Notices of Special Interest (NOSI)

January 31, 2020


David Kosub:                    Hello and welcome to another edition of NIH’s All About Grants podcast. I’m your host, David Kosub with the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research. And today we’ll be talking about how NIH uses Notices of Special Interest, or NOSIs. The idea for this conversation actually came from an All About Grants listener, and we appreciate that and welcome any other suggestions from the community.

                                             Today we have with us Dr. Jodi Black, she is the Deputy Director for the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research and she’ll be telling us everything we need to know about NOSIs.

                                             Alrighty, let’s get started with having you just tell us what is a NOSI?

Jodi Black:                         A NOSI, or Notice of Special Interest, is something that we’re using in place of program announcements. We used to publish a lot of program announcements whose purpose was to announce to the community very specific areas of science that NIH was interested in, but today we can do it with this very simplified NOSI that points to an existing, already approved funding opportunity on the street. We can get this kind of information out a lot quicker.

                                             And so, all of these Notices of Special Interest, as you read through them you’ll see, point to an existing funding opportunity. It’s usually one of the parent opportunities, like the parent R01 FOA, but every once in a while there will be an institute-specific FOA that is being used instead, so it’s important to take a really close look at the Notice of Special Interest.

David Kosub:                    And, you kind of touched on some of this, what other information can be found in these NOSIs?

Jodi Black:                         At a very minimum, the NOSIs will include a description of the science that is of interest. There will be information about key dates, if they’re different than what’s listed in the funding opportunity that the notice points to. It’ll have a list of the institutes that are participating, any specific instructions for submission, and any other NOSI-specific instructions. And all of the NIH contact information will also be listed there.

David Kosub:                    So, why did NIH start using NOSIs?

Jodi Black:                         As I sort of referred to earlier, we had lots and lots of non-parent program announcements that were on the street, their sole purpose was to advertise a particular scientific area of interest. Most of them used standard review criteria, standard submission dates, and often an R01 or an R21 mechanism, very standard mechanisms. They were just highlighting scientific topics.

                                             And so, rather than continue to do that over and over again, the NOSIs allow us to take all the science information, and put it into a concise, what looks like a notice, but we’re separating them from notices, which relay other different information from the notice of special interest. Because that allows us to put the science out there, minus all of the other embedded, sort of, policy template information that is contained within the other funding opportunities on the street.

                                             So, it helps the applicants easily get to the what is it NIH is looking for, you don’t have to filter through a whole bunch of big background information or eligibility criteria, because that’s already listed in the funding opportunity the notice points to. It focuses very clearly and quickly on the science of it, just so  you can see if it’s in your field.

                                             Since they point to an already-approved funding opportunity in the NIH Guide, it doesn’t have any lengthy approval process to go through, which can take up to a year. So we can get a Notice of Special Interest out in 4 to 5 weeks, depending upon how many institutes are participating, how complex their request for the scientific area is.

David Kosub:                    So, if someone wanted to find a specific NOSI or all of the NOSIs that are out there from NIH, where could they go?

Jodi Black:                         You can look in the NIH Guide. The Notice of Special Interest, the NOSI, has its own section, so there’s a NOSI section and a Notice section, and then the usual RFA, and PAR, PAS section. But there’s an enhanced section in the NIH Guide, which I hope you’re all getting delivered to you every Friday, so you know what NIH is looking for. And you can filter it and just look for NOSIs, just like you can filter on anything else, and you can filter on NOSIs that do or do not allow clinical trials, or  you can also filter on various areas of science.

                                             The same kind of filtering you normally do to find what you’re interested in in the NIH Guide, you can use for NOSIs.

David Kosub:                    And, how long are they active? Would a NOSI expire?

Jodi Black:                         NOSIs do expire. They’ll either have a date in the NOSI itself that explains when it will expire, or it will automatically expire when the funding opportunity that it’s pointing to expires.

David Kosub:                    So, if I was putting together my application, what would you suggest I focus on when reviewing a NOSI?

Jodi Black:                         You should read the NOSI very, very carefully. Follow all the guidance that’s in the application guide for the funding opportunity, and in the NOSI. And the FOA (funding opportunity announcement) that’s used for submission will have its own instructions, but sometimes the NOSI will provide slightly different instructions and it will tell you, follow these instructions rather than what’s in the funding opportunity that we’re pointing to.

So, it’s very, very important to read the NOSI all the way through, very carefully, and understand what is required for the application. Sometimes the instructions in the NOSI will be a little bit different than what is written in the funding opportunity that the NOSI points to, and it’s very important in those circumstances to follow the instructions in the notice.

In other words, the funding opportunity that it points to will have specific instructions for applicants, but if the NOSI provides slightly altered instructions, it’s important to use the instructions in the NOSI, rather than the instructions in the funding opportunity.

Also, all NOSIs instruct applicants to include the NOSI number in the agency routing identifier field, that’s item 4B. It’s box 4B on the SF424 R&R form. Normally you don’t put anything in there, but when you’re responding to a NOSI, and you’re using also the funding opportunity number which is what will be on the top, you must put in box 4B on the face page, the NOSI number. And that’s how NIH understands where you’re directing your science.

David Kosub:                    So it sounds like box 4B is pretty important, but what happens if someone doesn’t put that NOSI number in there? Would NIH still consider the application?

Jodi Black:                         Box 4B is really, really, really important. And if an applicant forgets this information or fails to follow the NOSI requirements, they may not be considered for the funding under the NOSI. Whether or not they are, it depends on what the NOSI is asking for and what it’s pointing to, which funding opportunity it points to.

                                             But the best thing you can do is use the NOSI number. That is the best way to ensure that you’ll get referred to the right place, by using the NOSI number, and you won’t be administratively withdrawn.

David Kosub:                    And if someone had a question related to one of these NOSIs, who would you suggest they contact?

Jodi Black:                         So there’s always a list of contact people, or person, on the NOSI itself, just like in any funding opportunity, there’s something that says “for inquiries, contact.” That same element is included in every single NOSI, and so I would highly encourage you to contact those folks to make sure you understand what the NOSI is asking for and get any of your other questions answered before you apply. And call them early.

David Kosub:                    What about for applications for program announcements that are still on the street?

Jodi Black:                         The program announcements that are on the street will continue to be active until they naturally expire. And many of them, will more than likely, if they are reissued, be reissued as NOSIs, because we are trying to reduce burden for everyone. It reduces burden on applicants trying to filter through what NIH is looking for, it gets the information on the streets for applicants more quickly, and it moves through our approval process in much less time. It’s a lot less burdensome for everybody.

                                             But, we’re going to continue to use the usual mechanisms including PARs, and PASs, and RFAs. So those will continue to be used. The PAs are being used for, sort of, more standard kind of requests that use very usual mechanisms.

David Kosub:                    So, as an opportunity for any final thoughts, what would you like to leave with our listeners about NOSIs?

Jodi Black:                         I can’t stress how important it is to use box 4B, and put the NOSI number into box 4B. That is the most important thing you can do.

                                             And then read very carefully the entire NOSI, it will give you the instructions that are required for the NOSI. Read them very carefully and understand if they are different from the PA instructions, or the other funding opportunity that the NOSI is pointing to.

Don’t wait until the last minute, ever, for any application. And definitely call the contact people who are listed if you have any questions, it’s their job to help you, so please call them.

David Kosub:                    Fantastic, thank you very much, Jodi, for this opportunity to hear more about NOSIs that are available in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.

                                             This has been David Kosub with the NIH’s All About Grants. Thank you!