NIH Grants Policy Statement
Revised October 2017. This document applies to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements for budget periods beginning on or after October 1, 2017.
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12.4 Application Requirements and Submission Dates

12.4.1 Application

Before applying for a CDA, applicants should carefully review the guidelines in the FOA for the specific career award(s) of interest, noting especially the eligibility requirements, award provisions, requirements for a mentor, and review criteria. The participating ICs may have distinctive guidelines, requirements, and funding amounts for each FOA in order to accommodate the career needs of researchers working in fields related to their specific research missions. Candidates are therefore strongly encouraged to contact the staff person in the relevant IC listed in the FOA prior to preparing an application to discuss any specific provisions of the award.

All CDA applications have transitioned to electronic submission through Grants.gov. The specific FOA provides links to the application forms package as well as the appropriate application instruction guide. As with all NIH programs using electronic submission, a CDA application uses a combination of SF424(R&R) and PHS398 forms. A separate section (Section I.7) of the SF424(R&R) Application Guide is included that provides supplemental instructions for preparing a CDA application. Further assistance is available from GrantsInfo.

Applications must contain Candidate Information, Statements of Support, Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate, as well as a Research Plan. The Candidate Information section includes required information about the candidate and must justify the need for the requested period of support, be tailored to the prior research experience and career development needs of the candidate, and for mentored CDAs be designed to move the candidate from a mentored phase to an independent status. The research plan must have intrinsic research importance as well as serve as a suitable vehicle for learning the methodology, theories, and skills necessary for a well-trained independent researcher. For mentored award programs, the research plan must also include a description of the relationship between the mentor's research and the candidate's proposed research plan.

Other than the K22 application from an unaffiliated candidate, all applications require documents describing the Environmental and Institutional commitment to the candidate.

For mentored award programs the career development application also must include Statement by Mentor(s), Co-Mentor(s), Consultant(s) and Contributor(s) as well as a statement describing the institution's commitment to the candidate's development.

12.4.1.1 Letters of Reference

At least three (but no more than five) letters of reference are required for all new and resubmission mentored CDA applications. The letters should be from individuals not directly involved in the application, but who are familiar with the candidate's qualifications, training, and interests and include advisory committee members (if applicable). However, the candidate's mentor(s) of the application must not submit a separate letter of reference because a mentor's statement is required as part of the application. The letters of reference should address the candidate's competence and potential to develop into an independent biomedical, behavioral, or clinical investigator.

Electronic submission of CDA applications requires electronic submission of reference letters as well. However, reference letters are submitted directly by the referee through the eRA Commons and not as part of the electronic application that goes through Grants.gov. Reference letters will be joined with the electronic application within the eRA system once an application completes the submission process. Applications that are missing the required letters may be delayed in the review process or not accepted at all. Complete instructions for candidates and referees are found in Part I, Section 7.3 of the SF424(R&R) Application Guide for Adobe Applications.

12.4.1.2 Concurrent Applications

NIH will not accept any application in response to an FOA that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial review unless the applicant withdraws the pending application. The NIH will not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already reviewed. This does not preclude the submission of a substantial resubmission of an application already reviewed, but such applications must include an Introduction addressing the previous critique.

12.4.1.3 Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate

The applicant organization must define and document a strong, well-established research and career development program related to the candidate's area of interest, including a high-quality research environment with staff capable of productive collaboration with the candidate. The institution must provide a statement of commitment to the candidate's development into a productive, independent investigator and to meeting the requirements of the award. The institution should indicate how the necessary facilities and other resources will be made available for career enhancement as well as the research proposed in the application. The applicant should describe opportunities for intellectual interactions with other investigators, including courses offered, journal clubs, seminars, and presentations.

The institution should provide a document on institutional letterhead that describes its commitment to the candidate and the candidate's career development. The document should include the institution's agreement to provide adequate time and support for the candidate to devote the proposed protected time to research and career development for the entire period of the proposed award. The institution should provide the equipment, facilities, and resources necessary for a structured research career development experience. It is essential to document the institution's commitment to the retention, development, and advancement of the candidate during the period of the award.

Because of the diverse types of CDAs, applicants should contact the appropriate awarding IC scientific/research contact named in the specific FOA to determine the level of commitment required for the application. Institutional commitment to the candidate may not be contingent upon the receipt of the CDA.

Off-Site Training Experience. A candidate may propose a career award experience that involves sites beyond the applicant organization, provided that the goals of the total experience are encompassed and supported under the appointment with the applicant organization.

12.4.1.4 Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

All CDA applicants (mentored and non-mentored) must include a description of the formal and informal activities related to instruction in the responsible conduct of research planned for the proposed research program. Specifically, applicants must include a description of a plan for instruction in responsible conduct of research. This description should document prior instruction in or the nature of the applicant's participation in responsible conduct of research instruction (lecturer, discussion leader, etc.) during the applicant's current career stage (including the dates of last occurrence) and propose plans to receive or participate in instruction in responsible conduct of research. Such plans must address the five instructional components, format, subject matter, faculty participation, duration of instruction, and frequency of instruction, as outlined below. Applications lacking a plan for instruction or participation in responsible conduct of research will be considered incomplete and may be delayed in the review process. Plans and past record will be rated as acceptable or unacceptable and the summary statement will provide the consensus rating of the review committee. Applications with unacceptable plans will not be funded until the applicant provides an acceptable, revised plan. For additional information see the specific FOA.

1. Format. Substantial face-to-face discussions among the career recipient/scholars, other individuals in a similar training status, and mentors along with a combination of didactic and small-group discussions (e.g. case studies) are highly encouraged. While on-line courses can be a valuable supplement to instruction in responsible conduct of research, online instruction is not considered adequate as the sole means of instruction. A plan that employs only online coursework for instruction in responsible conduct of research will not be considered acceptable, except in special instances of short-term career development programs (see below), or unusual and well-justified circumstances.

2. Subject Matter. While there are no specific curricular requirements for instruction in responsible conduct of research, the following topics have been incorporated into most acceptable plans for such instruction:

  1. conflict of interest – personal, professional, and financial
  2. policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
  3. mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  4. collaborative research including collaborations with industry
  5. peer review
  6. data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership
  7. research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct
  8. responsible authorship and publication
  9. the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research

While courses related to professional ethics, ethical issues in clinical research, or research involving vertebrate animals may form a part of instruction in responsible conduct of research, they generally are not sufficient to cover all aspects of responsible research conduct.

3. Faculty Participation. Mentors and other appropriate faculty are highly encouraged to contribute both to formal and informal instruction in responsible conduct of research. Informal instruction occurs in the course of laboratory interactions and in other informal situations throughout the year. For institutional Career Awards, training faculty may contribute to formal instruction in responsible conduct of research as discussion leaders, speakers, lecturers, and/or course directors. Rotation of training faculty as course directors, instructors, and/or discussion leaders may be a useful way to achieve the ideal of full faculty participation in formal responsible conduct of research courses over a period of time.

4. Duration of Instruction. Instruction should involve substantive contact hours between the career recipient/scholars, mentors and other appropriate faculty. Acceptable programs generally involve at least eight contact hours. A semester-long series of seminars/programs may be more effective than a single seminar or one-day workshop because it is expected that topics will then be considered in sufficient depth, learning will be better consolidated, and the subject matter will be synthesized within a broader conceptual framework.

5. Frequency of Instruction. Reflection on responsible conduct of research should recur throughout a scientist's career: at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, predoctoral, postdoctoral, and faculty levels. Institutional training programs and individual scholars are strongly encouraged to consider how to optimize instruction in responsible conduct of research for the particular career stage(s) of the individual(s) involved. Instruction must be undertaken at least once during each career stage, and at a frequency of no less than once every four years. Individuals at the early career investigator level (including mentored K awardees and K12 scholars) must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research at least once during this career stage. Non-mentored career award recipients may fulfill the requirement for instruction in responsible conduct of research by participating as lecturers and discussion leaders. To meet the above requirements, instruction in responsible conduct of research may take place, in appropriate circumstances, in a year when the career award recipient/scholar is not actually supported by an NIH grant. This instruction must be documented in the submitted plan.

12.4.1.5 Budget

CDAs provide limited costs, generally covering only applicable salary and fringe benefits for the candidates, as well as a fixed amount for research development support. Costs requested and awarded for CDA programs must be consistent with applicable Federal cost principles. Salary amounts as well as the research development costs can vary by CDA program and then within a particular program even by each participating NIH IC. Applicants are advised to consult the relevant FOA for guidelines on allowable costs and budget limitations.

The transition to electronic submission included a change in business process with respect to budget information. Detailed budget information is now required as part of the initial application; however it is limited to the senior/key person information for only the candidate and then the total amount of requested research development support in budget section F.1. Other Direct Costs/Materials and Supplies. A budget justification is also required and should be used to provide a detailed description for the specific research development support costs. Instructions are provided in the applicable Application Guide and specific FOAs.

As with all NIH training programs, Facilities and Administrative costs for CDAs are provided at a rate of 8% of modified total direct costs.

12.4.1.6 Submission Dates

For all parent CDA FOAs, NIH receives applications three times each year using standard submission dates. For a list of the standard submission dates and review cycle, see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/submissionschedule.htm. IC-specific FOAs may use special submission dates instead of the standards dates, but the FOA will clearly indicate if standard or special submission dates are used.