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Wayne State University

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Jul 29 / RAS

Supplementing the supplement

Federal stipends are certainly helpful in supporting research and experience for early investigators.  Even so, there are strict limits on amounts and sometimes a PI wants to reward extra work with extra pay.  This is allowable, but the supplement cannot come from another federal source.  Consider NIH Grants Policy section 11.2.10.1 which states:

 

Kirschstein-NRSA fellows receive stipends to defray living expenses. Stipends may be supplemented by an institution from non-Federal funds provided this supplementation is without any additional obligation for the fellow. An institution can determine the amount of stipend supplementation, if any, it will provide according to its own formally established policies governing stipend support. These policies must be consistently applied to all individuals in a similar status regardless of the source of funds. Federal funds may not be used for stipend supplementation unless specifically authorized under the terms of the program from which funds are derived. Under no circumstances may PHS funds be used for supplementation.

An individual may use Federal educational loan funds or VA benefits when permitted by those programs as described in Other Income: Educational Loans or GI Bill in this chapter.

 

If your department chooses to supplement the stipend of a fellow, be sure that your source of supplementation is not another federal award.  Further, be sure there is no federal flow-through (not a subcontract with federal origins, for instance).  Feel free to drop us a line if you’re not sure!

Jul 22 / RAS

Fellowing the Leader

Here comes August, and you know what that means: NIH F Series application deadlines (F Series is due August 8; F31 Diversity is due on August 13).  Whether you’re a bit stuck or late to the party, templates are available to help you put together your submission.  Check out our NRSA form templates and the NIH general annotated SF424 (the initial checklist will guide you on what is mandatory.  If you have any questions, we’re here to help!

Jul 16 / RAS

Fringe Media

As you’re wrangling project budgets and preparing submissions, be aware that Wayne’s fringe rates have changed, as have some of the employee groups of job classes.  Think your PI is going to be 26.6%?  Think again; most investigators will fall under a fringe rate of 24.7%.  The biggest difference you will note is that research assistants will no longer have the same rate as faculty; most research personnel will now have a fringe rate of 33.2%.  This will significantly affect your budgets, so plan accordingly.

 

Take a look at the new composite fringe rates here, which are in effect for any proposal of project period starting after October 1, 2015 (eProp rates are being updated to reflect the changes). For a comparison to other years, Fiscal Operations keeps past composite fringe rates posted for reference.

Jul 8 / RAS

Well, That Was Unexpected: PD/PI Credential Error

Federal government systems are constantly evolving, and sometimes what was fine yesterday is an error today.  During the submission process for an SF424 on Monday, we received the following error, even though the PD/PI eRA Commons ID was very clearly and correctly present in the proper field:

 

NIH has received the electronic grant application Grants.gov Tracking # GRANT00000000 / PI XXXXXXX. NIH was unable to process your application because it was missing critical information required by NIH. NIH requires that the PD/PI’s correct eRA Commons User ID be entered in the ‘Credential’ field for the PD/PI on the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) component of the application.

Because the Credential field was not completed accurately, your application was considered incomplete; therefore the eRA Commons could not fully check the application against the instructions in the application guide and the funding opportunity announcement. You may receive new error and/or warning messages once you submit a changed/corrected application to Grants.gov.

 

After some trial and error, and intrepid GCO found that re-entering the eRA Commons ID in all capital letters (‘GSMITH’ instead of ‘gsmith’) allowed the application to go through.  As a precautionary measure, you may wish to use all caps on your PD/PI credentials going forward!

Jun 25 / RAS

Status Updates: Not Just For Social Media Anymore

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about preserving your New Investigator or Early Stage Investigator (ESI) status.  But how can you be sure if you have those statuses at all?  NIH calculates your qualification for ESI based on your funding and terminal degree year, while New Investigator status is solely on past funding type.  You can be a New Investigator with qualifying to be ESI, but you can’t be ESI without qualifying to be a New Investigator.

 

To find out whether you are considered to be an ESI, you can check your status in eRA Commons.  To do it, log in and go to your “Personal Profile.”  Once you are there, either scroll down to or click on “Education:”

personal_profile

 

Once you are at your “Education” section, choose “Edit” (don’t choose “View”). This will reveal NIH’s record of your status as an Early Stage Investigator, or ESI:

ESI_status

 

To check your New Investigator status is a little more nuanced; to do so, choose “Status” from your top menu menu bar and find your most recent submission.  If that submission did not result in the funding of a “significant” award according to NIH standards and your “New Investigator Eligibility” reads “Y”, you are still considered a New Investigator.  This status is only monitored by NIH at submission:

new_investigator_status

 

Remember, to be considered a “New Investigator,” you cannot not yet have been awarded a substantial NIH research grant.  To be an “Early Stage Investigator,” you must have both “New Investigator” status and have completed your terminal research degrees or medical residencies (whichever date is later) within the past 10 years.  If you check you status and believe that NIH has misclassified your status, be sure to send an email to the Commons Help Desk for assistance.

Jun 17 / RAS

A Body to Die For

Have you ever been approached about body donation?  Did it catch you off guard?

 

It isn’t unheard of for patients and participants to contact admins and offer to donate themselves for post-mortem research on their specific condition.  Donating one’s body to science can be a great way to make direct contributions to research, other than dollars.  The bodies accepted at Wayne State University School of Medicine are in a clean, restricted area, accessible only to medical professionals and students. When the various studies have been completed the remains are cremated and buried in the University burial plot.

 

The Department of Anatomy facilitates a Body Bequest Program, and the process begins with their bequest form. Special attention should be given to section 10108; there are occasions when Wayne State University must refuse a donation (usually this concerns the condition of the body at the time of death).   If you are approached about body donation, encourage the interested party to contact the Body Bequest Office in the Department of Anatomy.

 

Jun 10 / RAS

They’re So Cute At That Stage

It is important to NIH to fund more new scientists, and have created special programs and higher paylines to do it.  To be a “New Investigator,” you must be an NIH research grant applicant who has not yet been awarded a substantial NIH research grant.  So, if you have been a PD/PI on an R01, you are no longer considered a New Investigator.  If, however, you were a PD/PI on and R21 or an R03, you ARE still New Investigator. If you’re not sure if your previous awards disqualify you from New Investigator status, take a look at the NIH list of non-disqualifying awards.

 

Keep in mind that multi-PI awards count as being a PD/PI (but Co-I designations do not!).  If you and a colleague or two have shared PD/PI status on an R01 that was awarded, you’re not a New Investigator.  If you are going to share multi-PI status on an R21, you DO retain your status. The length of your career has no bearing on your status as a New Investigator, but you may have an extra advantage if you are early enough along: there are separate paylines established for Early Stage Investigators, who are those New Investigators who have completed their terminal research degrees or medical residencies (whichever date is later) within the past 10 years.

 

For further clarification, head over to NIH’s FAQs for New and Early Stage Investigators.  If you’re not sure how to strategize when it comes to your status, we’re here to help you figure out your options.

Jun 3 / RAS

No Such Thing as a Free NCE

In case you missed it, Joe Schumaker wrote a good piece this month aligning requests for no cost extensions with the classic Dickens novel, Oliver Twist.  Here’s your bottom line: there can only be one (yes, that was a Highlander reference riffed from a Dickens reference.  All about the classics today, folks).

 

NIH provides an “expanded authorities” clause in almost all Standard Terms of Award that waives the requirement for prior approval No Cost Extension (NCE), among other actions.  If the text of the award allows, the grantee is permitted one NCE (that is, to extend the final budget period of a grant’s project period by up to 12 months, with no new funds).  This is usually done within 90 days of project end, when the Extension link appears in the “Action” column of the “Status” search results screen. Anything beyond that one request will require permission.

 

As NIH adjusts NCE guidelines to meet the requirements outlined in the Uniform Guidance, they have audibly noticed an increasing trend of people asking for NCEs in the middle of the project period. You can do this, but this is your one shot.  That is: if you get a permitted NCE in the middle of your project period, you won’t see your Extension link at the end of your project period;  you’ve already used your expanded authority, even though you had to obtain permission to do so.  Further, if you choose not to use the entire allowable 12 months (like you ask for, say, a 4 month extension), you can’t ask for the remainder of what’s allowable (8 months, in this case) without permission: it still counts as a second extension.

 

So, Warriors, be careful what you wish for; beyond that, know what you’re wishing for.  If you’re unsure of your best strategy, let us know: we’ll help you talk it out and figure what’s best for you!

 

 

May 27 / RAS

Watch Your Asterisk

As the June 5 deadline approaches for NIH new R01s, take a moment to double-check your PDF file names (and make sure all of your attachments are PDFs, come to that). NIH systems can be touchy with unexpected character recognition, and no one wants an error at 4:58p next Friday. Remember: file names should be less than 50 characters, including punctuation and spaces. Names CAN contain any of the following characters:

  • A-Z
  • a-z
  • 0-9
  • underscore: _
  • hyphen: –
  • space
  • period
  • parenthesis
  • curly braces: { }
  • square brackets: [ ]
  • tilde: ~
  • exclamation point
  • comma
  • semicolon
  • at sign: @
  • number/pound sign: #
  • dollar sign
  • percent sign
  • plus sign
  • equal sign

 

Names CANNOT contain any of the following:

  • Two or more spaces in a row between words or characters
  • Ampersand: &
  • Apostrophe (note: the official NIH list of acceptable characters includes apostrophes, but we have encountered more than one error when using apostrophes so we recommend avoiding them)

 

Be safe: keep it simple!  For more tips on compliant file attachments, look over NIH’s PDF Guidelines.  Questions about what you’re reading? Drop us a note!

May 20 / RAS

O, What A Tangled Web

No one likes to admit defeat, and most are not particularly excited to shout a mistake from the rooftops.  Self-protection is human nature, but covering tracks in research can land you in some hot water.  HHS defines “research misconduct” as ” fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, and does not include honest error or differences of opinion.” NIH has procedures in place to handle research misconduct claims, but ultimately no power to investigate (except in the case of intramural research).  All research misconduct allegations involving NIH awards (or any agency under the umbrella of HHS) are forwarded to the HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) for their oversight.  Just to be clear:

 

  • Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

 

If a PI is found to have engaged in research misconduct, HHS can take action by means of debarment from eligibility to receive Federal funds for grants and contracts; prohibition from PHS service; certification of information sources by the respondent that is forwarded by the institution; certification of data by the institution; imposition of supervision; submission of a correction of published articles by the respondent; submission of a retraction of published articles; and more, including recalled funds and withdrawal of support for associated PIs.

 

WSU PIs are full of integrity and honor, but panic can blur a bright line. In your moments of most overwhelming, results-driven disappointment, make sure the object you cling to is a life raft and not an anchor.  ORI sanction happens (and just recently did), and it can ruin a career.