A simple poll: Are you aware you cannot write NIH grants on the NIH dime?

Jul 02 2012 Published by under NIH, NIH Careerism

I'm making this a poll because I fear some might not want to go on record with their response.

Okay, better make this two polls....

36 responses so far

  • Neuro Polarbear says:

    Applying for R01 $$$ was a specifically mentioned part of the Career Development Plan of my K application. Does that make it kosher??

  • Namnezia says:

    But you can write your renewals. But over the summer, if we have 100% grant support for salary, we were informed we were not allowed to write new grants, attend faculty meetings, do administrative work and attend committee meetings that were not for our own grad students.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Does that make it kosher??

    Not to my understanding, no. This is above the NIH paygrade, this is a general anti-lobbying rule of any and all Federal payment...you can't use Federal funds to lobby the US government period.

    (i.e., careful when you use your University account to email your CongressCritter!)

  • drugmonkey says:

    But you can write your renewals.

    You mean noncompeting progress reports? I could see that....

    we were informed we were not allowed to write new grants, attend faculty meetings, do administrative work and attend committee meetings that were not for our own grad students.

    so...when was your institution busted??????

  • Bashir says:

    I knew that actually. Heard from a PI during a complaining session.

  • Alex says:

    What I've always wondered about is the small companies that get by on SBIRs. Sometimes literally 100% of their money is federal. How does their CEO write proposals?

    At least the big defense contractors often have a few non-federal clients. Some of those non-federal clients are probably ultra-shady, but sometimes they have a commercial side to their business, or some of their tech has other industrial applications. Either way they can pretend that their lobbyists and proposal writers and whatnot are paid out of the non-federal revenue.

  • drugmonkey says:

    the small companies that get by on SBIRs.

    SBIR grants have a "profit" line, perhaps it comes out of that.

  • drugmonkey says:

    during a complaining session.

    complaining about this rule? or the amount of time that was paid for by the Uni for this purpose?

  • Dr Becca says:

    Something I still can't completely wrap my head around is the idea of time on grants. What is "full time?" Is the amount of time you're "allowed" to spend writing new grant proposals a factor of how much time you work altogether, or is anything above 40 hrs a week considered your free time, and thus off the clock?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Yeah.....I've never been able to grasp how the elastic time represented by an exempt, salaried position fits into this either.....

  • pinus says:

    full time is a nebulous concept. somebody here started to ask about that. the answer was that the 40 hour work week concept is bullshit. basically, your % effort, represents your % of your time spent working....which seemed to be bullshit to me. they always make people keep a % off federal money to account for teaching, committees, grant writing, etc.

  • Namnezia says:

    We were told that any professional activities count as time. So even weekends and evenings, if you are writing a grant it is considered a professional activity to it counts as part of full time. So you might as well take the weekends off to go to the beach.

    DM, also I didn't mean non-competing progress reports, I meant competitive renewals. Apparently writing those is OK if you are being payed by that grant, but it doesn't address the anti-lobbying thing you mention. At least that's what we were told.

    Our uni didn't get busted, but a nearby one did and it made them nervous.

  • Namnezia says:

    So now, as a consequence of this, we are not allowed to ever take more than 95% salary from grants, even if it means a pay cut because you have no other non-federal sources available.

  • pinus says:

    I think we can't take more than 95% from feds. foundations can push it up higher. but not 100%.

  • What is "full time?" Is the amount of time you're "allowed" to spend writing new grant proposals a factor of how much time you work altogether, or is anything above 40 hrs a week considered your free time, and thus off the clock?

    It absolutely does not mean a set number of hours per week, it is measured as a fraction of your total available professional effort, and anything you do within the scope of your professional responsibilities counts towards this total effort: teaching, administrative, research, service on peer review panels, reviewing manuscripts for journals, writing recommendation letters, etc. You are never "off the clock" when you are doing this kind of stuff.

    Of course, there is no bright-line rule that can possible determine for every possible activity you are engaged in whether it is a "professional responsibility" or not, whether it is research, teaching, or administrative, and whether it is within the scope of what you are being supported to do by any particular federal grant award.

    This is why the *only* way you can get yourself or your institution in trouble with any of this is to be allocating effort in ways that are--even just on paper--completely logically or physically incompatible with the rules. Examples of this include allocating more than 100% effort to federal awards (yes, this can happen when you have bad accounting procedures), being in a position that absolutely requires you to do non-federally allocable tasks when you are supported 100% by federal funds (such as writing competing grant proposal or serving on purely administrative committees), or allocating huge percent effort to federal awards when you are in a position that clearly requires huge amounts of administrative effort (like if a university provost was allocating 90% effort to federal grant awards).

  • Bashir says:

    complaining about this rule? or the amount of time that was paid for by the Uni for this purpose

    Complaining about NIH grants in general.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    But was he complaining during time that was federally supported? That could constitute illegal activity.

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    I imagine this hits harder for soft money folks rather than hard money? I know here, the rule has been in place for a few years that you can't have more than 95% effort coming off of grants for faculty. I guess this was a protective measure against anti-lobbying and NIH regulations on effort.

  • VIrgil says:

    Ditto on the 95% thing. It even applies to research track faculty... we have R-A-Ps involved in teaching, and thankfully the Department kicks in a small % of their salary so they're not 100% paid off grants. Every litle bit helps when stretching the grant dollars.

    My bigger concern is on the lower end of % effort - hey DM would you fancy putting together a poll about what expectations are for % salary coverage from grants, by rank? I'm hearing widely variant numbers out there, but our institution appears to be settling at 50/60/70 for asst/assoc/full professor.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    PhysioProffe is right. You have to be pulling pretty obvious shenanigans in order to get in trouble for this stuff. Not that that prevents it from happening.

    In my old department, our long time accounting person who was known for taking a pretty "relaxed" attitude towards things retired. A week after the new person took over, he had identified several folks who were clocking more than 100% effort. It's lucky he caught it before the NIH did.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Insert joke about motivational speakers urging you to "give 110%".

  • I'm at a soft money research institute and it's made quite clear to us that we can't write proposals on time we are charging to NIH/NSF grants to do work -- but we have a small pool of non-grant derived money (from private donors and the institute's foundational money) to charge to for writing grants.

  • SoftSquishyMoneyProf says:

    Ok, so I kind of get the sense of this (non-lobbying on grant funded time) although the idea that if you are 100% soft (federal) money as research faculty, all your professional effort, no matter how many hours, is effectively grant time is a little crazy, but ok let's stipulate to that. When it comes to writing that R01 renewal, what in practical terms do you need to do to comply? Take an unpaid leave? Reduce your % effort (and salary) the year you write your renewal? Is it kosher to take a couple weeks vacation ("annual leave") and write your renewal instead of going to the beach? Score some non-federal funds?

  • Anon says:

    What about trainees? Grad students and post-docs are expected to write proposals for training grants (like NRSAs, K awards, etc) to cover their salaries, but their current salaries are 100% paid off of grants (either training grants or PI's grants). How can they legally write proposals?

  • Joe says:

    @ Anon "What about trainees?"
    We are told that it is ok for trainees to write proposals, that learning to write proposals is part of their training. This is also why grad students can do a teaching practicum while being paid from NIH funds. It's all part of their training.

  • Alex says:

    Most universities only classify grad students as 49% time (or whatever) for reasons of labor law and benefits. So the other 51% (or whatever) of their time can be spent on writing grants.

  • Namnezia says:

    But trainees supported by their PI's R01's are not being supported for "training", but rather for performing the work in the grant. Thus, unless they are supported by a training grant, writing proposals while supported by an R01, is technically not allowed. That's what we were told was the official line.

  • Alex says:

    Huh. In grad school I was told that I was a 49% employee and 20 hours of my week were on my advisor's grant. The rest of the time counted toward the Directed Research course that I was enrolled in for units.

  • Joe says:

    @Namnezia "But trainees supported by their PI's R01's are not being supported for "training", but rather for performing the work in the grant. "
    If that were the case, then students couldn't be paid from the grant when taking classes, writing their prelim, going to journal club, etc.

  • bill says:

    You are never "off the clock" when you are doing this kind of stuff.

    So what the fucke are you expected to do, take unpaid leave?

  • So what the fucke are you expected to do, take unpaid leave?

    If you are supporting 100% of your professional effort on federal grant awards, then you are expected to spend 100% of your professional effort doing shitte that is allowable and allocable to those awards. If you need to spend part of your professional effort doing shitte that is either not allowable or not allocable to your federal grant awards, then you need to support less than 100% of your professional effort from your federal grant awards. Federal laws and regulations are completely indifferent as to whether or how you obtain support for the difference.

  • anon says:

    Does anyone know what's up with "Varmus Irked by Having to Fill Jobs With Salaries NCI Can't Afford to Pay" ?. I just came across the title of the story at Cancer Letter but can't read it because subscription is needed. And it is kind of pricy!. Thanks

  • DM says:

    I am aware of it. I was not informed by my institution about it, but federal regulations are clear and I did not want to brake these rules. I asked one of my mentors to cover 5% of my salary from unrestricted, non-federal sources, so I can formally apply for federal money.

  • J. Johnson says:

    What the rats is this.

  • qaz says:

    This % effort stuff is BS anyway. Science doesn't work that way.

  • miko says:

    Relatedly, you are supposed to pay your state sales tax for shit you buy online.

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