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What does it mean when a Program Announcement expires?

John Haaga
Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Research,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)

NIA funding announcements come with an expiration date. Program Announcements, for example, usually expire after three years. Lately, I’ve gotten some questions about what it means when a Program Announcement expires and there’s no new funding announcement specifically for that topic.

  • Is the NIA still funding research on the topic? Yes, in almost all cases.
  • Is there money for research on this topic in the future? Yes, for applications that score well enough on the review criteria (including Innovation), are approved by our National Advisory Council on Aging, and meet program goals of the NIA.
  • What in the world is a Program Announcement and how do those applications get reviewed and funded? Read on.

An example: disaster research

Several Program Announcements for Social and Behavioral Research on the Elderly in Disasters expired in September 2014. Here’s one of these Program Announcements, calling for R01 applications. Yet, as you can see in the RePORTER database of NIH-funded research, the NIA still funds a number of projects on this topic.

Where does a Program Announcement come from, anyway?

NIA issues a Program Announcement, or PA, after internal discussion and review. One or more staff members must successfully argue that there is a new scientific opportunity, or a gap in our current portfolio of research that should be filled. Typically, a Program Announcement covers a research need we think is not being addressed by the investigator-initiated applications that we have seen so far. In many cases, the Program Announcement is drafted as part of an effort to develop a scientific area that the National Advisory Council on Aging has recommended for special attention.

Does a Program Announcement reserve funds for the specific topic?

A Program Announcement by itself does not set aside any special funding.  If there is set-aside money, the Funding Opportunity Announcement will be designated PAS or PAR or RFA, not PA only. Read more about PAS, PAR, and RFA designations.

How does review work for Program Announcements?

A Program Announcement does not get a specialized review committee. Grant applications responding to a specific Program Announcement are reviewed by the most appropriate review committee for the science and the mechanism. The assignment and referral officer of the Center for Scientific Review determines which committee is most appropriate. See descriptions of the standing committees. The successful applications are considered for funding.

Why do we think Program Announcements are important, and how do we use them at NIA?

Program Announcements may be used to:

  • alert researchers who had been working on an issue to possible ramifications for aging
  • highlight the availability of new research resources
  • signal to reviewers that NIA considers a field relevant to its mission

We usually get a burst of new inquiries after a Program Announcement, followed after a few months by an increase in new applications.

When those goals are complete, though, we typically let the Program Announcements lapse. This is not meant to be a sign that a field is no longer important. Think of it as turning off an alarm clock; you don’t need to keep the alarm on constantly. If a Program Announcement rouses a community to begin or intensify research on the topic, then that Announcement has done its job. In the future, we would expect to receive applications on these topics without a special Program Announcement.

NIA usually continues to fund specific research topics after their Program Announcements expire, using other grant mechanisms.

The NIA is usually still willing to receive applications for exciting and novel research on these topics. You could submit an investigator-initiated application in response to a parent announcement. (For example, here’s the R01 parent announcement.) We seek to fund the most promising research that will contribute new knowledge and improve health and well-being of the elderly.

I hope that post will give you a better sense of the life cycle of a Program Announcement. Have I answered some of your questions about Program Announcements? If you have additional questions, please let me know by commenting below.

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