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The NIH Pioneer Award Frequently Asked Questions

A. General Questions

  1. What is the NIH Pioneer Award?
  2. What distinguishes the NIH Pioneer Award from traditional NIH programs?
  3. How does the Pioneer Award program differ from other NIH programs targeting innovative research, such as the New Innovator, Transformative Research Award (formerly known as T-R01), and Early Independence Award programs?
  4. How many awards will be made in 2014?
  5. How much time/effort must recipients devote to their Pioneer Award project?
  6. If 50% of my time is devoted to clinical and/or teaching duties, and only 50% to research, how much time/effort would I be expected to devote to Pioneer Award activities?
  7. What requirements must I fulfill during the term of the award?
  8. May two or more scientists apply as a team for the NIH Pioneer Award?
  9. From which disciplines does NIH wish to draw submissions for the NIH Pioneer Award?
  10. Will technology development be allowed or just hypothesis-driven research?
  11. I am working with a collaborator in another country. Would I be able to continue to spend some time conducting research there?
  12. Are these awards renewable?
  13. Once awarded, is this award transferable if I change institutions next year?
  14. Are women and members of underrepresented minority groups encouraged to apply?
  15. Will the Pioneer Award program be repeated in 2015?

B. Eligibility

  1. Are individuals at all stages of their careers eligible?
  2. May individuals who applied in previous years who did not receive awards apply this year?
  3. Are foreign scientists eligible?
  4. Are individuals employed by government agencies, non-academic, and/or for-profit organizations eligible?
  5. Are scientists in the NIH Intramural Program eligible?
  6. Are individuals who have other support eligible? If so, may the awardee remain as principal investigator on his/her grant(s)?
  7. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow. Am I eligible to apply for an NIH Pioneer Award?
  8. Can the same project be submitted to two programs at the same time? While my Pioneer Award application is pending, may I submit the same project for another NIH grant such as an R01? If I have an application pending, may I submit the same project for a Pioneer Award?
  9. I have an application under review in another program supporting unusually innovative research (such as the Transformative Research Award program). May I submit the same project to the Pioneer Award program?
  10. According to the RFA, Pioneer Awards are meant to support investigators who intend to pursue new research directions. Can you clarify what is meant by “new research direction?”

C. The Competition Process for 2014

  1. Are there significant changes from last year to the competition process?
  2. Can you outline the timeline of competition process associated with each of the three receipt dates listed in RFA-RM-13-006?
  3. What are the dates for submission of 2014 applications and letters of reference?
  4. Can someone at NIH review my idea and let me know if it is a good fit for the Pioneer Award program?
  5. Is there a limit to the number of applications that can be submitted by an institution?
  6. What must be done before I submit an application to Grants.gov?
  7. Where can I find help registering for Grants.gov?
  8. Where can I find help in submitting my application to Grants.gov?
  9. Where can I find help in registering for the eRA Commons?
  10. Whom do I contact if I have questions about programmatic aspects of the Pioneer Awards?

D. Grants.Gov Submission Documents

  1. What format should I use for the documents submitted with my application to Grants.gov (abstract, essay, biosketch, current research support)?
  2. Does the five-page essay replace the traditional “Research Plan” (with “Specific Aims”) or is it to be submitted in addition to that section?
  3. In my essay, may I include citations (references) to key publications? If so, what is the appropriate format?
  4. In my essay, may I include figures and illustrations?
  5. In my essay, may I include links to Web sites to provide more information?
  6. The application package that I downloaded from Grants.Gov does not include budget pages. Are detailed budgets required? Where do I indicate indirect costs?
  7. Where do I submit the various required sections of the application?
  8. What should be included in the description of the investigator’s most significant research accomplishment?
  9. The Instructions in the FOA state that I have to designate a science area for my application. What is the purpose of the science area?
  10. Where do I designate the area of science for my pre-application?
  11. What are the Areas of Science?
  12. May I designate more than one area of science?
  13. I cannot determine the best fit for my Area of Science. What should I do?
  14. Will the reviewers be experts in the topic of my pre-application?
  15. May I include additional information in an appendix? I need additional space for my list of references, etc.
  16. Where should the effort commitment statement (statement confirming that if chosen to receive an award, the applicant will commit a minimum of 51% of their research efforts to Pioneer Award activities) be provided in the pre-application?
  17. If I obtain important new preliminary data that will strengthen my application after my application has been submitted, can the new data be included in the review?

E. Letters of Reference

  1. Are letters of reference required?
  2. How do my referees submit their letters in support of my application?
  3. Will I be notified letters are submitted?
  4. How can I check the status of my letters of reference?
  5. May I ask more than three individuals to submit letters for my application?
  6. May a single letter of reference come from more than one individual?
  7. From whom should I request letters of reference?

F. 2013 Evaluation and Selection of Awardees

  1. How will awardees be selected?
  2. What criteria will be used to evaluate applications?
  3. Will I receive a summary statement or other comments?
  4. Can the decision of the panel of reviewers be appealed?
  5. When will the 2014 awardees be announced?

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A. General Questions

  1. What is the NIH Pioneer Award?
    The NIH  Pioneer Award Program, established in 2004 as part of the NIH Roadmap and now a component of the Common Fund, complements NIH’s traditional, investigator-initiated grant programs by supporting individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. The term “pioneering” is used to describe highly innovative approaches that have the potential for producing an unusually high impact. Biomedical and behavioral research is defined broadly in this program as encompassing scientific investigations in the biological, behavioral, clinical, social, physical, chemical, computational, engineering, mathematical sciences, and other relevant disciplines. 
     
  2. What distinguishes the NIH Pioneer Award from traditional NIH programs?
    The NIH  Pioneer Award Program is different in several ways. First, it is designed to support a small number of investigators of exceptional creativity who propose bold and highly innovative new research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research. The award will provide up to $500,000 direct costs per year for five years. The only constraint on the research to be done with this award is that it must be relevant to the NIH mission (http://www.nih.gov/about/almanac). Second, the information required is highly abbreviated. Third, the procedure for evaluating applicants (described below) is distinct from the traditional NIH peer review process and emphasizes the individual’s potential to make seminal contributions toward solving an important biomedical or behavioral research problem; the innovativeness, significance, and potential impact of the project; the likelihood that the project would not be supported through more traditional funding mechanisms; and whether it represents a significant departure from the applicant’s ongoing research.
     
  3. How does the Pioneer Award program differ from other NIH programs targeting innovative research, such as the New Innovator, Transformative R01 (T-R01), and Early Independence Award programs?

     

    Pioneer Award

    New Innovator Award

    Transformative Research Award

    Early Independence Award

    Target group

    • Individuals of exceptional creativity proposing highly innovative research
    • Individual early stage investigators of exceptional creativity proposing research of uncommonly high potential impact
    • Individuals or teams proposing transformative research with perhaps very large budgets
    • Outstanding junior scientists wishing to “skip the post-doc” and immediately begin independent research

    Eligibility

    • Open to all career stages; early and middle career particularly encouraged to apply
    • Must currently be engaged in research
    • No citizenship or residency requirement
    • Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions not eligible
    • Receipt of most recent doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., Pharm.D., or equivalent) or completion of medical internship and residency no more than 10 years prior to application receipt date
    • Must be a “new investigator” (never been awarded an R01 or equivalent NIH grant)
    • No citizenship or residency requirement
    • Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions not eligible
    • Open to all career stages
    • Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions eligible
    • Candidate must receive terminal research degree or complete medical residency within 12 months (before or after) of application submission date
    • No citizenship or residency requirement
    • Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions not eligible
    • Only up to two applications per institution (or grant submitting entity)

    Preliminary Data

    Not required; may be included

    Not required; may be included

    Not required; may be included

    Not as stringent as conventional R01

    Research strategy

    3–5 page essay includes response to questions about the challenge, potential impact, suitability for the Pioneer Award program; and how research qualifies as new research direction

    10-page essay addresses significance and potential impact; innovativeness of approaches and how risks and challenges will be addressed; and investigator qualifications for the award

    8 page recommended limit; respond to questions about the challenge, potential impact, and appropriateness for the T-R01 program

    12-page limit; in addition, host institution must provide details of commitment

    Reference letters

    3 letters required

    None accepted

    None accepted

    3 -5 letters required

    Effort

    Minimum of 51% (major portion) of research effort must be devoted to activities supported by the award

    Minimum of 25% of research effort must be devoted to activities supported by the award

    Effort should be commensurate with project needs, and follow general guidelines for other NIH projects of similar size, complexity, and duration

    Large fraction of total effort

    Budget

    • No budget information submitted
    • Awards will be for up to $500,000 per year for each of five years, plus standard F&A (indirect) costs
    • No budget information submitted
    • Awards will be for up to $300,000 in direct costs each year for five years, plus standard F&A (indirect costs)
    • No limits up to maximum funds available for the program as a whole
    • No prior approvals required for budgets over $500K (DC) per year

    Up to $250K per year for up to five years, plus standard F&A (indirect costs)

    Multiple PIs

    Only one PD/PI may be designated on the application

    Only one PD/PI may be designated on the application

    More than one PD/PI allowed

    Only one PD/PI may be designated on the application

    Review format

    Multi-phased, interview of finalists

    Multi-phased, “editorial board”

    Multi-phased, “editorial board

    Multi-phased, “editorial board,” interview of finalists

     

  4. How many awards will be made in 2014?
    The NIH expects to make approximately seven awards in FY 2014 corresponding to the Oct 18, 2013 receipt date, depending on the quality of applications and the availability of funds. 
     
  5. How much time/effort must recipients devote to their Pioneer Award project?
    Awardees are expected to commit the major portion (at least 51 percent) of their research time/effort to activities supported by the Pioneer Award in the first three years of the project. A minimum of 35% of research effort is required in year 4, and 25% in year 5. This does not include effort toward teaching, clinical, or administrative duties. Investigators should not apply if they are unable to commit the major portion of their research effort to the Pioneer project.
     
  6. If 50% of my time is devoted to clinical and/or teaching duties, and only 50% to research, how much time/effort would I be expected to devote to Pioneer Award activities?
    If you spend 50% of your time doing research, you would be required to devote the major portion (at least 51 percent) of your research time, or 26% of your totaltime, to Pioneer Award activities.
     
  7. What requirements must I fulfill during the term of the award?
    Although there are no stipulations on the research agenda, you will be required to submit a two- to five-page annual report of your activities during the year and to participate in an annual symposium in Bethesda, MD. In addition, to help the NIH evaluate this program, you may be contacted periodically for at least five years and asked to report on your latest research efforts. 
     
  8. May two or more scientists apply as a team for the NIH Pioneer Award?
    No. Applications must come from individual investigators, not from teams of investigators. However, investigators may describe planned collaborations in their essays.
     
  9. From which disciplines does NIH wish to draw submissions for the NIH Pioneer Award?
    The NIH encourages applications from scientists from all disciplines, including the biological, behavioral, clinical, social, physical, chemical, computational, engineering, and mathematical sciences, who provide evidence of interest in exploring topics of relevance to the NIH mission.
     
  10. Will technology development be allowed or just hypothesis-driven research?
    Applications proposing hypothesis-driven research and those proposing the development of new tools and technologies are both encouraged. The focus is on impact and innovation.
     
  11. I am working with a collaborator in another country. Would I be able to continue to spend some time conducting research there?
    The PI of a Pioneer Award must be employed by a U.S. institution and the research must be conducted at that institution. However, there may be circumstances, such as studies involving a foreign population or a collaborative research project, in which the PI of a Pioneer Award must conduct part of the research outside the United States. This research is allowable. However, the length of any single foreign research stay should not exceed the time allowable under NIH Grants Policy for a PI to be away from his/her laboratory without appointing a temporary PI (i.e., three months). Due to the special nature of the Pioneer Award, appointment of a temporary PI is not allowable. 
     
  12. Are these awards renewable?
    No. These awards are intended to provide funds to initiate important new directions in research over a 5 year timeframe.
     
  13. Once awarded, is this award transferable if I change institutions next year?
    This award may be transferred to another eligible institution according to the same policies and procedures as for traditional research grants. Please note, however, that awards may not be transferred to foreign institutions.
     
  14. Are women and members of underrepresented minority groups encouraged to apply?
    The NIH recognizes that there are many outstanding and highly innovative women scientists, as well as outstanding scientists who are members of minority groups underrepresented in biomedical or behavioral research, and strongly encourages these individuals to apply. NIH also plans to aggressively recruit an appropriately diverse group to serve as reviewers at the various stages of the selection process.
     
  15. Will the Pioneer Award program be repeated in 2015?
    The current FOA includes receipt dates for 2014, 2015, and 2016 awards.  To be reminded of the Pioneer Award open submission dates and other NIH Common Fund news, register for the Common Fund LISTSERV at https://list.nih.gov/cgi-bin/wa.exe?SUBED1=NIH-OSC-L&A=1.

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B. Eligibility

  1. Are individuals at all stages of their careers eligible?
    Yes, individuals at all career stages are eligible to apply. 
     
  2. May individuals who applied in previous years who did not receive awards apply this year?
    Yes, as long as they meet the other eligibility criteria as listed in the RFA. Note that all Pioneer Award applications must be submitted as “new” applications, regardless of any previous submission to the program.
     
  3. Are foreign scientists eligible?
    Yes. There is no citizenship or residency requirement. However, applicants must be conducting their research and holding an independent position at a U.S. institution that is eligible to apply. Non-domestic (non-U.S.) entities (Foreign Organizations) are not eligible to apply.
     
  4. Are individuals employed by government agencies, non-academic, and/or for-profit organizations eligible?
    Individuals from all organizations that can otherwise apply to the NIH for funding and are willing to abide by the terms and conditions that NIH requires are eligible for this award.
     
  5. Are scientists in the NIH Intramural Program eligible?
    No, NIH intramural scientists are not eligible to apply for the Pioneer Award.
     
  6. Are individuals who have other support eligible? If so, may the awardee remain as principal investigator on his/her grant(s)?
    Individuals who have other support are eligible for this award and may continue as principal investigator on other grants. However, awardees are expected to devote at least 51 percent of their research time/effort to activities supported by the Pioneer Award. Since the NIH  Pioneer Awards are expected to support distinctly new research, awards will not be made simply to enable investigators to expand research projects that are ongoing.
     
  7. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow. Am I eligible to apply for an NIH  Pioneer Award?
    While there are no career stage eligibility criteria, applicants must be able to show concrete evidence for their claim of innovativeness. This could be very difficult for a postdoctoral fellow who has never conducted independent research. In addition, like all NIH grants, the NIH  Pioneer Awards are made to institutions on behalf of investigators. Because most institutions will only authorize grant applications from individuals who are independent investigators, this could present an administrative barrier to applying.  Individual outstanding, highly innovative early stage and junior investigators may want to consider applying for the NIH Director’s New Innovator, or Early Independence Award Programs as appropriate.
     
  8. Can the same project be submitted to two programs at the same time? While my Pioneer Award application is pending, may I submit the same project for another NIH grant such as an R01? If I have an application pending, may I submit the same project for a Pioneer Award?
    Pioneer Awards are meant to support investigators of exceptional creativity who intend to pursue paradigm shifting projects that are substantially different from those already being pursued in the investigator’s lab or elsewhere. Those submitting applications must address explicitly how the proposed research direction will differ from their past or current work and the reviewers will evaluate whether the Pioneer Award project is merely incremental or whether it is a "leap" ahead of the work the investigator is already doing. Investigators must also provide compelling justification for the advantage of evaluation by the Pioneer Award process rather than by the standard review process. In general, projects that are appropriate for more traditional grant mechanisms are not appropriate for Pioneer Award applications. Additionally, the general policy of the Public Health Service, which includes the NIH, does not allow multiple submissions of essentially the same proposal to any of its components.
     
  9. I have an application under review in another program supporting unusually innovative research (such as the Transformative Research Award program). May I submit the same project to the Pioneer Award program?
    No. NIH policy does not allow multiple submissions of essentially the same project.
     
  10. According to the RFA, Pioneer Awards are meant to support investigators who intend to pursue new research directions. Can you clarify what is meant by “new research direction?”
    A new research direction is one that is distinct from any research currently or previously conducted by the applicant or by other investigators. Successful Pioneer Award applicants are expected to propose highly innovative, and possibly risky, approaches to address or solve exceptionally important problems in biomedical or behavioral sciences. While a new research direction may have as its foundation the applicant’s prior work and expertise, it cannot simply be an obvious extension or scaling up of a research enterprise. Rather, a new research direction must reflect a fundamental new insight into the solution of a problem, which may derive from the development of exceptionally innovative approaches and/or from the posing of radically unconventional hypotheses.

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C. The Competition Process for 2014

  1. Are there significant changes from last year to the competition process?
    There are minor changes to the application. Please read the application instructions in the RFA carefully. RFA-RM-13-006, has three receipt dates, it is important to note that these are not rolling receipt dates and applications submitted to each receipt date will be evaluated separately.
     
  2. Can you outline the timeline of competition process associated with each of the three receipt dates listed in RFA-RM-13-006?

    Application Due Date

    October 18, 2013

    October 10, 2014

    October 9, 2015

    Funding Year

    2014

    2015

    2016

    Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

    September 18, 2013

    September 10, 2014

    September 9, 2015

    Scientific Merit Review Phase 1

    Spring 2014

    Spring 2015

    Spring 2016

    Scientific Merit Review Finalist Interviews

    May 2014

    May 2015

    May 2016

    Advisory Council Review

    May 2014

    May 2015

    May 2016

    Award Notifications

    August 2014

    August 2015

    August 2016

    Earliest Start Date

    September 2014

    September 2015

    September 2016

     

  3. What are the dates for submission of 2014 applications and letters of reference?
    Applications may be submitted to Grants.gov beginning September 18, 2013 and must be successfully received by Grants.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. local time (of the investigator’s institution/organization), of the appropriate application receipt date (October 18, 2013, October 10, 2014, or October 9, 2015). Letters of reference must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. (local time of the referee), of the appropriate application receipt date (October 18, 2013, October 10, 2014, or October 9, 2015).
     
  4. Can someone at NIH review my idea and let me know if it is a good fit for the Pioneer Award program?
    NIH staff cannot provide comments on specific ideas or plans for individual research grant applications.  The external review will evaluate the merit of your application.  However, questions about the scope and intent of the Pioneer Awards initiative should be directed to Ravi Basavappa, Ph.D. in the NIH Office of the Director at 301-435-7204 or at PioneerAwards@mail.nih.govEmail inquiries are strongly preferred. 
  5. Is there a limit to the number of applications that can be submitted by an institution?
    There is no limit to the number of applications that an institution can submit. However, an investigator may submit only one application per receipt date.
     
  6. What must be done before I submit an application to Grants.gov?
    It is important that you immediately check with your sponsored research office to determine whether your institution is registered with Grants.gov. Please note that the registration process could take up to two weeks. The institution’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) is responsible for completing the registration process.

    If your institution is not already registered, it must first register with the Central Contractor Registry (the Credential Provider) at http://www.ccr.gov/ and then with Grants.gov at http://www.grants.gov.

    Both the institution and the investigator must also complete a one-time registration in the NIH eRA Commons at https://public.era.nih.gov/ in order to submit applications to NIH. Institutional officials are responsible for registering investigators in the eRA Commons. You should work with your AOR (also known as Signing Official in the eRA Commons) to determine your own institution’s process for registration.
     

  7. Where can I find help registering for Grants.gov?
    For help with the Grants.gov registration process, contact Grants.gov customer support at 1-800-518-4726 (Toll Free), Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), or at support@grants.gov.  You can also find help at the iPortal, which displays the top 10 requested help topics (FAQs), searchable knowledge base, self service ticketing and ticket status, and live web chat (available 7:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M. ET).
     
  8. Where can I find help in submitting my application to Grants.gov?
    For help with the technical aspects of submitting to Grants.gov, check the resources available at Grants.gov. If you need assistance, contract Grants.gov customer support at 1-800-518-4726 (Toll Free), Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), or at support@grants.gov.  You can also find help at the iPortal, which displays the top 10 requested help topics (FAQs), searchable knowledge base, self service ticketing and ticket status, and live web chat (available 7:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M. ET).
     
  9. Where can I find help in registering for the eRA Commons?
    Step-by-step directions for registering with eRA Commons are available at http://era.nih.gov/commons/faq_commons.cfm#II3.   For questions regarding the Commons registration process, contact the NIH eRA Commons help desk at phone: 866-504-9552 (Toll Free); 301- 451-5939 (TTY) business hours Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).  Alternatively, you may email commons@od.nih.gov and a customer service representative will be in contact with you. .

    For questions regarding the Commons registration process, contact the NIH eRA Commons help desk at phone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free); 301-451-5939 (TTY) business hours Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
     

  10. Whom do I contact if I have questions about programmatic aspects of the Pioneer Awards?
    For questions of a programmatic nature, contact Ravi Basavappa at (301) 435-7204 or PioneerAwards@mail.nih.govEmail inquiries are strongly preferred.
     

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D. Grants.Gov Application Documents

  1. What format should I use for the documents submitted with my application to Grants.gov (abstract, essay, biosketch, current research support)?
    All documents must be in PDF format. Other formatting requirements are in the Application Guide (PDF, 263 pages), Section 2.6, Format Specifications for Text (PDF) Attachments.

    For the biographical sketch, use the sample format on the Biographical Sketch Format Page (MS Word, 1 page) in the Application Guide in Part I, Section 4.5. Omit Sections A – Personal Statement and D- Research Support. The biographical sketch must not exceed two pages. No biographical sketches of potential collaborators or other key personnel are to be submitted and will not be accepted. Information on potential collaborators is not required, but may be included in the Essay. 

    For the list of current and pending support, use the format shown in the Application Guide, Section 3.1.1.8. Applications with documents that exceed page limits will be considered non-responsive and will not be evaluated.
     

  2. Does the five-page essay replace the traditional “Research Plan” (with “Specific Aims”) or is it to be submitted in addition to that section?
    The five-page essay replaces the traditional “Research Plan” section required for most other NIH grant applications. The requirements for a Pioneer Award application are very different from those for most other NIH grants. Read carefully the application instructions and review criteria in the RFA.
     
  3. In my essay, may I include citations (references) to key publications? If so, what is the appropriate format?
    Yes, you may include citations in the essay, as long as they fit within the 5 page limit. The citations may be in any format.
     
  4. In my essay, may I include figures and illustrations? 
    Yes, you may include figures and illustrations in the essay, as long as they fit within the 5 page limit. Note, however, that links to figures, illustrations or animations/movies are not allowed. 
     
  5. In my essay, may I include links to Web sites to provide more information?
    No, investigators must explain their proposed research in their 3–5 page essays. 
     
  6. The application package that I downloaded from Grants.Gov does not include budget pages. Are detailed budgets required? Where do I indicate indirect costs?
    Budgets are not required. Indirect costs will be determined at the time of award.
     
  7. Where do I submit the various required sections of the application?
     
     
    Document Name   Form/Field   Special Instructions  
    Abstract   R&R Other Project Information Component, Field 7 (Project Summary/Abstract)   Maximum 30 lines of text  
    Public Health Relevancy Statement   R&R Other Project Information Component, Field 8 (Project Narrative)   2 – 3 sentences maximum  
    Facilities & Other Resources   R&R Other Project Information Component, Field 10 (Facilities and Other Resources)   One page maximum  
    Description of the PD/PI’s Most Significant Research Accomplishment   R&R Other Project Information Component, Field 12 (Other Attachments)   One page maximum. Describe only the single most significant accomplishment.  
    Biographical Sketch   SF 424 R&R Senior/Key Person Profile, field titled "Attach Biographical Sketch"   Two pages maximum; omit sections A – Personal Statement and D – Other Support (Current and Pending Support information submitted separately – see below.)
    Submit only for PD/PI.
     
    List of Current and Pending Research Support   SF424 Senior/Key Person Profile Component   Provide current year direct costs to applicant and percent effort for each project. Include statement that at least 51% of research effort will be for Pioneer Award research.  
    Essay   PHS 398 Research Plan, Field 2.3(Research Strategy)   Five pages maximum; must include science area (2-digit code and name of science area at beginning of essay)  
    Human and Vertebrate Animal Subjects Plans (If applicable)   PHS 398 Research Plan Component, Fields 6-10   Complete instructions for the PHS398 Research Plan component are in the SF424 Application Guide (PDF, 263 pages), Section I, part 5 (Competing PHS 398 Components) – see page I-109. There are also supplemental instructions for preparing the human subjects plan in Part II of the Application Guide.  
     

    Note: All documents must be in PDF format and must comply with prescribed page limits. No additional documents should be uploaded to the application and applications that contain additional materials may not be reviewed. (See detailed information on each application component below)
     

  8. What should be included in the description of the investigator’s most significant research accomplishment?
    Attach a description, no longer than one page, of your single most signification publication or research accomplishment. You should describe a singleaccomplishment, not a summary of several accomplishments, multiple publications, or background
     
  9. The Instructions in the FOA state that I have to designate science areas for my application. What is the purpose of the science area?
    The Area of Science designations are to assist in assigning applications to reviewers. To select the most appropriate science area codes for your application, you should consider whether reviewers who are knowledgeable the Areas of Science would be most likely to appreciate the significance of the project, the innovativeness of its approaches, and its potential impact.
     
  10. Where do I designate the area of science for my application?
    The areas of science (one-digit code and abbreviation) are entered in Field Number 4.b. (Agency Routing Identifier Field) on the SF424 (R&R) Cover Component. Enter the one-digit code and name of the science areas from the list below in Field Number 4.4. on the SF424 (R&R) 

    The areas of science (one-digit code and the abbreviation) must also be included at the top of the Essay.
     

  11. What are the Areas of Science?
     
    1. BBS - Behavioral and Social Sciences
    2. CF - Chemical Biology
    3. CTR - Clinical and Translational Research
    4. IMM - Immunology
    5. IE - Instrumentation and Engineering
    6. MCB - Molecular and Cellular Biology
    7. NS - Neuroscience
    8. HIB - High Throughput and Integrative Biology
    9. QCB - Quantitative and Computational Biology 
       
  12. May I designate more than one area of science?
    Yes. Designate a primary and secondary area of science.
     
  13. I cannot determine the best fits for my Area of Science. What should I do?
    The Area of Science coding is used to assist in the assignment of applications to the most appropriate group of reviewers. NIH staff cannot advise you on the specific selection of an Area of Science for your project. We understand that for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects, more than one Area of Science might be appropriate. 
     
  14. Will the reviewers be experts in the topic of my pre-application?
    There is no attempt to match closely the expertise of the reviewers to the topics of the proposals. The reviewers for the Pioneer Award applications have been chosen for their breadth of scientific perspective, and will be able to review a broad range of applications, but will not necessarily be experts in the topic of your specific proposal. The description of the scientific project in the essay should be written with a level of detail appropriate for reviewers who are broadly knowledgeable but who may not be expert in the proposed area of research. 
     
  15. May I include additional information in an appendix? I need additional space for my list of references, etc.
    All information submitted for the review of your application must be included in the allowed sections of the application, within the specified limits of space. Appendices will not be accepted. There is no place for appendix material in the application format.
     
  16. Where should the effort commitment statement (statement confirming that if chosen to receive an award, the applicant will commit a minimum of 51% of their research efforts to Pioneer Award activities) be provided in the application?
    The statement should be placed in the list of current and pending support.
     
  17. If I obtain important new preliminary data that will strengthen my application after my application has been submitted, can the new data be included in the review?
    We cannot accept any such additional information. Only the information contained in the original application will be included in the review.

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E. Letters of Reference

  1. Are letters of reference required for applications this year?
    All applicants must arrange to have three (and no more than three) letters of reference submitted on their behalf. Please see the detailed instructions in the RFA and at http://commonfund.nih.gov/pioneer/LettersofReferenceFormat
     
  2. How do my referees submit their letters in support of my application?
    Letters of reference are submitted to the NIH eRA Commons at (https://commons.era.nih.gov/commons/reference/submitRefereeInformation.jsp). For the Oct. 18, 2013 receipt date letters must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. (local time of the referee), October 18, 2013 Instructions for referees on submitting letters are at http://commonfund.nih.gov/pioneer/LettersofReferenceFormat
     
  3. Will I be notified when letters are submitted?
    Applicants will receive an e-mail confirmation for each letter. The confirmation will contain the name of the referee and the date and time the letter was submitted. Applicants are responsible for contacting their referees to ensure that the letters are submitted prior to the deadline.

    Applications with fewer than three letters may be considered non-responsive and may not be reviewed. 
     

  4. How can I check the status of my letters of reference?
    The applicant may track the status of reference letters submitted by his or her referees by logging into his or her Commons account, clicking the Personal Profile tab and clicking on the Reference Letters tab on the second header row. 
     
  5. May I ask more than three individuals to submit letters for my application?
    You should NOT request letters from more than three referees as only three letters will be accepted. 
     
  6. May a single letter of reference come from more than one individual?
    No, each letter must be from only one referee.
     
  7. From whom should I request letters of reference?
    It may be most useful to reviewers if letters are from scientists who can address your ability to formulate a compelling scientific vision, your record of overcoming daunting conceptual and experimental hurdles, and your capacity to successfully challenge scientific dogma. It may not be best to choose referees based primarily on their official position, such as your departmental chair or institutional dean. 
     

Additional FAQs relating to letters of reference are available Here

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F. 2013 Review and Selection of Awardees

  1. How will awardees be selected?
    Applications that are complete and responsive will be peer reviewed by a multidisciplinary group of external reviewers. Those investigators whose submissions are judged to be the most outstanding will be invited to NIH for interviews in May, following the receipt date. Interviews will be conducted by a panel of distinguished outside experts. The appropriate Council-level body will conduct the final level of review. The Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Director, NIH, will make the final funding decisions based the results of initial peer review, the recommendations of the Council level of review, programmatic considerations, availability of funds, and consultations with IC Directors.
     
  2. What criteria will be used to evaluate applications?
    The review emphasizes the individual’s potential to make seminal contributions toward solving an important biomedical or behavioral research problem; the innovativeness, significance, and potential impact of the project; the likelihood that the project would not be supported through more traditional funding mechanisms; and whether it represents a significant departure from the applicant’s ongoing research. Please see the detailed description of research criteria in Section V.2 of the RFA.
     
  3. Will I receive a summary statement or other comments?
    All applicants will receive summary statements with brief reviewer comments. Additionally, applicants selected for finalist interviews will receive overall impact/priority scores. No criterion scores will be provided to either finalists or non-finalists.
     
  4. Can the decision of the panel of reviewers be appealed?
    No. There is no appeal process.
     
  5. When will the 2014 awardees be announced?
    The  awardees from the Oct 18, 2013 receipt date, will be notified by mid-August 2014. New awardees are expected to attend the High Risk-High Reward Research Symposium to be held in the fall of 2014.
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