On double-dipping your ESI/NI designation at the NIH

Sep 14 2011 Published by under Grant Review, NIH funding

In these days in which having Early Stage Investigator or in some cases New Investigator status gets you an automatic bump on the payline, policy minutia becomes acutely interesting. I've run across one such today, thanks to Comrade PhysioProf.

Now, you might think that the moment your Notice of Grant Award is issued, your ESI/NI status evaporates. I would certainly have assumed that. So if you happen to have two fundable grant scores in the same round you could get the ESI bump on one and then be SOL on the other. This would be very unhilarious if you had one score which was only going to be funded because of the ESI consideration and one that was good enough to sneak under the regular payline and the latter happened to fund first. Oh, can you imagine the screaming???

But I digress. A query at writedit's blog pointed to this FAQ entry at the NIH website.

What happens if an NI/ESI submits two different R01 applications, and NIH decides to fund the first application before the second application is reviewed?

NI and ESI status for an application is calculated based on investigator status on the date each application is submitted to Grants.gov. Therefore, if the investigator submits a second R01 application before losing NI or ESI status, then the second application retains the NI or ESI status.

The commenter is hoping that this means his or her application retains the NI/ESI status after the first one is funded. Not quite the same thing, is it? And it is not just semantics. NI/ESI status is meaningful at the review stage, CSR has been grouping them recently and encouraging the reviewers to take note of the status for some time. So it does make a difference whether an application is designated at review or not. And this doesn't mean that this carries over into when the funding decision is made. As the commenter found out.

Yeah, I did point this to the PO and he said he confirmed with the director of his extramural office that it’s not when you submit the grant, but when you get funding.

So, no disconnect here. At first I was wondering if perhaps the IC in question had a policy that was slightly stricter than the overall NIH but I don't think this is true. I think there is a real and meaningful difference in policy that affects review and policy that affects funding in this case.

10 responses so far

  • Somewhere a loop hole just got sewn shut.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Although this does point the finger at how stupid it is to apply this fix. Remember that the original problem was bias at review. These payline policies are supposed to be accounting for a review that was unfair. So the boost should still be applied to any grants which were *reviewed* under the presumed bias conditions.

  • Wut?? Dude, I think you are misunderstanding NIH policy.

    What NIH mandates from the top down is (1) that ESI/NI status of an application is defined as of when it gets submitted and (2) CSR is mandated to treat ESI/NI applications specially, by reviewing them together in each study section.

    This *does* mean that you can still have an application that is officially NI/ESI even though you have had a qualifying R grant already funded. And that status continues to officially remain active even after review, and even when the IC is deciding on funding.

    What the NIH top-down policy *does not* mandate is anything specific about how ICs handle NI/ESI applications in terms of paylines. All that is mandated is that ICs make a good faith effort of achieving certain benchmarks of numbers/proportions of NI/ESI applications that get funded each fiscal year (I forget the exact details, but there is nothing mandated about paylines, because--of course--ICs are not required to operate with paylines at all, nor are they required to strictly follow them even if they have them).

    So the correct interpretation of what transpired is that the application in question *is* still officially NI/ESI as it is being considered for funding by the IC. And the PO *is correct* that the IC is not violating NIH policy by not applying its looser NI/ESI payline to the grant.

    What is *incorrect* is the PO's explanation of why the IC is not violating NIH policy by not applying the looser NI/ESI payline. The correct reason is that the IC is within its discretion to not apply a looser NI/ESI payline to *any* NI/ESI grant, and in this particular instance has chosen not to because the PI already has an awarded R-whatever grant.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I don't think I misunderstood the essential point that individual ICs could make their own calls in this situation when it came to funding, nor that going by the NIH-wide language on *review* was misleading in this regard.

  • Fred says:

    Is *this* how CPP emphasizes his points in grant apps?

  • Pinko Punko says:

    Just go all CAPS dude- it can't be worse that STARS

  • drugmonkey says:

    Comic sans, works a charm

  • Joat-mon says:

    Personally, I prefer Wingdings.

  • crystaldoc says:

    I have a colleague who got 2 R01s as a NI in 2010 (not sure if he was ESI). The first made it under the regular payline, the 2nd, funded 3 months later by a different IC, got an NI bump and otherwise wouldn't have been funded.

  • Lucky says:

    Just a quick additional point: the NIH policy is that NI/ESI status stays attached even if a grant is unfundable on first review and you have to place a second submission. Taken with the rule described above this means if you submit two RO1s with ESI/NI, and one gets funded but the other one gets dinged, when you resubmit the second one (within some NIH specified timeframe) you can keep the ESI/NI status from the original submission. Although this sounds slightly crazy, I know this is true because it just happened to me. However this took some work - in my case eRA commons defaulted to saying that I lost your ESI/NI status once I got the first NOA, and I had to call them, point out the two rules, and ask to have my status changed, which they did.

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