>> Announcer: From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, this is All About Grants.
>> Columbus: Back again for another edition of All About Grants. My name is Megan Columbus, I'm with NIH's Office of Extramural Research.
This is the fourth in a four‑part series on who do you contact for help here at NIH. We talked about understanding the roles of program review and grants management. We talked about, in the second episode, finding a funding opportunity and developing your application and who you should talk to during that process. And in the third we talked about submission through review. But this is post‑review and today we have with us Sue Brobst from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, she's a Program Official there. And we have Grace Olascoaga with the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, where she serves as a grants management officer. Welcome to you both.
My application has just been reviewed and I've waited very patiently, just as I'm supposed to do, to get my summary statement before I call to find out more about the outcome of the review process.
Sue, can you tell us a little bit about how program might be able to help an applicant understand that summary statement and the conversations that were had at the review meeting?
>> Brobst: Sure. But first I would like to add, again, to best use both of our time, you might want to email me first to set up a good time to call when we can actually have time to discuss it so I'm not off heading out to a meeting or something. First we're going to look at your score and see whether or not you're within our pay line. Some of that is going to depend on the time of the fiscal year and when your application was reviewed. I can also give you an idea – of whether or not you should just wait and resubmit or whether you should resubmit now.
Another thing I can do is go through and kind of give you an idea kind of what were the major things in terms of the strengths and weaknesses in case you do have to resubmit.
You know, again, a lot of times, summary statements are great, but they might have just listed in order here's what the weaknesses were. Whereas what we heard in the meeting that particular one was the one you really would need to address.
We can look to see whether that was just a matter of you just didn't write that information in the application, but you actually have it, or whether you are going to need to go back to the lab and actually gather some of that data.
In addition, there's sometimes, even if you got a great score, and you're fundable, sometimes there's special notes in there in terms of additional information you're going to need to give us to be able to get the award and we can start helping you to work through that.
>> Columbus: So it sounds like there's really two things you'll be able to tell folks whether 'hmm it looks like we might have money to pay you' or, 'hmm, looks like maybe you're going to need to resubmit and this is how you may need to reshape that application to get a better score'. Or whether it's just not going to happen and that people should think about a different idea.
So, Sue, I've now just had a discussion with you and I've found out that my application is potentially in the fundable range. Am I going to charge in and go ahead and try and submit the just‑in‑time materials that are required for award or is that something I should wait?
>> Brobst: Well, if I've told you that you're within our pay line, you could definitely start working on getting together those just‑in‑time materials and put that in. If not, you might want to wait until the Grants Management Specialist would send you an email requesting the information.
>> Columbus: And if I have questions about submitting just‑in‑time materials, would those questions naturally go mostly to Grants Management?
>> Olascoaga: Certainly they can contact Grants Management staff about that for any clarifications they need about what's required or how to submit.
>> Columbus: But the main point is even though in the eRA Commons a just‑in‑time link appears given some score, you should only be submitting that material upon the request of the institute and if in doubt contact the institute before submitting it.
>> Brobst: Definitely. And I think the other thing to add is although that link appears and people do submit things through it, at times there's additional information that's needed that does get emailed. At this stage of the game, you need to make sure that that official correspondence comes from your authorized official representative. It's not enough just for the PI to send it.
>> Columbus: As NIH gives grants to institutions and it's not usually to investigators individually.
>> Brobst: And I think it also helps to copy both the Program Official and the Grants Management Specialist when you are sending that email because we both have roles in terms of what we have to do to approve the award.
>> Columbus: And remember that those names can be found from the eRA Commons.
This is, you know, a little bit of a touchy subject, but oftentimes there are budget negotiations that need to happen once we decide to make an award.
Who is somebody usually working with to do those budget negotiations?
>> Olascoaga: Certainly Grants Management is involved and will be working closely with business officials, investigators and again with program staff, also, to make sure we're implementing whatever changes are necessary, accurately, in the award calculations.
>> Columbus: Well, when I do get a Notice of Award, there are terms associated with that award. Who would I talk to to get an explanation of the terms if they're not clear?
>> Olascoaga: You probably would want to contact the Grants Management Specialist as the individual who processed the award and entered the information into the system, they also entered in the language, the verbiage of the award terms included. Especially in the area that specifies institute award terms.
>> Brobst: There are times, there might be a restriction on the award.
In that case, you might want to be talking to the Program Official to see for that restriction what specifically are you going to have to do and give to us to be able to lift the restriction?
>> Columbus: Okay. I've got my award. I understand the terms. I get around and it's time to do reporting. Certainly there's scientific reporting and there's financial reporting. Is it fair to assume that scientific reporting, if I have questions, I talk to my Program Official and financial reporting I talk to Grants Management or is it not really that clean?
>> Brobst: Well, I think a lot of times the question that I will get in the beginning is how long should it be, what are we looking for? And again that's going to depend on the nature of the award. But I think definitely if you have an idea in terms of the scientific reporting, I would go to the Program Official first.
And in cases sometimes when we have complex or special awards, they sometimes have specific ways they that information to be included in there and again I probably, unless it was financial, I probably would start first with the Program Official.
>> Olascoaga: Right. I would agree that similarly Grants Management staff may get questions about how to answer streamlined questions or questions about how to fill out the financial reporting.
>> Columbus: And I guess lastly, what happens when I have administrative changes on the grants? What happens if I can no longer be PI or something else happens, who do I contact in those situations?
>> Brobst: It's going to depend on the nature of the change. If you know ahead of time there's going to be a change in PI, you might want to talk to the Program Official first. Some changes are going to require both the Grants Management and the Program Officer approval ‑‑ when it doubt, drop us an email and ask.
>> Olascoaga: We also encourage grantees if they have any question to contact either the grant specialist or the program official to inquire about it, run the scenario past us and decide if it rises to the level of requiring NIH prior approval.
>> Columbus: Because the reality is ‑‑ that collectively we're functioning as a team.Is there one piece of advice, either about times when you really wish people would have called that they just consistently don't tend to?
>> Olascoaga: We get a lot of inquiries about investigators who have changed institutions or are about to in the next week. And so the rule of thumb we like to advise is please try to contact your program official or grants management person, ideally, about two months before you propose starting some action, just to give us some lead time to analyze the situation and advise also then on what you need to submit in order to make an official request.
>> Brobst: Mine would be in terms of changes in scope. I think a lot of times investigators think as long as what they're working on is still in that same area of science of that grant application, that it's fair game. But sometimes if you start going now you're going to start adding animals where you didn't have that, that's a change in scope. Or maybe you had human subject samples, but now you're going to start, you know, venturing into doing actual clinical research or something, that could be a change in scope. And again, when in doubt, ask us first. Because again that's going to be a ‑‑ that's going to require a prior approval and it's not going to happen overnight. So depending on the time of year, particularly at the end of the year when we're trying to get a lot of awards out the door, we might not be able to do that right away.
>> Columbus: So it sounds like a consistent theme. Talk to us often, talk to us early.
>> Olascoaga: Correct. The grants policy statement includes a lot of scenarios that are indicators of change in scope, but they're certainly not all inclusive. So communicating with the program official or grants person just to run by your particular situation is always good.
>> Columbus: Thank you for joining us today. For NIH and OER, this is Megan Columbus.
>> Announcer: Contact info for the program official and grants specialist can be found in the PI's eRA Commons account at Commons.ERA.nih.gov. Once again, that's Commons.ERA.nih.gov.