are affected by mental illness, as well as those who are dedicated to their care.

In order to identify outstanding basic, translational and clinical investigators at the formative stages of their careers and assist them in launching innovative research programs with the potential to transform our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of mental illness and develop innovative treatments and prevention strategies, the NIMH has established this program of R01 research grants intended for Early Stage Investigators (ESI) according to NIH policy (NOT-OD-09-013) . This program is designed specifically to support unusually creative investigators with highly innovative research ideas that may lack preliminary data necessary for a traditional R01. Accordingly, preliminary data are not required or expected but may be included to demonstrate feasibility. The program emphasizes both the potential of the Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) to be a future leader in the field and the innovation, creativity, and potential impact of the project. This program is expected to be highly competitive, and only a limited number of grants will be awarded per year.

Applicants must have a research career and a long-term commitment to a career in research on the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses consistent with the core mission areas of the NIMH. Applications submitted under this FOA are required to address one of the objectives of the NIMH strategic plan listed above. Applications that do not propose projects addressing one of the NIMH strategic objectives will not be reviewed.

The applications in this program are distinguished from most other research grants in that the projects include a statement of career goals relevant to the mission of the NIMH, active participation of an external advisory committee, and a commitment from the institution to actively support the research program development of PD/PI. Research projects proposed in response to this FOA will be expected to directly address the objectives and priorities of the NIMH strategic plan and to have a defined impact on our understanding of the pathophysiology, trajectories, effective treatment and/or prevention of mental illness. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIMH Scientific/Research staff prior to submission to determine if their project meets the goals of the BRAINS program.

Project Effort for mentored K-awardees: Mentored K awardees are encouraged to seek R01 or equivalent funding to support their research programs. Therefore, NIMH expects that such awardees may be particularly interested in seeking support through the BRAINS R01 program. Such PDs/PIs are encouraged to consult with their mentored K Program Official at NIH prior to submission to ensure that the large effort commitments of both awards are feasible for their individual circumstance. However, since the BRAINS program requires a minimum of 6 person months per year, BRAINS K-Awardees should not apply unless they will be in the final two years of the K-Award at the time of a BRAINS award in light of NIH policy limiting reduction in minimum required percent effort for K recipients (see NIH Guide NOT-OD-09-036).

Applications with data collection plans that involve multiple respondent groups (e.g., clients/patients, therapists/providers, supervisors, administrators) should address provisions for human subject protections and consenting procedures for all participant groups, accordingly. The NIMH has published updated policies and guidance for investigators regarding human research protection and clinical research data and safety monitoring (NOT-MH-15-025). The application’s Protection of Human Subjects section and data and safety monitoring plans should reflect the policies and guidance in this notice. Plans for the protection of research subjects and data and safety monitoring will be reviewed by the NIMH for consistency with NIMH and NIH policies and federal regulations.

See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Grant: A support mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity.

Application Types Allowed

The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

NIMH intends to commit $3,000,000 per year in FY 2018, 2019, and 2020 to fund 7-10 awards.

Award Budget

An applicant may request a budget for direct costs up to $1.625 million dollars with no more than $400,000 in direct costs for any single year.

Award Project Period

The total project period for an application submitted in response to this FOA may not exceed five years.

NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made in response to this FOA.

Section III. Eligibility Information
1. Eligible Applicants
Eligible Organizations

Higher Education Institutions

  • Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
  • Private Institutions of Higher Education

The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:

o Hispanic-serving Institutions

o Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

o Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)

o Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions

o Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)

Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education

  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)

For-Profit Organizations

  • Small Businesses
  • For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)


  • State Governments
  • County Governments
  • City or Township Governments
  • Special District Governments
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Federally Recognized)
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Other than Federally Recognized)
  • U.S. Territory or Possession


  • Independent School Districts
  • Public Housing Authorities/Indian Housing Authorities
  • Native American Tribal Organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
  • Faith-based or Community-based Organizations
  • Regional Organizations
Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are not eligible to apply.
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are not eligible to apply.
Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are not allowed.

Required Registrations

Applicant Organizations

Applicant organizations must complete and maintain the following registrations as described in the SF 424 (R&R) Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. Registration can take 6 weeks or more, so applicants should begin the registration process as soon as possible. The NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications states that failure to complete registrations in advance of a due date is not a valid reason for a late submission.

  • Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) - All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM and eRA Commons registrations. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the grant application.
  • System for Award Management (SAM) (formerly CCR) Applicants must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires renewal at least annually. The renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations which have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.
  • NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) Code Foreign organizations must obtain an NCAGE code (in lieu of a CAGE code) in order to register in SAM.
  • eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the eRA Commons registration. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or registration. eRA Commons requires organizations to identify at least one Signing Official (SO) and at least one Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account in order to submit an application.
  • Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the registration.

Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD(s)/PI(s))

All PD(s)/PI(s) must have an eRA Commons account. PD(s)/PI(s) should work with their organizational officials to either create a new account or to affiliate their existing account with the applicant organization in eRA Commons. If the PD/PI is also the organizational Signing Official, they must have two distinct eRA Commons accounts, one for each role. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to 2 weeks.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator)

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PDs/PIs, visit the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Applicants must be designated Early Stage Investigators (ESI) by NIH as defined in NOT-OD-09-013. In addition, applicants must have faculty appointments which are tenure track or equivalent, generally at the level of Assistant Professor or equivalent, and have a research or health professional level degree (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., or equivalent) at the time of application. If the applicant is at an institution/organization that does not have a tenure track, he or she should hold an equivalent appointment and must have demonstrated support from the institution. Individuals must show that they have established research independence from a mentor, and have dedicated independent laboratory and research resources available to conduct the research proposed in the grant application.

Potential applicants who anticipate developing or testing interventions that focus on measuring target engagement and mechanism of action are strongly advised to contact the Scientific/Research Contact for this FOA regarding the match between an application, current NIMH priorities, and the unique goals of this FOA.

2. Cost Sharing

This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

3. Additional Information on Eligibility
Number of Applications

Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.

The NIH will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time. This means that the NIH will not accept:

  • A new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping new (A0) or resubmission (A1) application.
  • A resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.
  • An application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101).
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
1. Requesting an Application Package

Buttons to access the online ASSIST system or to download application forms are available in Part 1 of this FOA. See your administrative office for instructions if you plan to use an institutional system-to-system solution.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the Research (R) Instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, including Supplemental Grant Application Instructions except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.

Letter of Intent

Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

By the date listed in Part 1. Overview Information, prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent that includes the following information:

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity

The letter of intent should be sent to:

Kathleen C. Anderson, Ph.D.
Telephone: 301-443-5944
Fax: 301-480-4415

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed.

Instructions for Application Submission

The following section supplements the instructions found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and should be used for preparing an application to this FOA.

SF424(R&R) Cover

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

SF424(R&R) Project/Performance Site Locations

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

SF424(R&R) Other Project Information

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Other Attachments: Include a "Future Goals and Objectives" attachment (one page maximum) that briefly describes the career track and long-term research interests/objectives of the PD/PI with emphasis on how these interests/objectives relate to the mission of NIMH.

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Biographical Sketch: The Personal Statement section of the biographical sketch should clearly describe the applicant’s scientific development from graduate school, the postdoctoral experience(s), through the present faculty position. Provide evidence to support your claim of innovation and creativity and describe the impact that your research has had on the field to date. For example, describe experiences that demonstrate your inclination to challenge paradigms and take intellectual risks, develop unique collaborations, integrate diverse sources of information, or develop novel approaches when new challenges or opportunities arise.

R&R or Modular Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

The PD/PI is encouraged to budget sufficient travel costs to present results of the research at a variety of high-caliber technical meetings, at least one of which is devoted directly to mental health research and is widely attended by other NIMH grantees. A portion of the budget could include travel for external members of the advisory committee to meet yearly. In addition, the PD/PI should budget for travel to the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD each year in years 3-5 to present a seminar or participate in a research symposium.

Applicants are expected to devote at least 6 person months (50%) effort to the grant. However, after three full years of funding for this grant, should the PD/PI be successful in obtaining funding through another R01 or similar award, the effort on the BRAINS award may be negotiated with the NIMH program staff down to no less than 3.6 person months, (30%), if adequate progress has been made on the aims of the BRAINS award. In addition, the awardees' departments are encouraged to provide an additional 3-3.6 person months (25-30%) release time from clinical, teaching, and administrative duties in order to allow the awardee to devote a larger amount of time to research efforts.

R&R Subaward Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

PHS 398 Cover Page Supplement

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

PHS 398 Research Plan

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed, with the following additional instructions:

Research Strategy: In the Research Strategy applicants must address the following topics as they pertain to the research project proposed:


  • The challenge: What is the hypothesis or problem that will be addressed? If you are testing an unconventional, exceptionally novel hypothesis, how does it challenge the standard paradigm? If no paradigm exists, how will your project create one?
  • The potential impact: Why is testing the hypothesis or solving the problem important to the mission of the NIMH and how does it specifically address one or more of the objectives or priorities in the NIMH Strategic Plan? Explain how a successful outcome has the potential to transform our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of mental illness, translate research to the clinic in order to develop effective interventions, prevent onset, improve diagnostic accuracy, and/or create cures. Applicants should describe how the research proposed directly addresses the mission and research priorities of the NIMH.
  • Innovation: State clearly and concisely what makes your project unusually innovative.
  • Approach: Provide enough information so that reviewers can determine what you are proposing to do. If your methodology is standard, what is unconventional and exceptionally innovative about your approach? How does your approach differ from what other investigators have attempted to do? If the approaches entail a high degree of risk, what will you do if these approaches are unsuccessful and how do the potential benefits/rewards outweigh the risks? If you are including collaborators on the project for aspects of the project that are not within your expertise, please describe their roles and how they will contribute to the success of the project and the research career advancement of the PD/PI. This information should not overlap with information in the biosketches.

The appropriateness to the BRAINS program: Why is the proposed research uniquely suited to the stated goals of the BRAINS initiative, rather than a conventional research grant application?

Timeline: Provide a timeline for the proposed research.

Advisory Committee: The PD/PI is expected to form an external advisory committee. Names of Advisory Committee members should not be listed in the application. This FOA uses the just-in-time concept for the External Advisory Committee members. The application should indicate the areas of scientific expertise and anticipated input, and any critical considerations in the selection of members, at the time of submission. Advisory committee members cannot be collaborators or consultants on the proposed project. The Advisory Committee is expected to meet at least annually to provide ongoing assessment of the progress of the research; to discuss future research goals, aims, and ideas; and to provide research career guidance to the awardee during the five years of the grant.

NIMH suggests an Advisory Committee structure such as the following: At least three scientists, two of whom are external to the Department, (one external to the University or Institution). One member should have research expertise similar to that of the PD/PI, and one should be an individual who is expert in human or clinical studies and who can provide input into the translation of the research. A schedule for the Advisory committee meetings should be included in the timeline.

Letters of Support: The Chair of the Department where the PD/PI holds the primary academic appointment should provide a letter describing any tangible research support that has been committed to the PD/PI. This may include start up packages provided to the investigator, salary commitment, protected time for research, space and equipment allocations, core facilities that will be made available without charge-back, specialized training and mini-sabbatical experiences to promote career enhancement, etc. In addition, the letter should discuss the departmental commitment to protected research time for the applicant. The department is encouraged to provide release time so that the applicant will be able to devote at least 6, and preferably up to 9 person months (75%) of his/her professional effort to research (See Section III - Eligible Individuals (PD/PI)). The strength of the institutional support will be considered a factor in the review of the application.

If a previous postdoctoral or research mentor remains in the same Institution as the PD/PI, a letter should be included in the application outlining the respective roles of the PD/PI and the research mentor in the design and conduct of the proposed research. The previous research mentor should also indicate how the proposed research program is expected to be independent from the research directions of his/her laboratory.

Resource Sharing Plan: Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, with the following modification:

  • All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, should include plans to share data via the NIMH Data Archive. Data Sharing Plan should incorporate expectations outlined in NOT-MH-15-012 Data Sharing Expectations for Clinical Research Funded by NIMH.


Do not use the Appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

PHS Inclusion Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing PHS Inclusion Enrollment Report as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

PHS Assignment Request Form

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

3. Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

See Part 1. Section III.1 for information regarding the requirement for obtaining a unique entity identifier and for completing and maintaining active registrations in System for Award Management (SAM), NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) Code (if applicable), eRA Commons, and

4. Submission Dates and Times

Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates and times. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications before the due date to ensure they have time to make any application corrections that might be necessary for successful submission. When a submission date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the application deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

Organizations must submit applications to (the online portal to find and apply for grants across all Federal agencies). Applicants must then complete the submission process by tracking the status of the application in the eRA Commons, NIH’s electronic system for grants administration. NIH and systems check the application against many of the application instructions upon submission. Errors must be corrected and a changed/corrected application must be submitted to on or before the application due date and time. If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late. Applications that miss the due date and time are subjected to the NIH Policy on Late Application Submission.

Applicants are responsible for viewing their application before the due date in the eRA Commons to ensure accurate and successful submission.

Information on the submission process and a definition of on-time submission are provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

5. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

6. Funding Restrictions

All NIH awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Pre-award costs are allowable only as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

7. Other Submission Requirements and Information

Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. Paper applications will not be accepted.

Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.

For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit Applying Electronically. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues. For assistance with application submission, contact the Application Submission Contacts in Section VII.

Important reminders:

All PD(s)/PI(s) must include their eRA Commons ID in the Credential field of the Senior/Key Person Profile Component of the SF424(R&R) Application Package. Failure to register in the Commons and to include a valid PD/PI Commons ID in the credential field will prevent the successful submission of an electronic application to NIH. See Section III of this FOA for information on registration requirements.

The applicant organization must ensure that the DUNS number it provides on the application is the same number used in the organization’s profile in the eRA Commons and for the System for Award Management. Additional information may be found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

See more tips for avoiding common errors.

Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness and compliance with application instructions by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by National Institute of Mental Health, NIH. Applications that are incomplete, non-compliant and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

In order to expedite review, applicants are requested to notify the NIMH Referral Office by email at when the application has been submitted. Please include the FOA number and title, PD/PI name, and title of the application.

Use of Common Data Elements in NIH-funded Research

NIH encourages the use of common data elements (CDEs) in basic, clinical, and applied research, patient registries, and other human subject research to facilitate broader and more effective use of data and advance research across studies. CDEs are data elements that have been identified and defined for use in multiple data sets across different studies. Use of CDEs can facilitate data sharing and standardization to improve data quality and enable data integration from multiple studies and sources, including electronic health records. NIH ICs have identified CDEs for many clinical domains (e.g., neurological disease), types of studies (e.g., genome-wide association studies (GWAS)), types of outcomes (e.g., patient-reported outcomes), and patient registries (e.g., the Global Rare Diseases Patient Registry and Data Repository). NIH has established a Common Data Element (CDE) Resource Portal" ( to assist investigators in identifying NIH-supported CDEs when developing protocols, case report forms, and other instruments for data collection. The Portal provides guidance about and access to NIH-supported CDE initiatives and other tools and resources for the appropriate use of CDEs and data standards in NIH-funded research. Investigators are encouraged to consult the Portal and describe in their applications any use they will make of NIH-supported CDEs in their projects.

Post Submission Materials

Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in the policy.

Section V. Application Review Information
1. Criteria

Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. As part of the NIH mission, all applications submitted to the NIH in support of biomedical and behavioral research are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system.

For this particular announcement, note the following:

The BRAINS R01 grant supports the career advancement of exceptionally talented and promising Early Stage Investigators who can implement innovative, ground-breaking, and potentially risky research projects that would transform the understanding and treatment of mental illness. Unlike traditional R01 applications, preliminary data are not required or expected but may be included. Reviewers should emphasize the following: 1) the importance of the scientific problem and potential impact of the research, 2) the novelty and innovativeness of the approach, and 3) evidence of the applicant's potential for creative and innovative research as an early stage investigator and as a future leader in the field.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.


Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? Is there a strong scientific premise for the project? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?

Is the potential significance of the proposed research exceptional, in terms of the magnitude of the expected influence on the field? If the applicant is attempting to verify a novel hypothesis, is it critical, for the field, that the hypothesis be verified or disproved? Is the work paradigm shifting or if no paradigm exists will this project create one? If the proposed work is successful does it have the potential to transform our understanding of the pathophysiology of mental illnesses, prevent their onset, improve diagnostic accuracy, and/or create cures?


Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or those in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?

Do the past achievements of the PD/PI suggest that the investigator is exceptionally innovative and likely to make paradigm-shifting, high-impact discoveries relevant to mental illness? Is there potential for the investigator to profoundly transform our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of mental illness or translate into the development of effective interventions, preventions or cures for mental disorders?


Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?

Does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools, or technologies for this area? Is the project original and innovative? Is the hypothesis and/or the proposed methodology unconventional and exceptionally innovative?


Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? Have the investigators presented adequate plans to address relevant biological variables, such as sex, for studies in vertebrate animals or human subjects?

If the project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, are the plans to address 1) the protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion or exclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?


Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

Is the strength of the Institutional support to the career advancement of PD/PI evident?

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Protections for Human Subjects

For research that involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risk to subjects, 2) adequacy of protection against risks, 3) potential benefits to the subjects and others, 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained, and 5) data and safety monitoring for clinical trials.

For research that involves human subjects and meets the criteria for one or more of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate: 1) the justification for the exemption, 2) human subjects involvement and characteristics, and 3) sources of materials. For additional information on review of the Human Subjects section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Human Subjects.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children

When the proposed project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for the inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion (or exclusion) of children to determine if it is justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Inclusion in Clinical Research.

Vertebrate Animals

The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following criteria: (1) description of proposed procedures involving animals, including species, strains, ages, sex, and total number to be used; (2) justifications for the use of animals versus alternative models and for the appropriateness of the species proposed; (3) interventions to minimize discomfort, distress, pain and injury; and (4) justification for euthanasia method if NOT consistent with the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals. Reviewers will assess the use of chimpanzees as they would any other application proposing the use of vertebrate animals. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.


Reviewers will assess whether materials or procedures proposed are potentially hazardous to research personnel and/or the environment, and if needed, determine whether adequate protection is proposed.


Not Applicable


Not Applicable


Not Applicable

Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.

Applications from Foreign Organizations

Not Applicable

Select Agent Research

Reviewers will assess the information provided in this section of the application, including 1) the Select Agent(s) to be used in the proposed research, 2) the registration status of all entities where Select Agent(s) will be used, 3) the procedures that will be used to monitor possession use and transfer of Select Agent(s), and 4) plans for appropriate biosafety, biocontainment, and security of the Select Agent(s).

Resource Sharing Plans

Reviewers will comment on whether the following Resource Sharing Plans, or the rationale for not sharing the following types of resources, are reasonable: (1) Data Sharing Plan; (2) Sharing Model Organisms; and (3) Genomic Data Sharing Plan (GDS).

Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources:

For projects involving key biological and/or chemical resources, reviewers will comment on the brief plans proposed for identifying and ensuring the validity of those resources.

Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.

2. Review and Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by NIMH, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria. Assignment to a Scientific Review Group will be shown in the eRA Commons.

As part of the scientific peer review, all applications:

  • May undergo a selection process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific and technical merit (generally the top half of applications under review) will be discussed and assigned an overall impact score.
  • Will receive a written critique.

Appeals of initial peer review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to this FOA.

Applications will be assigned to the appropriate NIH Institute or Center. Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to this FOA. Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the National Advisory Mental Health Council. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates

After the peer review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will be able to access his or her Summary Statement (written critique) via the eRA Commons. Refer to Part 1 for dates for peer review, advisory council review, and earliest start date.

Information regarding the disposition of applications is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices

If the application is under consideration for funding, NIH will request "just-in-time" information from the applicant as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A formal notification in the form of a Notice of Award (NoA) will be provided to the applicant organization for successful applications. The NoA signed by the grants management officer is the authorizing document and will be sent via email to the grantee’s business official.

Awardees must comply with any funding restrictions described in Section IV.5. Funding Restrictions. Selection of an application for award is not an authorization to begin performance. Any costs incurred before receipt of the NoA are at the recipient's risk. These costs may be reimbursed only to the extent considered allowable pre-award costs.

Any application awarded in response to this FOA will be subject to terms and conditions found on the Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants website. This includes any recent legislation and policy applicable to awards that is highlighted on this website.

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

All NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards include the NIH Grants Policy Statement as part of the NoA. For these terms of award, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart A: General and Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities. More information is provided at Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants.

Recipients of federal financial assistance (FFA) from HHS must administer their programs in compliance with federal civil rights law. This means that recipients of HHS funds must ensure equal access to their programs without regard to a person’s race, color, national origin, disability, age and, in some circumstances, sex and religion. This includes ensuring your programs are accessible to persons with limited English proficiency. HHS recognizes that research projects are often limited in scope for many reasons that are nondiscriminatory, such as the principal investigator’s scientific interest, funding limitations, recruitment requirements, and other considerations. Thus, criteria in research protocols that target or exclude certain populations are warranted where nondiscriminatory justifications establish that such criteria are appropriate with respect to the health or safety of the subjects, the scientific study design, or the purpose of the research.

For additional guidance regarding how the provisions apply to NIH grant programs, please contact the Scientific/Research Contact that is identified in Section VII under Agency Contacts of this FOA. HHS provides general guidance to recipients of FFA on meeting their legal obligation to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their programs by persons with limited English proficiency. Please see The HHS Office for Civil Rights also provides guidance on complying with civil rights laws enforced by HHS. Please see; and Recipients of FFA also have specific legal obligations for serving qualified individuals with disabilities. Please see Please contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights for more information about obligations and prohibitions under federal civil rights laws at or call 1-800-368-1019 or TDD 1-800-537-7697. Also note it is an HHS Departmental goal to ensure access to quality, culturally competent care, including long-term services and supports, for vulnerable populations. For further guidance on providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services, recipients should review the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care at

In accordance with the statutory provisions contained in Section 872 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2009 (Public Law 110-417), NIH awards will be subject to the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) requirements. FAPIIS requires Federal award making officials to review and consider information about an applicant in the designated integrity and performance system (currently FAPIIS) prior to making an award. An applicant, at its option, may review information in the designated integrity and performance systems accessible through FAPIIS and comment on any information about itself that a Federal agency previously entered and is currently in FAPIIS. The Federal awarding agency will consider any comments by the applicant, in addition to other information in FAPIIS, in making a judgement about the applicant’s integrity, business ethics, and record of performance under Federal awards when completing the review of risk posed by applicants as described in 45 CFR Part 75.205 Federal awarding agency review of risk posed by applicants. This provision will apply to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements except fellowships.

Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award

Not Applicable

3. Reporting

When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement. A copy of the minutes of meetings of the Advisory Committee should be provided to the NIMH as part of the annual progress report of the grant.

A final progress report, invention statement, and the expenditure data portion of the Federal Financial Report are required for closeout of an award, as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act), includes a requirement for awardees of Federal grants to report information about first-tier subawards and executive compensation under Federal assistance awards issued in FY2011 or later. All awardees of applicable NIH grants and cooperative agreements are required to report to the Federal Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) available at on all subawards over $25,000. See the NIH Grants Policy Statement for additional information on this reporting requirement.

In accordance with the regulatory requirements provided at 45 CFR 75.113 and Appendix XII to 45 CFR Part 75, recipients that have currently active Federal grants, cooperative agreements, and procurement contracts from all Federal awarding agencies with a cumulative total value greater than $10,000,000 for any period of time during the period of performance of a Federal award, must report and maintain the currency of information reported in the System for Award Management (SAM) about civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings in connection with the award or performance of a Federal award that reached final disposition within the most recent five-year period. The recipient must also make semiannual disclosures regarding such proceedings. Proceedings information will be made publicly available in the designated integrity and performance system (currently FAPIIS). This is a statutory requirement under section 872 of Public Law 110-417, as amended (41 U.S.C. 2313). As required by section 3010 of Public Law 111-212, all information posted in the designated integrity and performance system on or after April 15, 2011, except past performance reviews required for Federal procurement contracts, will be publicly available. Full reporting requirements and procedures are found in Appendix XII to 45 CFR Part 75 Award Term and Conditions for Recipient Integrity and Performance Matters.

It is anticipated that the BRAINS program would be evaluated on a continuing basis by NIMH program staff to assess the impact of the program on the portfolio of the NIMH, as well as on the progression of the awardees' careers. Metrics to be used include, but are not limited to: publications (both numbers and impact factors); academic promotion of PD/PIs; awards; invited talks at national/international symposia; students and postdoctoral fellows trained in the PD/PI's laboratory; honors received by PD/PIs; committee service of PD/PIs; and subsequent grant support awarded. PD/PIs of awarded BRAINS grants will be requested to provide information for the evaluation and any subsequent program evaluations for a period of up to fifteen years after the award.

Section VII. Agency Contacts

We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.

Application Submission Contacts

eRA Service Desk (Questions regarding ASSIST, eRA Commons registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, post submission issues)
Finding Help Online: (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free) Customer Support (Questions regarding registration and submission, downloading forms and application packages)
Contact Center Telephone: 800-518-4726

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Email: (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-710-0267

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Kathleen C. Anderson, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-5944

Peer Review Contact(s)

Nick Gaiano, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-827-3420

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Rebecca Claycamp, CRA
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-2811

Section VIII. Other Information

Recently issued trans-NIH policy notices may affect your application submission. A full list of policy notices published by NIH is provided in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. All awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Authority and Regulations

Awards are made under the authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 52 and 45 CFR Part 75.

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