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A long story about a strange way to publish funding opportunities: Or, just another day at the office

Robin BARR [Former NIA Staff],
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA).

Part 1: The non-appropriation appropriation

Here we go again. Maybe. The U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees have written large increases into their appropriations bills for NIA—again in FY 2018—to expand research into Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD). If a full-year appropriation emerges from current budget negotiations, NIA could have a major influx of additional money for AD/ADRD research toward the end of the year. Déjà vu, all over again!

In an effort not to repeat the end-of-year press that arose last summer, we had planned to release our new initiatives somewhat earlier in the year. To do that required a little creativity on our part. We are used to producing one initiative per funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Each initiative needs to conform to the many rules regarding FOA structure and content, and then each needs careful review, first by NIA staff and then by NIH staff. Then, finally, the initiatives emerge one at a time in the NIH Guide.

That process takes way too long to be able to use the money proposed in the FY 2018 appropriations bills, should they come to pass. So, rather than sticking to the one-initiative-per-FOA norm, we intended to publish a single parent FOA early. The idea was that we would add the initiatives via Notice after they had cleared concept review at our Advisory Council meeting on January 23 and 24.

Part 2: A disappearing-reappearing Council meeting

As the January 2018 Council meeting approached, we realized that a lapse in federal appropriations might occur and prevent the meeting from happening. Rescheduling after a closure of uncertain length would challenge our nascent effort to generate initiatives that might use the possible FY 2018 appropriation for further AD/ADRD research. Undaunted, we rushed to reschedule the meeting for a Friday afternoon teleconference—immediately before the end of the Continuing Resolution. Our amazing Council members made themselves available, and we held a truly active, though stripped-to-the-essentials, meeting. Council approved 21 concepts for initiatives. Among these were the ones on Alzheimer’s that we were rushing to publish.

Part 3: The government re-opens and funding opportunities are announced<

We have now published the FOA. A few days later we published the Notice with the initiatives on AD/ADRD. The initiatives described in the Notice are as real as any that are dressed in the finery of their own FOA. The set-asides shown reflect our best estimates of funds available for them if we receive an appropriation along the lines of what is in the House and Senate bills. Even if our appropriation is flat compared to last year, we expect to have some funds for these initiatives. Program staff are talking up the science in them, reaching out to investigators and encouraging applications across these topics, just as they would do if each initiative was its own FOA. NINDS has joined us in this venture. Rod Corriveau is the contact there.

The submission deadline is April 17. Have at it – and happy application writing everyone!

Part 4: The rest of the story: The other approved concepts

There were a number of concepts beyond those related to AD/ADRD approved at the recent telephonic Council session. The new concepts are listed on our website. They do not yet have designated activity codes. These await development of FOAs for the concepts. And we are writing the FOAs now with their release timed for funding in FY 2019. Remember that a concept does not always lead to an FOA. It is not real until you see the FOA.

We hope it’s helpful to you to see these concepts ahead of time. Our goal is to let you know what we expect to support in the coming months. We’re happy to have your feedback, so please contact us or comment below.


Submitted by Science on-hold on February 07, 2018

Thanks for the update. Any idea of when the funding line for FY18 will be release? Are NIA still funding the proposals within the 10th percentile? A lot of people with good scores, but a little higher than 10th%, are waiting to know if the proposal will be funded, if it needs to be re-submitted, or just give up and look for another job.

Submitted by Robin Barr on February 07, 2018

In reply to by Science on-hold

Life here on a continuing resolution is an exercise in educated guesswork. In all likelihood, we will present an updated blog next week with our revised figures on what we intend to fund while still working with a short-term continuing resolution.. So stay tuned!

Submitted by Dario Lemos on February 09, 2018

Thanks for the update Robin. These blog posts keep us alive. Best.

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