Grants.gov Workspace: Lessons Learned and Helpful Tips
On January 1, 2018, Grants.gov retired its legacy Adobe-based grant application packages and launched Workspace, its new web-based application development and submission system. Since implementing new policies and procedures in anticipation for this change, including our mandatory two-business-day internal deadline, the Office of Sponsored Programs has successfully submitted 17 proposals to four different federal agencies using the new Workspace system for Grants.gov submissions, and several more are in process.
Since January 1 we have identified some particular quirks with the Workspace system and learned valuable strategies for using Workspace more effectively. In this special issue of the OSP Newsletter we share this important information – the first section describes lessons learned for ALL Workspace applications, and the second section describes those specific to PHS applications. We will continue to share Workspace tips both in the OSP Newsletter and the OSP website as we move forward.
For more information about Workspace, we recommend using the resources available on the Grants.gov website. If you have specific questions, please contact Ann Shiras, Pre-Award Specialist and Workspace Lead, at email@example.com or 229-3077.
For All Workspace Applications
Mandatory Internal Deadline for Grants.gov Applications
Although most Grants.gov applications have been completed smoothly, OSP has experienced issues with specific forms, and our two-business-day internal deadline has made this transition considerably less stressful than previous submission system changes by providing us with sufficient time to review, research, and correct problems. The internal deadline remains necessary in order to provide OSP with sufficient time to work around problems and resubmit if necessary, with less risk of missing the sponsor deadline. We sincerely thank the UWM research community for adhering to the internal deadline and working with OSP to ensure your applications are submitted correctly and without errors.
Application Filing Name
Unless the Sponsor guidelines require otherwise, please use our Grants.gov naming convention for the Application Filing Name: PI Last Name_Agency Abbreviation_WISPER Record Number-Pre-Award Specialist Initials (e.g., Shiras_NIH_MIL107732-AS). This helps OSP Pre-Award staff to search for Workspaces and track the emails associated with your Grants.gov submission status. Note that the Application Filing Name is different from your Project Title. The Project Title is entered separately on the forms submitted to the Sponsor.
Creating A Workspace
You must enter an Application Filing Name to Create a Workspace. If you have not started a WISPER record, you can use the file convention PI Last Name and Agency Acronym (e.g., Shiras NSF), then update it later by selecting Edit Name. If you Copy a Workspace to start a new one, remember to change the Application Filing Name.
Starting A Workspace
To begin a new Workspace, first complete the SF424 or SF424 R&R form. The information entered in these forms populates information in the other forms in the Workspace. See the sample SF424 R&R form on the OSP website. Please add your Pre-Award Specialist as a Participant of your Workspace – this will enable us to review your proposal using our own Grants.gov login.
Downloading Workspace Forms
If you use the Download option to complete individual forms offline, you must use an Adobe Reader compatible with the forms.
Preparing Workspace Forms
There are several options for preparing most of the Workspace forms: Webform, Download, Upload, and Reuse. Use the Download option to view Attachments made to forms (see below for additional options for NIH proposals.) You will be prompted to answer questions about Locking or Unlocking forms as you work on them. When multiple team members are working on the forms in a Workspace, please consider when it is appropriate to Lock or Unlock the forms and coordinate this among the team members.
For Workspace Owners there is a Reopen option available after an application is submitted to the sponsor. Please use Reopen only when submitting a Changed/Corrected Application. Once reopened, the Workspace status returns to Forms Passed and it cannot be changed back to Submitted/Agency Received. OSP is tracking Workspace activity closely, and we need Submitted Workspaces to maintain Submitted status in Grants.gov. This also reduces possible confusion when searching for Proposals in Progress during review. You can still Download and View the forms that are part of a Submitted proposal. Once the funding opportunity deadline has passed, the Reopen option is no longer available.
For PHS Applications Only
Human Subjects and Clinical Trial Information Form
For PHS submissions (e.g., NIH), the answers to the Human Subjects questions on the Research and Related Other Project Information form drives the information requested on the new PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trial Information form. Note that the Preview version of the Human Subjects/Clinical Trial form may not appear the same as the Download version during proposal preparation.
Issues with Subforms associated with the Human Subjects Form (Study Records) have been reported by UWM users and by the national community of university research administrators. NIH has two videos that walk you through the Human Subjects Form and the associated Subform: NIH Human Subjects Information Using Grants.gov Workspace (about three minutes) and PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information Form Walk-through (about 9.5 minutes). Please work with your Pre-Award Specialist if you encounter problems with this form. NIH also has some very helpful resources regarding Clinical Trial Requirements.
Grantor Image and Preview Grantor Validation
Currently for NIH submissions only, the Grantor Image and Preview Grantor Validation options become available when all the forms have a status of Passed. These two options allow you to preview the assembled image that will appear in the NIH eRA Commons and the expected results from the Commons validation checks. This means no longer having to wait until after the submission to NIH for those activities! Our experience to date has been that both the Grantor Image and the Grantor Validations match what will result in eRA Commons, so please take advantage of both of these options before clicking Complete and Notify AOR.
Mandatory Internal Deadline for Grants.gov Workspace Applications
Recent testing of Workspace by UWM Pre-Award staff and colleagues at other institutions have revealed some technical complexities, and extra time will be required to ensure submissions are submitted properly.
Therefore, OSP is implementing a mandatory internal deadline: Effective January 1, Grants.gov submissions must be completed and OSP notified no less than two business days (48 hours) prior to the sponsor deadline.
The internal deadline is necessary because there will likely be technical problems with the new Workspace system and thus additional time will be needed to resolve them.
A two business-day internal deadline provides OSP with sufficient time to work around problems and resubmit if necessary, with less risk of missing the sponsor deadline. Submissions received by OSP less than two business days prior to the sponsor deadline are at greater risk of missing the submission deadline if OSP does not have sufficient time to resolve technical issues.
To facilitate successful submission, all Grants.gov submissions must follow this process:
- Submissions must have all internal approvals completed in WISPER.
- Submissions must be marked as “Completed and Notify AOR” in Grants.gov by 4:30pm two business days before the sponsor’s submission deadline. For example, if your proposal is due Wednesday, it must be with OSP by 4:30pm on Monday.
- If your proposal is due on Monday, it must be with OSP by 4:30pm on Thursday.
- Submissions will be handled by Pre-Award Specialists on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority will be given to submissions received by OSP two business days before the sponsor deadline. For submissions received less than two business days before the sponsor deadline, OSP will determine the level of service that can be provided before applications are submitted.
Even if you are just considering applying for a grant, please inform your Pre-Award Specialist so that they add it to their worklist and follow-up with you.
We appreciate your cooperation with this new policy as we transition to the new Workspace system. If you have any questions, please contact Tom Marcussen, Director, Office of Sponsored Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 229-4537.
Lisa Berger Takes Leadership Role at the Center for Urban Population Health
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Aurora Health Care, Inc., are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Lisa Berger to the position of Director of the Center for Urban Population Heath.
The Center for Urban Population Health (CUPH) is an alliance joining the resources and expertise of two universities and a large healthcare system. The Center seeks to improve health and reduce inequities among urban communities (http://www.cuph.org).
Dr. Berger has been involved in population health and population health-related research and education for almost two decades, as a faculty member at UWM, with a research focus on substance misuse. Dr. Berger spent her early career at the Center for Addiction and Behavioral Health Research, later named the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Research. In 2011, she became and remains an Affiliate with CUPH, Presently, she has several grants, including a federal training grant in which the public health model of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for substance misuse is being disseminated through training and engaged community partnerships.
Dr. Berger joined the faculty of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at UWM in August 2005. Her primary teaching responsibility is social work practice at the graduate level. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a masters of social work and a doctorate in urban studies at UWM.
Dr. Berger says, “As a longtime Center scientist, I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with others to grow the work of CUPH while having a positive and meaningful impact in Milwaukee and other urban communities.”
Roles and Responsibilities in Developing and Managing Extramural Awards
One of the best practices in research administration involves the creation of Roles and Responsibilities matrices for the preparation, submission, acceptance, management, and close-out of sponsored projects. In line with UWM achieving R1 status last year, the Office of Sponsored Programs created a Roles and Responsibilities Matrix for the development and management of extramural awards.
Not only is the purpose of this matrix to better identify the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Office of Research, but it also provides UWM departments and divisions the ability to identify how their own support systems and personnel assist the research enterprise within their area.
We are excited to release this document to the campus community. Please send questions or comments related to the Roles and Responsibilities Matrix to Tom Marcussen, Director (email@example.com). The Office of Sponsored Programs also plans to host a session for the campus community in Fall 2017 to discuss the document.
NSF Frequently Asked Questions for Public Access
In March, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) list for its Public Access Policy. As a reminder, NSF has two policies and procedures that govern public access for NSF-supported work:
- Data: In 2011, NSF required applicants to include Data Management Plans for data created under award that resulted from the proposal. Data Management Plans were intended to identify how PIs would share the primary data from the project with other researchers. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate the sharing of such data.
- Publications: Peer-reviewed journal articles and juried conference papers, based wholly or partially on NSF support, must be deposited in the designated NSF repository. Either the final accepted version of the manuscript or the version of record may be submitted. NSF’s public access policy went into effect for articles resulting in awards made for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016.
Please be certain to share this information with those investigators in your division or department pursuing NSF funds or have been awarded NSF funds since January 25, 2016.
Questions? Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
NIH By the Numbers
A recent blog post by NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Dr. Michael Lauer, highlighted NIH success numbers for Fiscal Year 2016. During the last fiscal year, NIH supported nearly 2,400 research organizations and received 54,220 competing research project grant applications. Of these applications, 30,106 were applications for R01-equivalent grants. The average size of awards increased to $499,221, a historical high for both competing and non-competing awards.
The success rate for competing applications in Fiscal Year 2016 was 19.1%, compared to 18.3% in 2015. The 2016 success rate for competing R01-equivalent applications was also slightly higher in 2016 over 2015, at 19.9% versus 18.9%. Success rates continue to remain below the 30% levels seen 15 to 20 years ago and reflect the hypercompetitive environment faced by all applicants.
Reporting Preprints and Other Interim Research Products
OThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released a Notice (NOT-OD-17-050) regarding the inclusion of preprints and other interim research products in grant applications and Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs). NIH strongly encourages investigators to utilize preprints and other interim research products to speed the dissemination of NIH-funded work and enhance the rigor of projects.
“Interim research products” are considered complete, public research products that are not final. A common form is the preprint, which is a complete and public draft of a scientific document. Preprints are usually unreviewed manuscripts written in the style of a peer-reviewed journal article. Another common type of interim research product is a preregistered protocol, where a scientist publicly declares key elements of their research protocol in advance. A few notes on interim research products:
- Awardees are not required to create interim research products;
- Awardees are not required to cite interim research products in their grant applications;
- Since preprints are not peer-reviewed, such products do not fall under the NIH Public Access Policy; and
- This Notice does not apply to clinical trial registrations.
Citing Interim Research Products in Applications, Proposals, and Reports
Interim research products may be cited in any section of an application where research products are cited. To cite the product, applicants and awardees must include the Digital Object Identifier and the Object Type (e.g., preprint, protocol) in the citation. Also list any information about the document version (e.g., most recent date modified), and if relevant, the date the product was cited. For example:
Bar DZ, Atkatsh K, Tavarez U, Erdos MR, Gruenbaum Y, Collins FS. Biotinylation by antibody recognition- A novel method for proximity labeling. BioRxiv 069187 [Preprint]. August 11, 2016 [cited 2017 Jan 12]. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1101/069187.
Claiming Interim Research Products as Products of NIH Awards
NIH intends to maximize the impact of interim research products that are developed with NIH funds. NIH expects awardees to ensure a high level of public access to NIH-supported interim products. To claim an interim research product as a product of an NIH award, the NIH expects the awardee to:
- Make the product publicly available. To maximize the impact, NIH strongly encourages awardees to select a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license or dedicate their work to the public domain.
- In the text of the document, acknowledge NIH funding in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, Chapter 8.2.1, clearly state the work is not peer-reviewed, and declare any competing interests.
For applications submitted for the May 25, 2017 due date and thereafter, awardees may claim these products on their progress report publication list. These interim research products may also be included in RPPRs as of May 25, 2017 and may be linked to a PI’s award in their My Bibliography account.
Questions? Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
Science of Team Science Conference: June 12-14, 2017
The annual Science of Team Science (SciTS) Conference will be held June 12-14 in Clearwater Beach, FL. SciTS is a rapidly growing cross-disciplinary field of study that aims to build an evidence-base and to develop translational applications to help maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of team-based research. Attendees will include thought leaders in the SciTS field, scientists engaged in team-based research, institutional leaders who promote collaborative research, policymakers, and federal agency representatives. Registration is required.
NIH Regional Seminar: May 3-5, 2017
The National Institutes of Health’s Spring 2017 Regional Seminar will be held May 3-5 in New Orleans, LA. New and experienced applicants to demystify the application and review process, clarify federal regulations and policies, and highlight current areas of special interest. Three tracks of concurrent sessions for new investigators, research administrators, and general interest cover more than 45 topics. Registration is required. If you are unable to attend in May, the Fall 2017 Regional Seminar will be held October 25-27, 2017 in Baltimore, MD.
Important Change to UWM Foundation Account Codes
In recent years, most UWM Foundation expenses have been coded as “Program Code 1, Institutional Support.” Effectively immediately, these will now be coded as “Program Code 2, Instruction.” This change is necessary to align our practices more closely other UW campuses, which categorize unrestricted support for instruction, research, and most public service as Instruction. The limited number of UWM Foundation public service programs that use “Program Code 5, Public Service,” are already known to the divisions that conduct them. The remainder, previously coded as Program Code 1, are being transitioned to Program Code 2.
How does this affect you? As you complete the necessary forms to post salaries or other expenses to your Foundation accounts you must use Program Code 2, regardless whether you used Program Code 1 in the past.
The Office of Sponsored Programs is working closely with UWM Business Financial Services to ensure a smooth transition and that future project encumbrances will post correctly. We appreciate your patience during this transition.
Questions? Please contact your Post-Award Specialist and they will be happy to assist you in any updates that may need to be made to existing accounts.
NSF CAREER Program Webinar
The National Science Foundation is hosting a webinar about developing applications to the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) on May 22 from 1:00-3:00pm EST. The webinar will give participants the opportunity to interact with members of the NSF CAREER Coordinating Committee in a question-and-answer format.
Participants may submit questions about CAREER proposal development and submission in advance of and during the webinar by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions requiring determinations of eligibility for the CAREER program will not be addressed during the webinar. Prior registration is not required.
If you are developing a CAREER proposal, UWM Proposal Development Services is here to help. We can help strategize your approach, provide templates, and review and edit drafts. You also can find CAREER program resources such as FAQs and slides from prior presentations on the NSF CAREER program web page.
Reminder: NIH Policies Now in Effect
As a reminder, NIH has updated the following proposal and award policies:
Effective January 1, 2017:
- Final Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR): Grantees may no longer submit Final Progress Reports. Instead, grantees must submit Final RPPR through eRA Commons.
- Good Clinical Practice Training: NIH-funded investigators and clinical trial staff must complete Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Training for any NIH-funded clinical trial. UWM principal investigators involved with clinical trials will receive additional information from OSP in the near future regarding GCP training.
Effective January 18, 2017:
- Clinical Trial Reporting Requirements: NIH-funded clinical trials must be reported within 21 days of first patient enrollment in ClinicalTrials.gov. Results of the clinical trials must also be submitted within one year of trial completion in ClinicalTrials.gov.
Effective January 25, 2017:
- Appendix Materials: NIH has eliminated most types of appendix materials for grant applications due on or after this date, unless specifically required under a funding opportunity announcement.
- Post-Submission Materials: NIH has clarified the specific types of information that may be submitted following a proposal submission.
- Updated Font Guidelines: NIH has updated its recommended font list and no longer requires that black text be used within grant application attachments.
Effective February 9, 2017:
- Interim RPPRs: Applicants that submitted a renewal application (Type 2) must still submit a progress report via eRA Commons no later than 120 calendar days from the period of performance end date of the existing award.
Effort Reporting for July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016 is Now Open
On February 1, 2017, the effort certification period opened for the second half of 2016. Anyone with sponsored payroll or committed cost share for a sponsored project should have received an email to certify effort in ECRT. Effort certification is a way in which payroll and cost share payroll is verified or a receipt is created for the sponsor. It is important that each payroll dollar and cost share payroll dollar is accounted for in ECRT to avoid audit risk or paying funds back to sponsors. The deadline for this period to complete certification is April 30, 2017. Detailed information can be found on the compliance web page under effort reporting.
Questions? Please contact Carla Durand at email@example.com or your Effort Coordinator listed in your notification e-mail.
Can I sign this?
Have you received a document from a principal investigator for a signature? Did you look at the document and ask whether you should sign? It happens all the time—sponsors send our principal investigators documents for signatures all the time, thinking that individual PIs or department-/division-level personnel have the authority to sign documents. At UWM, only certain individuals have the authority to sign on behalf of the institution—and for documents that involve funding for grants and contracts, most of the signatories are employed in the Office of Research.
Why is this important? Only Chancellor Mone has the authority to sign documents on behalf of the institution under state law. The Chancellor, under state law, has the authority to delegate signature authority to certain individuals on campus—hence the signature list. In so doing, UWM follows Wisconsin law in terms of signature authority.
Issues with Adobe Reader and Grants.gov Packages
Grants.gov has recently posted a notice informing applicants about issues with Adobe Reader DC and Grants.gov application packages. If you are using Adobe Reader DC to complete Grants.gov application packages, verify you do not have the following versions installed:
- Adobe Reader DC (Classic) version 2015.006.30279
- Adobe Reader DC (Continuous) version 2015.023.20053
To check your version of Adobe Reader, login to Adobe, click on “Help,” and then click on “About Adobe…” If your computer has one of the versions listed above, you will need to install the most recent patch in order to complete Grants.gov applications. Contact the IT professional assigned to your department or division to discuss an update to your computer.
Workshop: Getting to Know PCORI – From Application to Closeout
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is hosting a free interactive workshop April 10-11 in Chicago, Illinois to provide applicants with the tools and strategies to develop that winning application. Led by PCORI staff, workshop topics include priority topics for research, funding announcements, the application process, large pragmatic clinical studies, and research partnerships and engagement. Participants will be able to meet PCORI staff, ask questions, obtain resources, and network with other participants. Registration is required.
NIH PubMed Central: Complying with NIH Public Access Policy
NIH makes the peer-reviewed articles it funds publicly available on PubMed Central (PMC). But did you know that the NIH Public Access Policy requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to PubMed Central immediately upon acceptance for publication? It can be easy to forget to submit papers to PMC, especially when juggling teaching and project management responsibilities. However, non-compliance with this requirement can affect your future awards: NIH may withhold new awards or delay continuing funds until the paper(s) have been submitted.
To help researchers submit their publications to PMC, the NIH website has a wealth of information available to make the process as easy as possible, including training materials, submission methods, a variety of FAQs, and instructions on how to add and maintain citations in My Bibliography and the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It also includes detailed instructions on using the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system.
Questions? Contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
NSF 2017 CAREER Proposals: The Education Plan
A common but significant misconception about the NSF CAREER Award is that it’s a research proposal with a complementary education plan. In fact, the CAREER Award is a five-year plan that discusses BOTH your research and educational goals and objectives in an integrated plan. Successful CAREER proposals include meaningful and innovative education and outreach activities that engage your students and the broader community (e.g., high school students and teachers), and the general public. Therefore, an equal amount of attention must be placed on your developing education plan as well as your research plan.
Creating a strong education plan can be time-consuming, so it’s important to start early. Here are some aspects of the education plan to help jump-start your thinking:
- What are you passionate about? Consider activities you already involved in.
- You do not need to be an educational researcher but must show initiatives based on best practices.
- Address diversity (can include underserved rural areas or gender diversity).
- Do not reinvent the wheel; leverage existing successful UWM programs and resources.
- Assessment of the activities in the Education Plan is essential.
Need Help? Contact Proposal Development Services – we have a collection of internal and external materials, and we can connect you with campus resources and programs. Contact Michelle Schoenecker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kari-Whittenberger-Keith (email@example.com).
NIH Training on the Go: All About Grants Podcasts
Do you want to learn more about developing competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposals but don’t have the time to attend in-person training sessions? Try NIH’s All About Grants podcast series. Designed for investigators, fellows, students, and research administrators, the Office of Extramural Research talks with NIH staff members about various aspects of the application and award process. These podcasts allow you to gain valuable information as your schedule allows.
Podcast topic categories:
- Getting to Know NIH and the Grants Process
- Preparing A Successful Grant Application
- Advice for New and Early Career Scientists
- Submitting Your Application
- How NIH Grants Are Reviewed
- Life as an NIH Grantee
Episodes range from 4 to 20 minutes in length, and a full transcript of each is provided on the NIH website. Episodes are available as MP3s for download, via iTunes, or via RSS feed. If you prefer videos over podcasts, check out the NIH YouTube channel that features a wide variety of topics, and the Webinars posted on the NIH website, as well.
Need assistance with developing NIH proposals? Contact Michelle Schoenecker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kari Whittenberger-Keith (email@example.com) in the UWM Proposal Development Services unit. We have a variety of NIH templates, checklists, and other guidance materials to help you develop competitive proposals.
NSF Announces its Spring 2017 Grants Conference
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces its Spring 2017 Grants Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on June 5-6, 2017. The two day conference is recommended for new faculty, researchers, and administrators seeking insight into a wide range of issues at NSF including the state of current funding, new and current policies and procedures, and pertinent administrative issues. NSF program officers representing each NSF directorate will also be present.
If interested, NSF has created a conference website that will provide information about the Spring 2017 event as it becomes available.
Receive Notification of Changes to Your Grants.gov Packages
The next time you download a Grants.gov package, be sure to provide your email address so that you can be notified of any changes to the package before the closing date. Why is this important? Because in case the sponsor makes any changes to the package, such as adding/deleting forms, you will know right away instead of at the time of submission—when it might be too late to make any changes.
OSP highly recommends that you always elect to receive notifications about changes to your Grants.gov package. Given the length of time that elapses between the initial download of the package and submission by OSP, it is possible that significant changes to the package could occur (or the opportunity could be deleted by the federal agency).
To receive notifications, navigate to the respective grant opportunity in Grants.gov. Then, click on the “Package” tab and select the appropriate package for your submission. Before you can download it, you will be asked to either enter your e-mail to be notified of changes or to opt out notifications.
Questions? Contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
Limited Submission Opportunities
Many federal and non-federal sponsors are increasing their use of limited-submission programs, which limit the number of letters of intent, pre-proposals, and/or proposals that UWM may submit. Proposal Development Services posts grant opportunities on the UWM Research Listservs and identifies those with limited-submission requirements. To help prevent UWM from being disqualified for exceeding the number of submissions allowed, the UWM Office of Research requires researchers to submit a Notice of Intent to Apply; if we receive more notices than the number of submissions allowed, an internal competition will be held to select the proposal(s) that best aligns with the grant program goals and objectives and meets the sponsor’s review criteria.
Problems with Limited-Submission Programs
Sometimes researchers submit proposals to limited-submission programs without realizing it, mostly because the funding opportunity was not listed on the UWM Research Listservs or the requirement was not clearly stated in the program solicitation. We’re also seeing sponsors that rarely limit submissions use this mechanism with much greater frequency, particularly the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Justice, catching researchers and institutions off-guard.
Without carefully reviewing the program solicitation and informing the Office of Research of your intent to submit to a limited-submission program, proposal submissions run the risk of (1) disqualifying UWM from the grant competition, and (2) disqualifying UWM colleagues who have been selected to submit through the internal competition process. Thus, it is critical to review solicitations carefully.
How to Quickly Check Solicitations for Limited-Submission Requirements
Depending on the file type of the program solicitation (e.g., Word, PDF, HTML) use the Search function to quickly find the following words that are usually found within a limited-submission program solicitation:
- Limit (e.g., “Limit on Number of Submissions”, “Institutions are limited to three submissions”)
- Multiple (e.g., “Multiple submissions are not allowed”)
- Not more than (e.g., “Not more than one proposal per institution”)
- Only (e.g., “Only 1 proposal per institution”)
- One (e.g., “One proposal per institution allowed”)
Questions? If you need help interpreting a program solicitation or if you have questions about a limited-submission program, please contact Michelle Schoenecker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kari Whittenberger-Keith (email@example.com).
New NIH Final Research Performance Progress Report
Effective January 1, NIH will transition to a Final Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) to replace the current Final Progress Report for Closeout. The new Final RPPR will extend the format of the annual RPPR , except for a few key sections which will not appear: Section D: Participants; Section F: Changes; and Section H: Budget. Information for the Final RPPR must be uploaded into RPPR-like screens, not uploaded as a PDF. A new Section I: Outcomes will also be added to the Final RPPR.
Questions? Contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
Declined NIH Proposals: Should I Resubmit?
NIH recently published a great article about deciding whether or not to resubmit a declined proposal. Because there are many factors that influence the decision to resubmit (e.g., reviewers’ comments, deadlines, collaborators), NIH is launching a survey to understand the patterns of resubmission, particularly for new investigators. If you receive the survey, please provide your valuable feedback.
If you are “on the fence” about resubmitting an NIH proposal, here are some key points from the article to consider:
- Make an appointment for a consultation with the assigned program officer (PO). POs have a wealth of experience that can inform the next steps for the research proposed in the application. They may be aware of other factors that can offer advantages, like new funding opportunities well suited to the science in the application. Most POs prefer to be contacted by email to schedule a time for a phone call, giving him/her time to review the summary statement.
- Do your homework. The NIH web site has extensive information about the funding priorities of the various NIH institutes and centers, and the NIH data book includes funding success rates associated with different types of grant applications. Also review the Applicant Next Steps web page to access more information about funding success, IC strategic plans, and funding policies.
- Don’t give up. For most investigators, achieving funding success usually comes from persistence and patience. The typical applicant who was successful in obtaining NIH funding in the past few years had submitted several applications prior to receiving funding. Resubmissions have a better chance of being funded compared with original applications. In 2015, the NIH-wide success rate for new R01 applications was 13.1%, but the success rate for resubmissions was 33.5%.
In addition to these tips, another key strategy is to contact Proposal Development Services – we can help you interpret the Summary Statement, develop a resubmission strategy, and find new funding opportunities that might be a better fit for your project. Our services are free of charge! Contact Michelle Schoenecker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kari Whittenberger-Keith (email@example.com) for assistance.
Help Spread the Word of your PI’s Accomplishments
Has a principal investigator in your department or division received an award? We are always seeking projects to feature on the Office of Research’s website. If you would like to help spread the word on a recent award, the following information is needed:
- A one sentence description of the project;
- A paragraph with a broad overview of the project and personnel involved suitable for a public audience; and
- High resolution images that best capture the project.
Any and all award recognition is welcome! The information is featured on the Office of Research homepage as well as the Research Excellence page. If interested, please forward materials to Kari Whittenberger-Keith (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Two New SAAPs Approved
UWM governance groups have approved two new Selected Academic and Administrative Policies (SAAPs) regarding research and sponsored projects at UWM.
- SAAP 23: Use of Facilities – Policies and Procedures addresses the use of shared research facilities at UWM to ensure the effective use of shared research facilities and to allow for efficient and effective resolution of issues and conflicts that may arise between users.
- SAAP 74:UWM Policy on Sponsored Program Fixed Price Contract Close Out discusses the policy for the closeout of fixed-price contracts and residual balances greater than 25% of the total award amount or $10,000, whichever is greater.
Questions? Contact Rachel Schiffman, Associate Vice Provost for Research (email@example.com).
New Enhancements Added to WISPER
Two new enhancements were added in December to WISPER to increase the system’s functionality for users. First, WISPER will now allow the upload of multiple attachments under the “Attachments” tab:
Previously, all attachments had to be uploaded to the “Attachments” tab separately. The second enhancement is in the “Search” function. WISPER allows uers to provide keywords in a WISPER record, at the very bottom of the “General” tab. However, users could not search on these keywords–until now.
Questions related to WISPER? Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
Use of Labor Hours in Proposal Budgets
In order to comply with Uniform Guidance 2 CFR 200.430, labor hours or hourly rates cannot be used to determine salary applied to an extramural project. However, there are certain instances in which a federal sponsor requires personnel costs to be broken down by labor hours. While this is undesirable as it does not conform to UWM’s official effort reporting record policy, a proposal can be submitted using hourly rates as long as the following statement is provided to the sponsor:
The estimated number of [hours and/or hourly rates OR days and/or daily rates] are provided for evaluation purposes as required in the funding opportunity announcement. Rates are not auditable in the UWM financial system of record. It is understood that the University will not be required to maintain a record of hours of effort under any resultant award nor required to invoice personnel effort by hours.
Labor hours should never be provided to a non-federal sponsor. Instead, industry sponsors should be provided a fully-burdened budget, also known as fully-loaded (see the “Industry” tab of the Budget Tool). Fully burdened means that both direct and indirect costs have been combined for each budget line item to reflect one total cost per line item, as opposed to including indirect costs as a separate budget line item in most “typical” sponsored project budgets.
Questions? Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
NIH Publishes New Grants Policy Statement
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a new Grants Policy Statement (GPS)effective on all NIH grants and cooperative agreements with budget periods beginning on or after October 1, 2016. For the first time, the latest NIH GPS does not introduce any new material. However, the latest NIH GPS does incorporate up-to-date policy guidance issued via Guide Notices, clarifies certain policies, and implements changes in statutes, regulations, and policies that have been implemented through legal and/or policy processes that have occurred since
The full list of all Significant Changes since the October/November 2015 NIH GPS is available online. The 2015 GPS remains as a standard term and condition for grants and cooperative agreements with budget periods beginning prior to October 1, 2016.
NSF Releases New Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a new Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 30, 2017 (NSF 17-1). Notable changes to the new PAPPG include:
- New Naming Protocol: The two primary sections of the previous PAPPG—the Grant Proposal Guide (Pre-Award) and Award and Administration Guide (Post-Award) have been renamed PAPPG Part I and Part II, respectively.
- Project Summary: The 4,600 character limit has been eliminated. The document may only be one-page in length.
- Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information: Applicants are no longer required to provide their thesis advisor or postgraduate scholar sponsor, only their Ph.D. advisor.
- New Proposal Type: Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) proposals will now be accepted across all NSF divisions.
- Travel Proposals: The “International Travel Proposal” type has been updated to “Travel Proposal” to reflect that this type of proposal can be used for both domestic and international travel requests.
- Letters of Support: Additional language was added to emphasize the importance of submitting letters of support only when specifically required. The inclusion of letters of support when not requested may result in the return of the proposal without review.
The full list of all Significant Changes and Clarifications to PAPPG 17-1 is available online. The Office of Sponsored Programs has also updated its NSF Proposal Checklist and NSF Proposal Preparation and Submission Guide to reflect the latest PAPPG. Both are available from the Forms and Downloads page of our website.
From the NSF 2015 Merit Review Process Report: Funding Rates
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a report regarding the agency’s Merit Review Process. Along with providing a wealth of information about NSF proposal submission, review, and award processes, this report has great pieces of advice about grant-seeking and award management. One of the key items in this report is the analysis of 2015 funding rates across directorates, program types, and PIs. Here are some highlights:
- Overall Funding Rate: NSF completed action on 49,620 proposals in FY 2015, a 3.3% increase from FY 2014, resulting in 12,007 awards, a 9.6% increase from FY 2014. Consequently, in FY 2015 the proposal success rate was 24%. Over the six years FY 2010 to FY 2015, the success rate has been relatively stable, remaining between 22% and 24%.
- New PIs: The success rate for PIs who have not previously had an NSF award is lower than that for PIs who have previously submitted a successful NSF proposal: 18% compared to 28% for prior PIs. In FY 2015, the proportion of proposals from new PIs was 37%; since FY 2001 this number has fluctuated between approximately 36% and 39%.
- Success Rates by Directorates: Here is a snapshot of the proposals, awards, and success rates across the Directorates:
|DIRECTORATE||# PROPOSALS||# AWARDS||RATE|
- Research Grants: NSF defines Research Grants as those that represent what could be considered a typical research award, particularly with respect to award size. Education grants are included; excluded are large awards such as centers and facilities, equipment and instrumentation grants, conference and symposia grants, and SBIRs. In 2015, NSF received 40,869 research grants and made 8,993 awards, for a success rate of 22%. This rate exceeds the 2014 success rate of 20%.
The Proposal Development Services Unit in OSP is an excellent resource for developing competitive proposals, and services are provided free of charge. For more information or to request assistance with a proposal, contact Michelle Schoenecker (firstname.lastname@example.org, 229-2747) or Kari Whittenberger-Keith (email@example.com, 229-4062).
Changes to WISPER Effective October 25, 2016
On October 25, 2016, WISPER will begin limiting the selection of “Project Roles” available under the “Additional Senior Personnel” section of the General Tab. Currently, users have the choice of nine Project Role options. As of October 25, users will only have three options: Co-Investigator, Key Person, or Principal Investigator.
Why the change to WISPER? The change is being instituted to better align with the descriptions of project personnel in a proposal with federal regulations, state laws, and UW System and UWM policy governing compliance-related requirements at each stage of the pre- and post-award process. Additionally, the change is designed to reduce the number of personnel listed in this section of WISPER to only those considered key to the project.
Questions? Please contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your division or department.
Top Ten Reasons to Send your Proposal to OSP Well Before the Deadline
We in OSP are always asked, “When do you want our proposal for X deadline?” Well, we always recommend at least five business days before the deadline, but our staff works hard to accommodate our PI’s timelines. We get it–being a PI is never easy, and there is always lots of uncertainty when it comes time to submit a proposal.
But we also recognize that the first step in getting an award is showing up to the party–the Proposal Review Party. You cannot receive an award if the proposal is submitted late. So, in celebration of the Proposal Review Party, we turn to our retired, dear friend, David Letterman, for a fun Top Ten List: The Top Ten Reasons to Send Proposals to OSP Well Before the Deadline.
- We are Human–Part I. We are all human and make mistakes. Sometimes OSP receives proposal files that are not complete, have the wrong attachments, or include a budget that does not total. Providing OSP sufficient time for review will ensure your proposal is as accurate as possible.
- We are Human–Part II. Many of our campus colleagues do not know what it takes for OSP to actually submit a proposal to a sponsor. Did you send us a Grants.gov application via e-mail? Great–but we need time to download and save the file, check the package, resave the file, and enter our login credentials. Sometimes, we cannot type fast enough if the proposal comes to us with only minutes to the deadline!
- Some of Us Thrive Under Pressure–But Many of Us Do Not! As you get closer to the deadline, the pressure increases: the clock is ticking away in the corner of your computer, your caffeine and chocolate supply is running low, and the chance of uploading the wrong attachment or the wrong budget data rapidly increases as you close in on the deadline. But it doesn’t have to be this way–submit early and beat the clock and the pressure.
- Be Nice to Your Fellow Researchers. We must strike a delicate balance in serving our constituents: there are many PIs, but there are only a few of us in OSP. We are outnumbered! Thus, we sometimes have to choose between submitting a proposal, processing a new award, or processing a continuation. And while the pressing deadline always wins, it can have an impact on your colleagues by delaying award set-up, adding funds, or resolving problems for your fellow researchers.
- Three Words: Sponsor Server Failure. It happens! Remember Hurricane Sandy and the devastation it left on the East Coast? There was a sponsor here in Wisconsin that outsourced its online proposal submission process to a company in New Jersey–when the storm hit, there was no way to submit proposals. That left OSP in the lurch–would the sponsor accept a proposal after the deadline? The situation highlights two issues: (1) you never know where the IT infrastructure is located that supports electronic submissions, and (2) you never know if the sponsor will allow you to submit a late proposal, even if there were factors outside of your control!
- Three More Words: UWM Power Failure. We are pretty “lucky” here in Wisconsin–we get four seasons. We get the “pleasure” of winter blizzards, fall wind storms, severe spring storms, and summer heat waves that overwhelm the local power grid (which happened to us the day NSF CAREER proposals were due this year). Each of these has the potential to knock out our power–and our ability to submit proposals at the last minute. While some sponsors allow us to submit after the fact with a justification, there is NO guarantee that a sponsor will accept our late proposal.
- Computers are Ruthless–Part I. Sponsors have very fickle electronic proposal submission systems, and the interaction between our computers and the sponsors’ systems sometimes can be a recipe for disaster:Grants.gov: “I see you are using Adobe 11.2.34-AA.”
UWM Computer: “Why yes, I am.”
Grants.gov: “Too bad. You need to be using 11.2.34-AB.”
UWM Computer: “Oh no. Oh well, I’ll just crash and let my PI figure out how to submit the proposal to OSP in the next four minutes.”While we are not certain if this is the actual conversation that occurs between these systems, it sure seems like it.
- Last Minute Scheduling Can Be a Nightmare. Does your proposal require a hard-copy signature from OSP in the next 34 minutes? Because OSP staff are multi-tasking professionals, we might be in meetings or working with other PIs under a deadline, or unexpectedly out sick or on vacation. If you need a hard-copy signature for your proposal, please submit the documents early so that we can coordinate with time to spare.
- We Are Human–Part III. OSP staff are indeed truly human–we do not yet have the ability to work 24/7. Some sponsors schedule deadlines at odd hours, and while we try to accommodate submissions after 5:00 pm, it becomes very difficult with competing demands for work, family care, and other important commitments. We do not want to miss a deadline because staff were not available outside of regular office hours to submit a proposal.
- Computers are Ruthless–Part II. Do you remember the “good old days,” when a simple postmark indicated whether a proposal was submitted to a sponsor “on time?” And the date of that postmark was flexible, depending on how nice you were to the postal clerk? Those days are gone. Today the submission date/time is based on a computer server–and the servers don’t care if you are nice to them! Servers only care about the date and time and will mark your proposal “late” if you are off by a millisecond. Oh, and the sponsor’s servers only care about themselves: the date and time on THEIR SERVERS is what matters when it comes to your proposal arriving “on time”–not the date and time on your computer, our computer, the clock on the wall, your watch, or on your phone.
UW System Reorganizes and Renumbers Administrative Policies
Effective October 1, 2016, UW System reorganized and renumbered all System-wide Administrative Policies and Procedures. UW System reorganized and renumbered these policies in order to:
- Create a formal policy review process with a defined end point;
- Organize policies in a logical, integrated method;
- Eliminate the multiple series of policies (ACIS, APICS, FAPP, GAPP, and Travel); and
- Create a consistent format across all policies.
These changes impact not only the UW System research-related Policies and Procedures, but all policies and procedures that govern the myriad of transactions at System institutions. UW System has create a crosswalk to assist faculty and staff with identifying the new locations of all former policy series in the new system.
NIH/AHRQ/NIOSH Change Post-Submission Material Policy
For applications submitted on or after January 25, 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will simplify the post-submission material policy across all three Public Health Service agencies.
For all applications, only the following post submission materials will be permitted:
- Revised budget page(s) (e.g., due to a new funding or institutional acquisition of equipment).
- Biographical sketches (e.g., due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator).
- Letters of support or collaboration due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator.
- Adjustments resulting from natural disasters (e.g., loss of an animal colony).
- Adjustments resulting from change of institution (e.g., PD/PI (PI/PD) moves to another university).
- New of professional promotion or positive tenure decision for any PD/PI“> or Senior/Key Personnel.
- Approval by the STEM Cell Registry of a human embryonic cell line(s) after submission of the application (see NOT-OD-12-111).
- Videos, within defined limits, that demonstrate devices and experimental data with a temporal element, which refers to the need to show how something functions or occurs over time, or demonstrates movement or change. Applicants must follow the directions in NOT-OD-12-141 for submitting videos to accompany grant applications.
- Other post-submission materials specified in the FOA for which the application was submitted or in a special Guide Notice.
- News of an article accepted for publication since submission of the application, which must include only: the list of authors and institutional affiliations; title of the article; and journal or citation (if available).
Copies of articles, links to articles, or any other materials related to the article accepted for publication will not be accepted as post-submission materials unless stipulated in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the application.
Additionally, all post-submission materials must conform to NIH, AHRQ, or NIOSH policies on font size, margins, page limits, and paper sizes as stipulated in the application instructions. Additionally, if a post-submission material is not required on a specific format page and does not have a specified page limit, each explanation or letter is limited to one page.
Additional details regarding this change is available in Notice NOT-OD-16-130. Additional post-submission materials may be permitted in certain application types, such as institutional training, individual fellowship, and conference grants. Please also remember that all post-submission materials must receive concurrence by an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) in OSP. Your Pre-Award Specialist provides assistance with coordinating AOR concurrence and submission.
Questions? Please contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
Verify Browser Compatibility for Updates to eRA Modules
On November 30, 2016, all eRA modules (eRA Commons, ASSIST, and IAR), web services, and websites will use only “https” secure connections. The move is in response to a federal mandate to provide the strongest privacy and integrity protection for federal websites such as eRA.
With the change to secure connections, the following browsers will provide the best experience in navigating eRA, are used to develop the eRA modules, and are consistently tested by the federal government:
- Google Chrome version 18.104.22.168 and higher
- Firefox version 4 and higher; with Firefox 17, Mozilla integrates a list of websites supporting the new protocol
- Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 when KB 3058515 or higher is installed (released on Windows Update in June 2015).
The list above represents only the minimum browser versions that will be compatible with eRA modules. All users are encouraged to review the eRA Browser Compatibility Statement to verify their systems are compliant with the changes.
Additionally, eRA does have four additional browser versions that will likely fundtion with the security upgrade, but are not included in the eRA Browser Compatibility Statement:
- Opera version 12 and later
- Safari as of OS X Mavericks
- Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10
Questions related to your system’s compatibility with eRA? Please connect with your department’s or division’s Information Technology personnel to confirm that your system will be compatible with the November 30, 2016 eRA upgrade.
New Policy Eliminates Most Appendix Materials for NIH/AHRQ/NIOSH Applications
Policy Notice NOT-OD-16-129 announced plans to eliminate most appendix materials for applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for due dates on or after January 25, 2017.
What is allowable for appendix materials after January 25, 2017?
The only allowable appendix materials for NIH, AHRQ, and NIOSH applications will be:
For all applications:
- Blank informed consent/assent forms;
- Blank surveys, questionnaires, and data collection instruments; and
- Items specified in a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). If appendix materials are required in the FOA, review criteria for that FOA will address those materials and applications submitted without those appendix materials will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.
For applications proposing clinical trials (unless the FOA provides other instructions for these materials):
- Clinical trial protocols; and
- Investigator’s brochure from Investigational New Drug (IND), as appropriate.
What happens to the appendix materials in peer review?
All information submitted with an application except the cover letter, assignment request form, and appendix information are assembled into a single application image for funding consideration. The different sections within the application image are specified in the application instructions and correspond to the standard review criteria. Consequently:
- All information required for the peer review process must be contained within those designated sections of the application image, unless the FOA specifies otherwise.
- Information that expands upon or complements information provided in any section of the application–even if it is not required for the review–is not allowed in the appendix unless it is listed in the allowed appendix materials (NOT-OD-11-080).
- Unless the FOA requires that certain information be included in the appendix, failure of reviewers to address appendix materials in their reviews is not an acceptable basis for an appeal of initial peer review (NOT-OD-11-064).
What is the rationale for these changes?
The NIH, AHRQ, and NIOSH strive to ensure fairness in peer review for all grant applicants by specifying the types and amount of application material that are accepted for peer review. At the same time, these agencies appreciate both the need for applications to provide sufficient information to allow for an informed, expert review process and the importance of limiting the burden on peer reviewers.
Elimination of most appendix materials is intended to correct inequities in the peer review process that can arise from submission of inappropriate or excessive appendix materials by some applicants and consideration of appendix materials in peer review by some, but not all, reviewers.
What are the consequences for submitting unallowable appendix materials?
Applications will be withdrawn and not reviewed if they are submitted with appendix materials that are not specifically listed in Notice NOT-OD-16-129 or the FOA as allowed or required. Application instructions will be updated by November 25, 2016 to reflect this change.
Questions related to this new policy? Please contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your division or department.
New FastLane Compliance Checks Coming September 26, 2016
NSF will implement two new automated compliance checks in the FastLane system effective Monday, September 26, 2016. These new checks will trigger an “error” message in the following circumstances:
- Project Summary text that exceeds the one-page limit; and
- Project Summary text that is entered into FastLane and the user also uploads a “Project Summary with Special Characters” supplementary document.
Both of these FastLane errors will prevent proposal submission. These automated compliance checks are in addition to the compliance checks implemented in FastLane on August 1, 2016. The automated compliance checks in FastLane are intended to provide the research community with a more user-friendly and efficient experience than Grants.gov, which has no mechanisms to verify compliance with proposal preparation instructions and increases the likelihood that a proposal would be returned without review.
Lessons from the NSF Merit Review Process Report: Proposals Returned without Review
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a report to the National Science Board regarding the agency’s Merit Review Process. Not only does the report contain a wealth of information about NSF proposal submission, review, and award processes, it also contains great pieces of general advice about grant-seeking and award management.
What is one lesson from the report? NSF, like most funding agencies, pre-screens applications for compliance with basic requirements. In fiscal year 2015, NSF returned 3.6% (1,843) of all proposals without review for non-compliance with basic requirements. This included proposals that did not fit with agency/program goals and objectives, missed deadlines, did not comply with proposal format requirements, or did not follow preparation and submission instructions. In addition, a 2015 study found that, on average, PIs spent 116 hours developing each NIH or NSF proposal. Combined with the number of NSF proposals returned without review, this equates to 213.788 hours of lost PI productivity associated with non-compliance NSF proposals in 2015.
The issue with non-compliance proposals is not unique to NSF–almost every funding agency uses compliance with proposal preparation and submission instructions as a mechanism to pre-screen applications, because it’s an easy way to eliminate proposals from review. How can PIs avoid the return of a proposal without review?
- Carefully read the proposal preparation instructions. Applications should conform to all font, spacing, and margin requirements as stated in the solicitation.
- Be sure the project is a good fit for the sponsor and program. More than one-third of NSF proposals returned without review were not a good fit for the agency or were not responsive to the program solicitation. If you are not certain about fit, reach out to the program officer–they are great allies and are willing to tell you if your proposal belongs elsewhere.
- Take the reviewer’s feedback into account. When developing your submission, carefully review and incorporate the information into your submission. While you may not agree with each reviewer’s comments, incorporating a different perspective into the writing process may help you better explain your project to the reviewers.
- Submit your proposal early! Nearly 10% of NSF proposals returned without review were the result of a missed deadline. Not only is getting your proposal in early recommended to avoid a missed deadline, it also gives OSP a chance to ensure that all required sections of the proposal are complete and the proposal aligns with the preparation and submission instructions (which accounts for another 47% of NSF proposals returned without review).
Update on the Fair Labor Standards Act
The Office of Research and Department of Human Resources would like to provide an update on how changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will be implemented in relation to UWM‘s research appointments. This document contains information on the changes and how campus will plan to accommodate these new federal requirements. (This document is also posted on the Human Resources website.) At this time, some aspects of UWM‘s implementation are still under development. As the details are sorted out, updated information will be posted on this website and shared with campus. Various funding agencies are beginning to provide information on how they will support this change; the Office of Sponsored Programs is collecting this information on a FLSA Frequently Asked Questions page.
Please note that the changes to FLSA will impact a broad range of positions at UWM given that the salary threshold has essentially doubled from the current level. This update deals specifically with changes related to specific employee categories related to research (post-docs, Researcher, Scientist). Additional information on the overall changes can be found at the HR website.
Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
In May 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required applicants to comment on the authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources in proposals submitted to the agency. “Key resources” refers to established resources that will be used in the proposed project, and may include cell lines, specialty chemicals, antibodies, or other biologics. Key resources may or may not be generated with NIH funds and:
- May differ from laboratory to laboratory or over time;
- May have qualities and/or qualifications that could influence the research data; and
- Are integral to the proposed research.
Standard laboratory reagents that are not expected to vary do not need to be included in the plan (such as buffers and other common biologicals and chemicals). Each principal investigator will need to determine which resources used in their project fit these criteria and are critical to the proposed research.
This section of the proposal should briefly describe the methods the principal investigator plans to use to authenticate key resources based on their scientific experience and judgement, referring to relevant scientific standards for the investigator’s discipline as necessary. If key resources are purchased or provided by an outside source, the principal investment is still required to provide their own authentication plan for these key resources.
Applications that involve the use of key biological and/or chemical resources but do not include an Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources Plan will be returned without review. It is important to note that this attachment is not required in Grants.gov application packages, so please be certain to verify that this section is not applicable to the proposed project.
NIH implemented this change to applications as a method to increase the rigor and transparency of research sponsored by the agency. In order to assist principal investigators, NIH also has posted additional clarification on this section of proposals in a Frequently Asked Questions document.
Developing Data Management and Data Sharing Plans for Proposals
Many funding agencies–public and private–require a data management plan (DMP) as part of the proposal package. DMPs describe how data generated from the proposed project will be managed and then shared at the end of the project. Some sponsors have a pre-determined set of questions for applicants to answer in developing their DMP (e.g., certain NSF directorates); other sponsors may allow for a less structured DMP. Regardless of the format, sponsors seek assurance that the data generated from the project will be carefully managed, protected, and shared appropriately.
Need assistance with developing a DMP for your proposal? UWM Data Services can help. Located in the UWM Libraries, knowledgeable staff is available to help you:
- Answer questions about data management plans.
- Review data management plans and drafts.
- Recommend repositories for data sharing.
- Advise on best practices for data management.
Upcoming Changes to Sponsored Project Budgets
The Office of Research is implementing two changes to grant and contract budgets that will affect future proposal budgets. You will see the changes reflected in an updated version of the “budget tool” used to develop proposal budgets, so please use the updated version for future submissions.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The US Department of Labor has raised the FLSA salary threshold for most employees between exempt and non-exempt status to $47,476 for a 12-month appointment, which translates into $38,845 for a 9-month appointment. Individuals making less than these amounts are “non-exempt” and will be paid at overtime rates (time-and-a-half) for hours worked over 40 hours per week. Although this does not affect graduate student Research Assistants, the overtime provision does apply to other individuals working in research roles across the university. It will be necessary to track hours worked (including evenings and weekends) for non-exempt employees. All employees with a primary duty of teaching are now and will remain exempt from FLSA overtime provisions, regardless of their base salary. This change is effective December 1, 2016.
There are three categories of research positions that are very likely to regularly work more than 40-hours per week due to the professional nature of their work: Research Associates (“post-docs”), Scientists and Researchers. Many of these employees have salaries that will make them exempt, but a significant number do not. The financial obligations related to potential overtime pay can be substantial (for example, a post-doc with a salary of $40,000 who works 60 hours per week will earn $70,000 under the new regulations).
In light of the new FLSA threshold, the minimum salary rate for Research Associates (post-docs), Researchers, and Scientists will increase to $47,476 for 12-month appointments and $38,845 for 9-month appointments on December 1, 2016. These minimums will be used in proposal submissions and reflected in the modified budget tool that will be available shortly.
The Office of Research is working with the campus to identify funds that can be used to supplement existing grants and contracts that require additional funds to cover the salary increases. This support will be required for FY 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Office of Research will also provide funds to supplement RGI awards that carried post-doctoral research associates, researchers, and scientists in their budgets where needed.
Graduate Assistantship Tuition
A second change involves how tuition is covered for graduate assistantships supported by external funds. Due to historical reasons, there are different mechanisms for charging tuition for assistantships based upon the source of funds (internal 101/131, internal other sources, external federal, external non-federal) and position type (RA versus PA). This results in a complicated system with varied charges to grants and contracts, and significant charges to schools and colleges. This has been recognized and discussed for several years – dating back to the 2012 report on graduate assistantships.
After consulting with various campus constituencies, including administrative and governance, the Office of Research has decided to adopt the approach of charging a “flat fee” tuition rate on all externally-supported graduate assistantships starting in Fall 2017 (FY 2018). The tuition rate will be $8,400 per year ($4,200 per semester) which is the approximate average in-state (instructional) tuition for graduate assistants. Out-of-state tuition costs will be foregone on these appointments. Proposals submitted with graduate assistantships in Fall 2017 or later will use the updated budget tool. The $8,400 per year rate will be in effect for FY 2018, and 2019. Any subsequent changes will be linked to the percent change in graduate in-state tuition rates.
This change will result in an increased tuition charge for some awards. As with the FLSA, funding to cover additional tuition charges will be provided for current grants and contracts for FY 2018 and FY 2019. Please remember that indirect costs are not billed on tuition payments.
The change will have two substantial benefits. First, it provides a consistent and predictable tuition charge for all externally-supported graduate assistantship positions. Second, it will eliminate the tuition charges to units when faculty and research staff are successful in competing for external funding.
In closing, these changes are designed to bring our funded research activities into compliance with federal regulations, and to adopt a consistent approach for charging tuition costs for graduate student assistantships across different funding sources.
Beware: Predatory Academic Publishing and Conferences
UWM faculty preparing to disseminate the results of their research, either through publishing or presenting at conferences, should be aware of a growing international trend of predatory practices among some online open-access publishers and conference organizers.
The increasing interest in open-access publishing, funded largely through publication fees or article processing charges to authors or their institutions, has created many opportunities for researchers to share their peer-reviewed work with free access in online journals. Unfortunately, it has also given rise to an exploitative publishing business model that involves charging fees to authors without providing the services associated with legitimate academic journals, such as editorial and publishing services, and in particular, appropriately conducted peer review. Disreputable publishers actively solicit manuscripts for the purpose of generating revenue; to give the impression of academic authenticity, such publishers are known to invite established scholars to be named as editorial board members.
Predatory conferences also exploit researchers’ need to share and present their research. These are enterprises that organize low-quality academic meetings for profit, attracting paying participants with famous keynote speakers or presenting themselves under the guise of similarly named reputable conferences.
There are several valuable resources for determining the integrity of publications and conferences. The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association website provides extensive information about open-access publishing standards and the publishers that adhere to them. University of Colorado Denver librarian and researcher Jeffrey Beall, who coined the term “predatory publishing,” maintains a list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers.” The list is available on his website, Scholarly Open Access, which provides “critical analysis of scholarly open-access publishing” as well as information about predatory conferences.
The UWM Libraries also have resources to assist faculty with identifying and responding to offers from predatory publishers and other topics relating to open-access publishing. For assistance, please contact Kristin Woodward, Online Programs and Instructional Design Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NSF Implements Automated Compliance Checks Effective August 1, 2016
The National Science Foundation has now scheduled the implementation of changes to the NSF FastLane system for August 1, 2016. These changes include:
- Biographical sketch(es) and Current and Pending Support documents are required for individual Senior Personnel listed in a proposal and must be separately loaded into FastLane. Attaching one file in FastLane for all Senior Personnel will no longer be allowed. Biosketch(es) can no longer be uploaded as text–they must be file uploads.
- Warning and Error Messages will continue after August 1, 2016. Warning messages do not prevent proposals from submission; error messages will prevent submission. Please pay careful attention to the messages after August 1, 2016, as a number of “warning” messages will now change to “error” messages.
- OSP will no longer be able to change PI passwords. Users who need to reset their passwords will need to navigate directly to Fastlane or Research.gov and click on the “Forget Password” link.
A full list of automated compliance checks is available from NSF. In order to implement these changes, the FastLane system will be down beginning at 11 pm on Friday, July 29th through 8:00 am on Saturday, July 30th.
NSF Overdue Reports
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is now delaying award actions if an identified PI or Co-PI has an overdue annual or final project report on any NSF award, even if the projects are unrelated. Please remind your NSF PIs and Co-PIs to keep current on all NSF project reports and that their actions may have an impact on their colleagues’ NSF awards—awards and non-competing continuations will be delayed.
NIH Commons IDs for Project Personnel
Just a friendly reminder… The National Institutes of Health now requires post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduate students supported on NIH grants to have an eRA Commons ID and to provide certain demographic data, including date of birth, gender, race and ethnicity, disabilities, and citizenship status (individuals may select ‘Do Not Wish to Provide’ for these questions). Please remind NIH-support principal investigators and project personnel that they must complete their Commons profiles. Failure to obtain a Commons account and complete the profile may result in delays in processing progress reports.
To facilitate new Commons accounts, OSP has a new eRA Commons Registration Form available from the Forms and Downloads section of our website. Please download, complete, and send to the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your division or department. (We also have a National Science Foundation FastLane Registration Form available, too.)
NIH and AHRQ Grants.gov Applications and Expired Forms
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a Notice on June 30, 2016 indicating that several forms contained within the Grants.gov FORMS-D application package have expired. Applicants should continue to utilize the NIH and AHRQ FORMS-D packages despite expiration dates noted on individual forms. Implementation plans for new forms will likely be released later this summer; additional details will be forthcoming.
New PHS Assignment Request Form
The new Public Health Service (PHS) FORMS-D application package includes a new “optional” form—the PHS Assignment Request Form. The PHS Assignment Request Form now complements the Cover Letter that is included as an attachment on the SF 424 R&R form.
What does complement mean? The PHS Assignment Request Form and the Cover Letter will be used together by NIH staff in the assignment and review of applications. The New PHS Assignment Request Form includes the following data:
- PHS Awarding Component (such as an NIH Institute/Center), both positive (assign to) and negative (do not assign to);
- Study Section or Special Emphasis Panel Requests, both positive and negative;
- A list of potential reviewers in conflict and a brief justification; and
- A list of scientific expertise necessary to review the application.
May I continue to include requests for assignment and review of applications in the Cover Letter attachment? No. Receipt and referral staff will ONLY use the PHS Assignment Request Form to assign applications moving forward. Any information regarding the assignment and review of an application contained in the Cover Letter attachment will not be reviewed.
What should the Cover Letter attachment include now that the PHS Assignment Request Form is available? Cover Letters should only include the following information:
- Reason(s) for a late application;
- Explanation of why a subaward is not active for all periods of the proposed project;
- Statements regarding agency approval documents (i.e., requests over $500,000);
- Intent to submit a video as part of the application (NOT-OD-12-141); and
- Indication that the proposed study will generate large-scale human or non-human genomic data (NOT-OD-14-111 and NOT-OD-15-027).
Is the PHS Assignment Request Form visible to the reviewers? No. The form is only available to a small number of NIH staff and not seen by the reviewers. Both the PHS Assignment Request Form and Cover Letter are maintained as separate documents in eRA Commons.
How do I add the form to an application package? To add the form to a Grants.gov application package, click on the box next to the “PHS Assignment Request Form” under “Optional Forms” on the Grants.gov application package cover page. For applications submitted via ASSIST, click on the “Add Optional Form” action in ASSIST in order to add it to the application.
If you have questions related to the new PHS Assignment Request Form, please reach out to the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your division or department.
What Compliance Tasks are Required… and When?
Specific compliance tasks, informed by federal regulation, state law, and UW System and UWM policy, are required at certain points during the proposal submission, award, continuation, and no-cost extension phases of a project. Additionally, the May 20th deadline has come and passed for researchers to complete their effort, training, and disclosure tasks in order to receive OSP services. To help researchers to comply with these requirements, the following process describes the tasks due at each OSP transaction:
At Proposal Submission:
- All senior/key persons in the proposal (PI, Co-PI, Co-Investigator, or other individual designated as senior/key person) must have completed their Outside Activities Report (OAR) during the last disclosure cycle (due annually by April 30).
- For submissions to the Public Health Service (PHS) and other non-federal agencies that subscribe to the PHS Financial Conflict of Interest [FCOI] regulations, a completed Significant Financial Interest Disclosure [SFID] must be completed within the last 12 months.
At Award Stage:
- All effort tasks must be complete for all PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators and other personnel included in the Notice of Grant Award (NoGA).
- All PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators, and NoGA personnel must have completed Effort Training.
- An OAR must be on file for the last disclosure cycle (due annually by April 30) for the PI, Co-PI, Co-Investigators, other individuals designated as senior/key persons, and for any other personnel included in the Notice of Grant Award (NoGA).
- For awards from PHS agencies (and those that ascribe to their FCOI regulations), an SFID must be on file within the last 12 months for all PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators, other individuals designed as senior/key persons, and NoGA personnel.
- For awards from PHS agencies (and those that ascribe to their FCOI regulations), all PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators, other individuals designed as senior/key persons, and NoGA personnel must have completed FCOI Training within the last four years.
During Non-Competing Continuations and No-Cost Extensions:
- An OAR must be on file for the last disclosure cycle (due annually by April 30) for the PI, Co-PI, Co-Investigators, other individuals designated as senior/key persons, and for any other personnel included in the NoGA.
- For awards from PHS agencies (and those that ascribe to their FCOI regulations), an SFID must be on file within the last 12 months for all PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators, other individuals designed as senior/key persons, and NoGA personnel.
- For awards from PHS agencies (and those that ascribe to their FCOI regulations), all PIs, Co-PIs, Co-Investigators, other individuals designed as senior/key persons, and NoGA personnel must have completed FCOI Training within the last four years.
It is important to note that the OSP transactional points listed above may be delayed if project personnel have not completed all compliance-related tasks.
How can delays be minimized? By contacting OSP early and often! Our staff have access to tools that can quickly verify if project personnel have completed all compliance-related tasks. If you are working with a researcher on a submission, notify your Pre-Award Specialist early about the planned proposal. We can verify that all project personnel have completed their compliance tasks so as to not delay proposal submission. The same holds true for new awards, non-competing continuations, and no-cost extensions: if you have planned actions on an award, contact our staff early and often to verify that all compliance-related tasks are complete.
New Cost Sharing Frequently Asked Question Page Now Available
Cost-sharing (i.e., cost-share or matching funds) for grant proposals can be confusing, especially identifying sources for cost-sharing and accounting for it at the proposal stage. Sponsors may require cost-sharing on a grant program for a number of reasons, such as demonstration of institutional buy-in or to limit the number of proposal submissions.
The federal government has established many regulations about the use, documentation, and accounting of cost-share in grant proposals, and OSP has created a list of Frequently Asked Questions received from Principal Investigators and campus administrators about when and how to include cost-sharing in a proposal.
The NSF “Collaborative Research:” Option: Reduce the Administrative Burden on Collaborative NSF Proposals and Awards
If you are planning a submission to the National Science Foundation (NSF) which involves colleague(s) at other institution(s), please consider the “Collaborative Research:” alternative that NSF offers in FastLane. There are a few NSF programs which specifically exclude this option, so please verify that this option is permitted for a particular program solicitation before proceeding.
How does a “Collaborative Research:” submission work? The Lead Institution starts the proposal in FastLane, the non-lead institutions start their own proposals in FastLane, assign a PIN number to their proposal, and provide their proposal and PIN numbers to the Lead Institution to enter using the “Link Collaborative Proposals” option in FastLane.
The Lead Institution is responsible for uploading the Cover Sheet for the Lead Institution, the Project Summary, the Project Description, the Budget and Budget Justification for the Lead Institution’s costs only, the Lead Institution’s PI and Co-PI Biosketches, Current and Pending Support information, and the Facilities/Resources document for the Lead Institution. The Lead also uploads the References, the Data Sharing Plan, and the Post-Doc Mentoring Plan (even if the post-doc is at a colleague’s institution) for the overall project.
The collaborators upload their own Cover Sheet, Budget, Budget Justification, Biosketches, Current/Pending Support, and Facilities/Resources sections. The collaborators’ institutions submit their portion of the proposal directly via FastLane. All Project Titles on Cover Sheets must match, and must begin with “Collaborative Research:.” All Cover Sheets in the “Collaborative Status” section should check the box indicating this is “A collaborative proposal from multiple organizations.”
What is the benefit in using the “Collaborative Research:” option? At the Proposal stage, no single institution needs to collect Institutional Commitment Letters, Scope of Work documents, Budgets, or Budget Justifications because the institution-specific documents are loaded and submitted by each institution separately.
Are there other benefits to the “Collaborative Research:” option if the project is funded? When the project is selected for funding, awards are issued by NSF separately to each institution. The Lead PI does not need to review and approve subaward documents, nor sign for monthly/quarterly invoices. Each institution draws down their award amounts separately.
Additional information regarding “Collaborative Research:” proposals is available in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide. Given the increased complexities in federal proposal submissions and award management, please take advantage of any agency mechanism that can reduce the level of administrative effort required to manage proposal submissions and awards.
What’s the Difference between NSF and NIH Proposals?
Our Proposal Development Services team often gets asked, “What’s the difference between a proposal to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health?” Truth be told, PIs tend to focus on one particular agency versus the other and may not recognize that there are very big differences between the two agencies (even though their research may align with funding opportunities from both).
In an effort to provide PIs with better guidance on the differences between the two agencies, OSP has added two new downloads to our Forms and Downloads webpage:
- NSF versus NIH Proposals in Bioengineering; and
- NSF versus NIH Proposals in the Behavioral and Social Sciences.
These are general overviews and do not substitute a thorough review of the NSF Program Solicitation or NIH Funding Opportunity Announcement for detailed instructions on developing a proposal.
Division WISPER Approvals
WISPER is a convenient, efficient mechanism for departments and divisions to review and approve extramural proposals and awards. WISPER allows divisions to approve both a proposal and a subsequent award at the proposal stage.
OSP strongly encourages divisions to refrain from approving an award at the proposal stage. Why? For several reasons, but most notably:
- The project scope may change between the proposal stage and final award stage;
- The project budget may differ;
- The amount of match funding from a department or division may differ;
- The project start and end date may change, impacting other department or division functions (course scheduling, student advising, other service/research commitments, etc.); and/or
- Project personnel may differ.
By waiting until an award is issued to provide the final approval, the division has a better opportunity to review all relevant award materials and confirm final approval. Please note that waiting to provide division approval of award in WISPER will not delay or impact the proposal submission process.
If you have any questions related to WISPER division approvals, please contact Tom Marcussen, Director (email@example.com).
Changes in Intercampus Mail to OSP
Due to changes with internal mail handling and processing, please be certain that any materials sent to OSP staff via intercampus mail are addressed to the “Office of Research.” Please do not address mail to “Graduate School”, as this will create delays in mail handling and processing.
Did you receive notice of award for a submission? Did a program officer send an e-mail indicating that your proposal will likely be selected for funding? If so, please contact your Pre-Award Specialist as soon as possible. We can help identify tasks that may need completion to avoid project delays.
For example, if your project involves research with animals, OSP will need approval documentation from UWM’s Animal Care Program. Our goal is to minimize project delays and allow us to setup your project account quickly. Questions? Contact Tom Marcussen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Procedures for Submitting UW System Grant Proposals
Applications to UW System grant programs often have administrative requirements, such as institutional signatures, that require campus coordination. To help streamline the submission process for UWS applications and better coordinate campus efforts, the UWM Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) has developed the following procedure. This gives Principal Investigators additional time to finalize the proposal rather than coordinating administrative review and signatures. It also allows WISPER to handle the review and approval process rather than using disparate processes across campus.
- For each UWS grant opportunity, OSP will publish internal deadlines for Principal Investigators (PIs) to submit their applications to OSP and for their review and approval by the PI’s department and Division/School/College via WISPER. PIs should work closely with their assigned Pre-Award Specialist regarding and proposal/budget reviews and WISPER routing.
- Applications must be submitted to OSP by the internal deadline to ensure review and submission to UWS ; late proposals will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
- OSP will review the application materials and ensure the Division/School/College has approved the submission.
- OSP will coordinate the signature of the appropriate institutional official(s) per the grant solicitation.
- OSP will either return the signed cover page to the PI OR submit the completed application directly to UWS . The manner of submission will depend on the grant application instructions or whether the grant opportunity is identified as a strategic priority by campus officials.
- The process for managing awards from UWS grant programs will not change; Divisions/Schools/Colleges will be responsible for managing the funds and project.