Repost: Keep the ball in play

Sep 21 2016 Published by under NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

This was originally posted 16 September, 2014.


We're at the point of the fiscal year where things can get really exciting. The NIH budget year ends Sept 30 and the various Institutes and Centers need to balance up their books. They have been funding grants throughout the year on the basis of the shifting sands of peer review with an attempt to use up all of their annual allocation on the best possible science.

Throughout the prior two Council rounds of the year, they have to necessarily be a bit conservative. After all, they don't know in the first Round if maybe they will have a whole bunch of stellar scores come in during the third Round. Some one-off funding opportunities are perhaps schedule for consideration only during the final Round. Etc.

Also, the amount of funding requested for each grant varies. So maybe they have a bunch of high scoring proposals that are all very inexpensive? Or maybe they have many in the early rounds of the year that are unusually large?

This means that come September, the ICs are sometimes sitting on unexpended funds and need to start picking up proposals that weren't originally slated to fund. Maybe it is a supplement, maybe it is a small mechanism like a R03 or R21. Maybe they will offer you 2 years of funding of an R01 proposed for 5. Maybe they will offer you half the budget you requested. Maybe they have all of a sudden discovered a brand new funding priority and the quickest way to hit the ground running is to pick something up with end-of-year funds.

Now obviously, you cannot game this out for yourself. There is no way to rush in a proposal at the end of the year (save for certain administrative supplements). There is no way for you to predict what your favorite IC is going to be doing in Sep- maybe they have exquisite prediction and always play it straight up by priority score right to the end, sticking within the lines of the Council rounds. And of course, you cannot assume lobbying some lowly PO for a pickup is going to work out for you.

There is one thing you can do, Dear Reader.

It is pretty simple. You cannot receive one of these end-of-year unexpected grant awards unless you have a proposal on the books and in play. That means, mostly, a score and not a triage outcome. It means, in a practical sense, that you had better have your JIT information all squared away because this can affect things. It means, so I hear, that this is FINALLY the time when your IC will quite explicitly look at overhead rates to see about total costs and screw over those evil bastiges at high overhead Universities that you keep ranting about on the internet. You can make sure you have not just an R01 hanging around but also a smaller mech like an R03 or R21.

It happens*. I know lots and lots of people who have received end-of-the-FY largesse that they were not expecting. Received this type of benefit myself. It happens because you have *tried* earlier in the year to get funding and have managed to get something sitting on the books, just waiting for the spotlight of attention to fall upon you.

So keep that ball in play, my friends. Keep submitting credible apps. Keep your Commons list topped off with scored apps.

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*As we move into October, you can peruse SILK and RePORTER to see which proposals have a start date of Sep 30. Those are the end-of-year pickups.

h/t: some Reader who may or may not choose to self-identify 🙂

3 responses so far

  • Emaderton3 says:

    Thanks for this post; reading things like this keeps my motivation high! I am working on a R01 for the October 5th deadline. While I am significantly behind and have most of the Approach to write, I am planning to move forward as long as I can finish (I have a fairly concrete and thought out plan in my head). I really think it is important to always try to have some applications in the pool. In this instance, I really want to get my application in given all of the changes that are now required. I hope I have addressed them adequately, but I also wonder if the reviewers will have an adjustment period that may prove advantageous. Either way, I move forward . . . for now . . .

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Note that if you email your ordinarily responsive PO late in the fiscal year to inquire about pick-up possibility and don't hear back, that's a good sign, as it means your grant isn't dead, and is at least still in the mix for funding.

  • avocado says:

    Noob question here on pick-up vs. re-submission...........

    My A0 submission from cycle 1 scored in the grey-zone and the PO was cautiously optimistic about its chances. She asked me to hold off on re-submitting in cycle 2 and asked me to send in my JIT. Anyways, it is soon going to be time for cycle 3 re-submissions and I have still not heard back on my proposal. Should I resubmit my proposal is cycle 3 or continue waiting to see if it gets picked-up? I have emailed my PO (who is normally very responsive) but she has not responded (likely because she has no idea on what the budget will look like).

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