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Back by popular demand: Funding supplements on bioethical issues in aging research

Kristina McLinden
Kristina MCLINDEN,
Program Director,
Division of Neuroscience (DN)
Dr. Isis Mikhail
Isis MIKHAIL [Former NIA Staff],
Supervisory Health Scientist Administrator,
Scientific Review Branch (SRB)

COVID-19 Update:

The timeline for Review of FY20 Bioethics NOSI (NOT-OD-20-038) has been extended due to COVID-19.

A new notice ( was published announcing that grant applications submitted late for due dates between March 9, 2020 and May 1, 2020 will be accepted through May 1, 2020. A cover letter providing a justification is not required.

Genetics, data privacy, personalized medicine, end-of-life decision making, health disparities and palliative care. What do these have in common?

When you combine those topics with the growing global population of older adults and fast-paced technological change in health care, the result is a complex mix of thorny bioethical issues. In 2020, the health care system, health care providers, policymakers, caregivers, and aging adults often face bioethical dilemmas that lack simple answers. But evidence-based research can help build meaningful guidelines and policies to assist with this challenge.

To that end, we are pleased to announce the reissue of an administrative supplement program for existing NIH grants to support research on bioethical issues that will inform future policy directions. In 2019, NIH received many meritorious applications and funded 30 supplements with approximately $4 million. While 14 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs) joined the previous version of this program, this latest iteration has 25 participating ICOs, reflecting a growing interest in bioethics in the scientific community.

A uniquely flexible FOA

This grant supplement opportunity has some unique facets. Applicants may propose to examine novel bioethical research issues or challenges by requesting up to $100,000 in direct costs to add a one-year, bioethics-focused component to supplement their parent grant, regardless of whether that grant originally focused on bioethics. The supplement program is intentionally wide in scope and designed to allow flexibility to address any bioethics-related topic appropriate to one’s scientific project and goals. We hope this flexibility enables researchers to expand the range of bioethics areas that they aim to explore.

This expansiveness is certainly an advantage, but the flip side of the coin is that it can be difficult to decide exactly where to start. The program description includes suggested overarching research areas, but applications are not limited to those topics. From the ethics of informed consent, through the sensitive decision making around guardianship, to incentives for clinical trials recruitment, the topics are open to your innovative ideas to illuminate bioethical issues in aging research.

If you need help brainstorming ideas, take a look at NIA’s mission and strategic directions. The rising number of vulnerable older adults lends an urgency to this call that we hope will inspire your applications.

Act fast!

Researchers planning to take advantage of this supplement opportunity must apply by the March 20, 2020 deadline. NIH plans to dedicate at least $2 million in fiscal year 2020 to fund approximately 10 supplements.

More details, including how to apply, can be found in the supplement notice. If you have questions, leave us a comment below or contact Dr. Kristina McLinden via email. We look forward to receiving your innovative proposals around this important topic!

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