- What is the “Strengthening the Biomedical Research Workforce" program?
- What are the NIH Director’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) Awards?
- In the NIH Director’s BEST Awards funding announcement, what is the difference between research-intensive and research-related careers?
- Will the BEST program support research-intensive or research-related career training?
- How will the programs initiated under the NIH Director’s BEST Awards be sustained after the maximum 5 year award period?
- What is meant by the requirement that training programs need to be “novel and innovative”? How much novelty and innovation is required?
- If students and postdocs on training grants are supposed to dedicate all their effort to their research, how can they be involved in activities that would take them away from their research?
- Do the proposed programs need to prepare trainees for all potential career paths? Can BEST Awards support programs that focus on a smaller subset of career paths?
- Which trainees at our institution should be included in training programs supported by the BEST Award?
- What is the expected timeline for the implementation of a training program supported by the BEST Award?
- What is the definition of ‘attractive exit pathways’? What do you envision that those might be?
- Is it expected that exposure to career alternatives will be accompanied by award of master's degree or other certification?
- Would training for educational career paths be within the scope of the BEST Award?
- Is it expected that graduate students will matriculate into the training program supported by the BEST Award in their first year or be selected from a pool of more advanced students?
- What are the evaluation requirements for BEST Awards?
- Where can I find more information on awards that were funded in the first cohort of BEST awards?
- If my application involves multiple partnerships, is a letter of support from each partner required or would a sampling of letters suffice?
Eligibility for the NIH Director’s Best Awards
- Is there a limit to the number of applications that can be submitted by an institution?
- May I apply from a foreign institution?
- Is the NIH Intramural program an eligible institution?
- Are other government agencies eligible to be a partner with an academic institution for this award [e.g., Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Indian Health Service (IHS)]?
- What types of training programs are and are not eligible under the NIH Director’s BEST Awards?
- Are programs that enhance training for medical, dental, and/or veterinary students in the scope of the FOA?
- Are centers that do not award doctoral degrees eligible for the NIH Director’s BEST Awards?
- Who is eligible to be the principal investigator (PI) on the grant? Can there be multiple PIs?
- We have a program that already exists and is pretty well established. Can we still apply for the NIH Director’s BEST Award?
- Our university received a BEST award last year. Can a new PI submit a new application this year?
- If I applied for an award last year but was unsuccessful, may I reapply?
- Can programs focus on MD/PhDs or exposure to integrated environments that bring together MDs and PhDs?
- Would a proposed goal for training and exposure to be competitive for directing SBIR or STTR grants and formation of start-up companies be acceptable in this framework?
- What is meant by the PI’s experience/expertise in ‘career training’? Is a PI’s experience as a mentor in the lab with Ph.D. students or post-docs sufficient as evidence of experience in ‘career training’?
Competition Process for the NIH Director’s Best Awards
- What are the dates for submission of 2014 applications?
- How many awards will be made in 2014?
- Which review criteria will be emphasized?
- Will there be any future funding opportunities for the BEST Awards?
- If I applied for an award last year but was unsuccessful, may I reapply?
- Is there a preferred structure for the Research Strategy? Should it include sections found in other R01s (i.e. Significance, Innovation, and Approach)?
- What documentation is required to show a partnership and/or collaboration is in place?
- What is meant by dissemination plan? How detailed should this be?
- Which study section will review BEST Awards? What qualifications will reviewers have?
Budget Information Regarding the NIH Director’s Best Awards
- How much can be requested?
- Do NIH Director’s BEST Awards provide indirect costs?
- What costs may be covered by the BEST Award? Can funds be used to support the internships of graduate students and postdocs?
- Are there any post-award requirements?
- Are the NIH Director’s BEST Awards renewable?
- What format should be used for the BEST Award budget?
The NIH Common Fund's Strengthening the Biomedical Research Workforce program aims to expand the range of training opportunities to prepare early career scientists for entry into the biomedical research workforce.
The NIH Director’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) Awards are intended to provide opportunities for institutions to develop innovative approaches to complement traditional research training in biomedical and behavioral sciences.
For the purposes of this funding announcement, a “research-intensive” career is defined as an occupation in which the primary responsibility is research performed in any venue, including industry, academia, government, or entrepreneurial pursuits including business management. “Research-related” careers are defined as other scientific occupations that directly support the biomedical research enterprise such as science policy, technology transfer, management or other areas requiring the research doctorate in biomedical science.
The BEST awards should be designed with research-related careers as the primary training target audience. However, we are eager to support training activities that would also benefit trainees that wish to undertake a research-intensive career, too. What we do not wish to support are activities designed to benefit ONLY those trainees focused on a research-intensive career.
The intent of the Common Fund initiative is to be stimulatory and catalytic. Possible sources of support after the 5-year award period are the grantee institution, its partners, businesses, or philanthropic organizations. An important component of the DP7 application should be providing evidence of institutional sustainability.
The BEST Award aims to transform the culture of research training in the biomedical science for both trainees and mentors, and disseminate findings widely across the biomedical research community. To catalyze transformative change, we expect that proposed ideas will be notably different than existing programs. Institutions that already have established training programs in place may apply, but must carefully explain how support from this award would substantially complement and/or add new dimensions to existing programs.
Ultimately, the degree of novelty and innovativeness will be considered by the reviewers. We encourage applicants to think boldly and creatively to develop a training program that would enable broad changes in research training culture, for the benefit of trainees beyond their individual program.
As indicated in Dr. Sally Rockey’s recent blog post on “Rock Talk” (http://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2012/10/24/clearing-up-confusion-about-postdoc-salaries-and-training-activities/), allowable activities on a training grant can include activities beyond bench research. Students and postdocs on training grants are allowed to dedicate some effort towards training and career development. If the trainee is being paid from a research project grant (such as an R01 or P01), that trainee has an employee-employer relationship with his/her research grant institution. As such, the trainee should negotiate incorporating non-bench activities with his/her employer.
BEST awardees should provide a meaningful and impactful training experience, without hindering the research progress of trainees, or lengthening the time to degree for graduate students.
There is no defined number of career paths for which a grant receiving institution must inform trainees. It is not expected that applicants must provide experiences in all research-intensive or research-related outcomes, but novel programs should target aspects of training that will enhance their existing programs. The program is not meant to train them fully for new career options, but should prepare them for the next steps in their career development.
Training programs supported by the BEST award should be open to all graduate students and post-docs in biomedical, behavioral, social, and clinical (referred to as “biomedical”) sciences. They are expected to transcend department, program, and possibly school boundaries. The program does not have to be mandatory for all trainees, but should be made available to all.
We recognize that the types of highly innovative and multi-disciplinary training programs supported by BEST Awards will take some time to develop and implement. Applications for the BEST Award should indicate precisely what is in place and what is in the planning stage, with clear timelines and milestones detailed in their application. Hopefully these plans can be rolled out in stages so that trainees can participate in some activities within the first year.
One of the findings from the Advisory Committee to the Director on Biomedical Workforce was that many students go into PhD programs, but later realize they do not want or need to obtain this degree to pursue their career goals. However, many remain in the program just to complete the degree, which is often not the best use of the trainees’ and mentors’ time, energy, and funds. We would like to see applicants develop creative plans for approaches to exiting the PhD track that enable a trainee to move successfully into a variety of attractive career options.
It is up to applicants to develop approaches that they feel would be most effective in providing training for a wide range of research-related career options. Applicants should keep in mind that exit strategies should be made attractive; they should not be punitive.
No. There are currently many resources available to prepare trainees for a career path in education, and this career path has been fairly well considered historically.
Ideally, trainees should be made aware of these career paths as early as possible in the PhD program although the program should be open to trainees at all levels.
The BEST awards are meant to be experiments and therefore rigorous evaluation of each individual award will be required by both the individual awardees and independently by NIH. To accomplish this, applicants must provide information that clearly states what the program intends to do, what it hopes to accomplish, and the expected impact of the program. An example would be to include a clear logic model and describe evaluative data that will be collected and other measures that will be used to demonstrate impact. The applicant should propose the most appropriate type of evaluation plan for their specific program. Evaluations can be performed by either internal or external evaluators, depending on the needs of the institution. For NIH’s evaluation plan, awardees will be required to provide data including, but not limited to, information specified in the evaluation plan in the FOA. The ultimate evaluation of the experiment will take many more than the 5 years of the award, but evaluation throughout will be useful to help guide mid-course corrections.
Current BEST awards are listed at http://commonfund.nih.gov/workforce/fundedresearch.
It will be up to the applicant to determine how many partners with whom they are working. It will be important to convey exactly what these partners will be contributing to the program. A list of partners without support letters is not usually very compelling to the reviewers.
Eligibility for the NIH Director’s Best Awards
For the purposes of this award, an institution is defined as an organization that has a unique Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number. A DUNS number can usually be accessed by contacting a grant administrator, chief financial officer, or authorizing official at the home institution. For the purposes of this award, institutions may only submit 1 application per DUNS number. University-affiliated schools of medicine, schools of dentistry, and hospitals may each have a DUNS number and thus would be allowed to submit separate applications. Universities that already have a current DP7 BEST award are not encouraged to apply as the existing award is intended to serve all the PhD students at the universities.
No, non-domestic (non-U.S.) entities (foreign institutions) are not eligible to apply.
No. However, the intramural program is eligible to be a partner for an applicant.
Are other government agencies eligible to be a partner with an academic institution for this award [e.g., Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Indian Health Service (IHS)]?
Yes, government agencies are eligible as partners. The rare exceptions are the government offices that have direct bearing on this award: the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) Office of Strategic Coordination), the Office of Extramural Research (OER) and the Center for Scientific Review (CSR).
The proposed training experience should broaden traditional pre- and postdoctoral training experiences such that trainees are better prepared for careers in a variety of other venues, including industry, government, academia, or entrepreneurial enterprises, for example.
Although meritorious, training experiences that already exist are not eligible for this particular funding announcement. Also, institutions that train postdoctorates but do not grant a PhD are not eligible. Several institutions have PhD students in their laboratories but are not the degree-granting institution. Those institutions are encouraged to contact their degree-granting institutional partners to discuss a possible BEST program. In this case, the award will be given to the degree-awarding institution and the two partners will need to work out sub-contracts and the budget.
Yes, MD/DDS/VMD degree granting programs are eligible. However, applications that exclusively enhance career development of practicing physicians or physician-scientists are not encouraged. Those students should not be excluded from the new program, but the award is seeking ideas/courses/experiences/internships to train students that may NOT intend to pursue traditional research-intensive careers in a clinical or basic setting. However, there are many MDs in research-related careers (e.g. at CDC, FDA, or in the pharmaceutical industry) and the possibilities of enhancing career training options for these students would be well received.
No. Primary institutions must be a doctoral degree awarding institution. However, we strongly encourage the primary institution to partner with other types of institutions to broaden the overall impact of the program and to facilitate innovation. An institution that does not award doctoral degrees may partner with a degree-awarding institution. In this case, the award will be given to the degree-awarding institution and the two partners will need to work out sub-contracts and the budget.
The PI should be an established investigator in the scientific area in which the application is targeted (training) and s/he should be capable of providing both administrative and scientific leadership to the development and implementation of the proposed program. The PD/PI will be expected to monitor and assess the program and submit all documents and reports as required. Yes, multiple PI’s are allowed. For applications with multiple PIs, a multiple PI leadership plan should be submitted. There is no limit to the number of co-PIs or their respective locations; however, the applicant institution must justify the need for, contribution of, and benefit to having co-PIs and cooperative activities.
Institutions that are currently exploring novel approaches are encouraged to apply but must carefully explain how support from this award would substantially complement and/or add new dimensions to their existing programs. Applications that request additional support solely to maintain an existing program will be deemed non-responsive.
No. Universities that already have a current DP7 BEST award are not encouraged to apply, as the existing award is intended to serve all the PhD students at that university.
Yes. However, please note that this is a new RFA and you will not be submitting an amended (A1) application. Therefore, an Introduction section is not allowed and although you can use the suggestions from your previous review, there is no need to address them specifically. Reviewers will not have access to your previous application or Summary Statement.
Programs can focus on PhDs or combined degree programs. However, applicants should clearly articulate the career needs of the trainees in these tracks.
What is meant by the PI’s experience/expertise in ‘career training’? Is a PI’s experience as a mentor in the lab with Ph.D. students or post-docs sufficient as evidence of experience in ‘career training’?
This would depend on the number of trainees they have mentored and how well they have mentored them. The goal is that the ideal person at the university would have the appropriate expertise to carry out the program. The applicant should make clear what that expertise is and why the PI is the best person to carry out the work proposed.
Competition Process for the NIH Director’s Best Awards
Applications may be submitted to Grants.gov beginning February 28, 2014 and must be successfully received by Grants.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. local time (of the investigator's institution/organization) on March 31, 2014. Please start your applications early.
The NIH Common Fund expects to make approximately 7-10 awards in fiscal year 2014, depending on the quality of the applications and the availability of funds.
All standard review criteria will be weighed in determining the final impact score. Particular emphasis will be given to the innovative nature of the experiences proposed, the track record of the PI and partnering institutions, and the evaluative component proposed.
There are currently no plans to have future funding opportunities for BEST Awards through the Common Fund. Common Fund programs are reviewed after approximately five years to determine whether an additional phase of support (up to a limit of 10 years total) is necessary to reap maximum benefit from the program. If a review determines that an additional phase of support is needed for this program, new initiatives and funding opportunities will be announced on the program website.
Yes. However, please note that this is a new RFA and you will not be submitting an amended (A1) application. Therefore, an Introduction section is not allowed and although you can utilize the suggestions from your previous review, there is no need to address them specifically. Reviewers will not have access to your earlier application or the Summary Statement.
The applicant needs to address all the various areas of the FOA. While there is no formal template, the applicant should use the 25 pages (PHS Form 398 uploaded into Research Strategy) to cover all aspects of the project, paying attention to the issues that will be evaluated in the review.
We anticipate that this will be highly competitive, so applicants should take every opportunity to maximize their chances of success and include appropriate documentation to communicate the experience of proposed participants. Letters of support from partners/collaborators should be submitted with the application, along with any monetary commitments. CVs for personnel critical to the program are required. All the people receiving support for administering the program and/or paid through the program should be included in addition to the PI(s).
The goal of the BEST Awards is to develop transformative approaches to broaden training opportunities for graduate students and post-docs in a wide range of disciplines. In order to catalyze large-scale changes in the research training culture, proven approaches must be widely disseminated to the community so that they can be broadly adopted. The dissemination plan should outline how the proposed program will be promoted as to benefit others. Examples of dissemination activities include, but are not limited to, publications, web-based tools, and posters/presentations at meetings.
All the applications will be reviewed by special emphasis panels arranged by CSR. These study sections will be dedicated to this program. The number of sections will be determined by the number of applications received. The requested letters of intent will help NIH plan for the appropriate number of study sections.
Reviewers will be drawn from many different segments of the biomedical research workforce in order to fairly review applications. They will include individuals such as graduate school deans, those with proven experience in training postdoctoral scientists, members of private industry, representatives of foundations, and many others. Reviewers will receive training that explains the intent of the program, an overview of existing efforts and programs that address biomedical workforce training, and guidance on reviewing applications for innovative approaches.
Budget Information Regarding the NIH Director’s Best Awards
Applicants may request up to $250,000 in direct costs per/year plus applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs.
Yes. In addition to the direct costs, applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs will be provided.
Individuals designing, directing, and implementing the BEST program may request salary and fringe benefits appropriate for the person months devoted to the program. Salaries requested may not exceed the levels commensurate with the institution's policy for similar positions and may not exceed the congressionally mandated cap. (If mentoring interactions and other activities with students/participants are considered a regular part of an individual's academic duties, then any costs associated with the mentoring and other interactions with students/participants are not allowable costs from grant funds).
Participants are the beneficiaries of this program, namely graduate students and postdoctoral individuals. No funds from this award may be used to cover or supplement wages or stipends of these individuals. Tuition costs of these individuals are also covered by other sources, and therefore not allowable under this award. However, travel and/or housing of trainees for the limited time for an off-site training experience is an allowable cost.
Consultant costs, equipment, supplies, travel for key persons, and other program-related expenses may be included in the proposed budget. These expenses must be justified as specifically required by the proposed program and must not duplicate items generally available at the applicant institution. Guest speakers, outside experts, consultant costs, administrative personnel, and other program-related expenses may be included in the proposed budget. These expenses must be justified as specifically required by the proposed program and must not duplicate items generally available at the applicant institution. Awardees must budget for attendance of relevant personnel at an annual awardee meeting starting with a meeting on October 30-31, 2014 to be held in Bethesda, MD. Expenses are not to exceed $1500 per person per trip.
PIs and relevant personnel will be expected to attend an annual awardee meeting in Bethesda, MD. The first relevant meeting will be October 30-31, 2014. Periodic teleconference calls will augment interactions between the awardees. NIH staff will evaluate progress of the program as it develops through site visits and other contacts. Awardees will be required to submit a report each year describing the progress made under this grant.
No. Competing renewal applications for NIH Director’s BEST Awards will not be allowed.
The BEST Award will utilize a full SF424 R&R budget with detailed information; the modular budget option is not available for this mechanism.