Pilot Study Funding
The long-term goals of the SNPRC Pilot Studies Program are to foster the development of new research, new models and new technologies that will lead to major NIH-funded grants that support biomedical research with nonhuman primates and can be leveraged into new grants that further support the mission of NIH.
All applicants who are not SNPRC Core Scientists must be sponsored by a Core Scientist, who ensures that the work can be done at the SNPRC and assists the investigator with the IACUC application and other administrative and logistical details.
Format of proposals
Proposals must adhere to the PHS 398 format, with the following exceptions:
- The text is limited to a maximum of eight pages;
- The applicant must provide a list of previously awarded pilot study funding from any source, and the outcome of major grant applications.
This information is factored into the assessment of likelihood that the present application, if funded, will lead to successful leveraging.
Submission and funding dates (two funding cycles)
A letter of intent with title and abstract must be received by Nov. 21, 2012 to estimate the number and specialties of reviewers required and to evaluate the requested number of primates for budgetary purposes. A Research Resource Request Form must be submitted prior to application, and a budget developed by SNPRC Research Resources should accompany the application. The deadline for the full application is December 21. Email completed applications to Dr. Tom Folks, Associate Director, Research Resources. Applications will be reviewed in January 2013 and notice of awards will be made by the beginning of February. The funding will be available in May.
The principal criterion used to evaluate each proposal is the perceived likelihood that the pilot study will lead to a successful major grant application, generally to the NIH; or that the pilot study will significantly improve the chances of success of a competing renewal application; or that the pilot study will lead to a new technology, resource, or tool that will favorably impact the likelihood of funding of several or many future major grant proposals. High-risk proposals are favorably considered provided that the potential reward is judged to justify the degree of risk involved in the investment.
A secondary criterion is the potential leveraging factor, e.g., a $30,000 pilot study expected to lead to an R01 grant would be favored over a $100,000 pilot study believed to be equally likely of leading to an R01 grant with the same magnitude of budget. This secondary criterion aims for maximal leverage of pilot study funds.
The review process
Applications are received at the Director’s Office, where they are assessed for completeness and adherence to the page limitation. Applications that do not meet the administrative criteria are returned immediately, together with an explanation of the deficiency. Resubmission within a few days permitted. Within a day or two after each deadline, copies of the proposals that meet the administrative criteria are provided to each member of the Research Review Committee, along with a list of primary and secondary reviewer assignments made by the Associate Director for Research Resources, who chairs the Committee. In addition, the Associate Director for Research Resources, drawing on suggestions requested of the applicants in the applications and on the advice of the Research Review Committee, requests outside written reviews from two or three experts in the field of the application. Each member of the Committee is asked to read and evaluate all proposals. When the Committee meets, the proposals are reviewed sequentially; any Committee member with a conflict of interest regarding a particular proposal is recused while that proposal is evaluated. The primary reviewer’s evaluation is presented verbally, followed by the secondary reviewer’s evaluation, and then the outside reviewers’ evaluations are read. With these independent assessments in hand, the Committee members discuss the application and attempt to reach consensus. At the conclusion of the discussion of each proposal, the members vote by secret ballot that the proposal “must be funded,” “should be funded if resources permit,” or “should not be funded.” The votes are tallied at the end of the meeting, after which the Associate Director provides the scores to the Director. The Director then, in consultation with the SNPRC Administrative Manager, reviews the financial status of all budgeted base grant components, including expenditures and obligations on existing pilot studies, and decides on the pay line. The Director reserves the authority to deviate from the rank order of scores in the funding decision, for example for programmatic reasons or because funds restricted to a specific discipline may have become available from the NIH Office of AIDS Research or other NIH sources.
For each proposal, one member of the Committee, usually a Group Leader unless he or she has a conflict of interest, is assigned to discuss the deliberations of the Committee with the applicant. If the applicant was not among those that were funded, the Committee member explains the concerns of the Committee and provides advice regarding the possibility of submitting a revised proposal the following year. A pilot study proposal is allowed to be submitted only twice, i.e., only one revised application may be submitted.
Follow-up of funded pilot studies
Pilot studies with 2-year durations are informally assessed at the end of the first year to ensure that adequate progress is being made. This assessment is made by the Research Group Leader, who may recommend to the Center Director continuation or discontinuation of funding for the second year. The Center Director, after consultation with the Associate Director of Research Resources, makes the final decision regarding continuation or discontinuation.
Within 1 year after the completion of a pilot study, the investigator is required to provide the following information to the Director’s Office:
- A brief abstract of accomplishments
- Copies of any publications that arose from the pilot research
- Details of any grant applications that arose from the pilot research
- Details of any ongoing research projects that were enhanced by the pilot
The Director’s Office requests updated information from each investigator annually, until such time as the investigator reports that no additional publications or grant applications are expected as a consequence of the pilot study.
The funding level is capped at $100,000 for two years. All funds must be expended for Primate Center goods and services. Funds provided and budgeted by the Pilot Study Program will not support lab personnel, supplies, or any work carried out at off-site locations. Funding includes only animal costs, per diem, procedural expenses, and lab services provided by core SNPRC personnel.
Duration of funding
NIH does not allow base grant funds to be carried forward to the subsequent year for the base grant (unlike R01 grants). Furthermore, NIH has become prone to not giving supplements to base grants that have extensive unexpended funds at the end of the grant year. For this reason, 1-year pilot studies must be completed within the year of funding, and 2-year pilot studies must be completed within 2 years of funding. Please plan your protocol accordingly; we suggest that you plan to initiate animal work on May 1 and to complete all work with animals at least 3 months before the end of the grant to allow for unforeseen delays.