Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2017 RCMAR RFAs
This page provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2017 RCMAR RFAs, including:
Please check back for updates.
- Q: Direct Cost limit: The RFA says "Application budgets are limited to $500K in direct costs…." Is that $500K per year?
A: Yes, the direct cost limit is $500K per year for each year of these 5 year awards.
- Q: PD/PI Role(s): Can the PD/PI of the proposed P30 also be the Project Lead on the Research Education Component?
A: Yes, the PD/PI of the proposed P30 can also be the Project Lead on the Research Education Component. Note that these P30 RFAs require that the PI also lead the Administrative Core: "The Program Director/Principal Investigator of the proposed RCMAR must also be the Administrative Core Leader; sufficient time should be devoted to the core to ensure that the aims are met and required functions are carried out efficiently." The PD/PI may play other roles in the RCMAR, as appropriate to the aims of the Center.
- Q: Page Limits/Application Structure: Are there extra pages in the Research Education Component for the Recruitment Plan to Enhance Diversity and the Plan for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research, or are those plans part of the 12-page RL5 Research Strategy section?
A: No, extra pages are not provided for those plans. The plans should be included within the 12-page limit of the Research Strategy section for the Research Education Component.
- Q: Page Limits/Application Structure – Renewals (relevant to RFA-AG-18-003 only): Can renewal applicants list publications from the prior period in a separate references section?
A: For applications submitted in response to RFA-AG-18-003 only, applicants proposing renewals can include a separate attachment entitled "Progress Report Publication List," for any publications/patents/other printed materials to be listed.
PLEASE NOTE: AD-RCMARs and RCMAR Coordinating Center applications are "New" applications, by definition, since these RFAs have not previously been issued.
- Q: Page Limits/Application Structure: What are the exact page limits for each section of the application?
A: Page limits for the "Research Strategy/Program Plan" of P30 applications are listed in Section IV of the RFA. In addition, each section of the application has a Specific Aims page. There are a large variety of extra forms/sections that applicants may or may not have to fill out depending on their projects. Beyond what is already outlined in the published FOA, specific information is available in the SF424 Application Guide and on the Table of Page Limits site. Section IV of each RFA provides detailed information on what should be addressed in each section of the application.
- Q : Number of Applications from an Institution: Can one institution submit multiple applications?
A: YES. An institution may submit more than one application, as long as they are scientifically distinct. We encourage applicants to focus on putting together a strong application with a coherent scientific theme that is developed in the proposed research education program, and that includes a set of initial pilot projects that exemplify a Center's core strengths.
- Q : Number of Awards to an Institution: Is NIA likely to support more than one RCMAR Center at a single institution?
A: This question cannot be answered prior to peer review of submitted applications. Many factors go into making funding decisions for RFAs. As noted in the RFA for the RCMARs "The following will be considered in making funding decisions:
- Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
- Availability of funds.
- Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
- Programmatic balance in the RCMAR Centers program in terms of scientific area of focus and diverse investigator groups targeted for the mentoring program."
- Q : Area of Scientific Focus: Does my Area of Scientific Focus need to be in Health Disparities or Minority Aging Research?
A: NO. "This new cycle of RCMARs will expand the scientific scope of the program to encourage transdisciplinary social and behavioral science research on any theme addressed in the National Institute on Aging Strategic Plan." As noted in the P30 RFAs, a RCMAR may select an area of research focus from a broad range of social and behavioral science themes relevant to aging research. Please see each of the P30 RFAs for specific discussion of priority areas under the Section 1. "Area of Scientific Focus." A scientific focus on a specific area of health disparities or minority aging research is certainly welcome, but not required.
- Q : Area of Scientific Focus: Are the RCMARs still focused on Health Disparities or Minority Aging Research?
A: YES, in part. The RCMARs have historically served two purposes. First, they have been a mechanism for diversifying the aging research workforce by supporting pilot research conducted by investigators from backgrounds underrepresented in the aging scientific community. Second, they have focused this research mentoring in areas related to health disparities and minority aging populations. Because of the success of this training model and the resources it offers to new investigators from underrepresented backgrounds, this new cycle of RCMARs puts the primary focus on diversifying the aging research workforce. Thus, the RFA says: "This new cycle of RCMARs will expand the scientific scope of the program to encourage transdisciplinary social and behavioral science research on any theme addressed in the National Institute on Aging Strategic Plan."
At the same time, in keeping with RCMAR tradition, "[A]ll centers are also expected to offer mentoring in health disparities and minority aging issues as a major component of their research education programs." Additional mentoring and infrastructure support, specific to the Scientific Area of Focus, should be offered as well. As an example, your Scientific Area of Focus could be on Affective Science of Aging, allowing RCMAR Scientists to pursue pilot research and other activities in any domain of that field. In addition, your Research Education Component must offer all RCMAR Scientists some mentoring in health disparities and minority aging issues as a part of their RCMAR experience, in addition to/in combination with any other mentoring you offer.
- Q : Area of Scientific Focus: How broad or narrow should the area of scientific focus be?
A: The focus may be narrow or broad, but should be well-defined, and it should enable the RCMAR to achieve its aims to "promote a sustained program in an area of focus through which the center will accomplish the innovation, leadership, collaboration, and mentoring functions." If the focus is too narrow, it may be difficult to recruit a sufficient number of scientists from underrepresented backgrounds who have target projects in the area of focus. If the focus is too broad, it may be difficult to provide sufficient infrastructure and mentoring support to emerging researchers who hope to make a substantial impact on a well-defined field of aging research. As noted in the RFA: "A RCMAR may select an area of research focus from a broad range of social and behavioral science themes relevant to aging research." The examples provided reflect priorities outlined in the 2013 review of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research. In general, we would reiterate that "Centers should encourage investigators supported by the RCMAR to pursue innovative, cross-disciplinary research and emphasize the integration of biology, social and behavioral science, and the environment in studies relevant to understanding individual and population aging." Importantly, it will be up to the PD/PI(s) and Research Education Component Lead(s) to ensure that topics chosen for pilot studies by RCMAR Scientists are germane to the research focus of the RCMAR.
- Q : Key Personnel: Why does the RFA call for Diverse Faculty in the Research Education Component?
A: As noted in the application instructions (Section IV), Core personnel for the Research Education Component "should include individuals from diverse backgrounds as well as individuals with expertise in health disparities or minority aging research." These need not be the same individuals. The purpose of this stipulation is two-fold, and relates to the goals of the RFAs (see Question 12 below). First, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds in the aging research workforce benefit from role models at all levels of the career ladder who have succeeded in launching independent research careers. Second, to provide the required training in health disparities or minority aging research related to Goal 3, below, experts in these fields should be represented among the faculty.
- Q : Goals of the RCMAR Centers: What is the main goal of the RCMAR Program?
A: The RCMARs have 3 goals: (1) increase the diversity of the aging research workforce by mentoring new leaders in aging research, (2) promote advances in a focal area of behavioral and social sciences research on aging, and (3) increase the number of investigators addressing issues related to minority aging populations. Goals 1 and 2 will be supported by providing research education and infrastructure support targeted at promoting the careers of investigators from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue cutting edge behavioral and social research on aging. Goal 3 will be achieved by ensuring that all RCMAR Scientists are provided with mentoring in health disparities and minority aging issues as a major component of their research education programs, thereby enhancing the potential impact of research supported by the program on all sectors of our aging society.
- Q : Duration of pilot projects/RCMAR Scientist support: Is it possible to propose pilot projects that last longer than one year or to support a RCMAR Scientists to conduct more than one study over the course of two years?
A: YES. As Noted in Section IV.2. of the P30 RFAs: This [pilot] funding mechanism is intended to allow an investigator the opportunity to develop preliminary data sufficient to provide the basis for a publication in a major journal. Any one investigator is eligible only once for pilot support, unless the additional proposed pilot project constitutes a real departure from his or her ongoing research. Pilot projects are typically limited to a nonrenewable single year of support. If described and well-justified, two years of support may be requested.
- Q : Size and scope of pilot projects: Is it possible to propose pilot projects with budgets larger or smaller than the stated range of $25,000 - $35,000 direct costs per year
A: As Noted in Section IV.2. of the P30 RFAs: This [pilot] funding mechanism is intended to allow an investigator the opportunity to develop preliminary data sufficient to provide the basis for a publication in a major journal. It is NIA's experience that a lower level of support to a RCMAR Scientist may hamper his/her ability to complete work on a project. Many Centers in the past have leveraged support from other sources to increase the amount of pilot funds available for a single project.
- Q : What can pilot funds be used for? Can pilot funds support salary, research expenses, travel, equipment, supplies?
A: Any of these categories of expenses can be supported with pilot funds, as appropriate to the project.
- Q : Area of Scientific Focus: Must the Center's focus be in behavioral or social research?
A: YES, however, "Centers should encourage investigators supported by the RCMAR to pursue innovative, cross-disciplinary research and emphasize the integration of biology, social and behavioral science, and the environment in studies relevant to understanding individual and population aging." For perspectives on the full range of behavioral and social research supported by NIA, please see the NIA Division of Behavioral and Social Research website, the 2013 review of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research, and the National Institute on Aging Strategic Plan. NIA supports other Centers programs that include support for emerging scientists in neuroscience, geriatrics, and biology of aging. Collaborations with these other Centers programs are strongly encouraged, both for the purpose of creating infrastructure for the RCMAR's Area of Scientific Focus and also to support RCMAR Scientists in developing successful careers in an increasingly transdisciplinary research environment.
NEW FAQs updated on 5/23/2017
- Q: Key Personnel/Mentors: Do all faculty at the institution who might serve in future mentoring roles through the Research Education Component need to be listed as Key Personnel?
A: NO. Core faculty mentors should be listed as Key Personnel in the appropriate sections of the application. The Center may also establish relationships with additional mentors at the participating institution(s) over time, depending on the specific pilot projects of the RCMAR Scientists. Letters of support should be included from mentors on the pilot projects being proposed in the application, if those mentors are not key personnel on the award.
Please also note that the NIH grant application instructions include the following language: “For institutional research training, institutional career development, or research education grant applications, faculty who are not senior/key persons are encouraged, but not required, to complete the "A. Personal Statement" section.”
- Q: External Advisory Board Members: May I list members of my External Advisory Board (EAB) in my application?
A: It depends on whether you are submitting a New or Renewal Application.
New applications to RFA-AG-18-003 and all applications to RFA-AG-18-002, should not select committee members prior to peer review. It is challenging to assemble review panels for complex Centers programs, and naming External Advisory Board members can create additional conflicts of interest, limiting NIA’s ability to recruit qualified reviewers. Applicants may describe the kinds of expertise they plan to have represented on the EAB. The following text appears in both RCMAR P30 RFAs: New applications should not select committee members prior to peer review of the Center application.
Renewal applications to RFA-AG-18-003 may list the members of their External Advisory Boards. Individuals already on these EABs are conflict with the specific applications.
- Q: Budget/Indirect Costs: Are there differences in indirect costs for the P30 Cores and the Research Education Component?
A: Yes. The Research Education Component of the RCMAR Centers is an R25 within a P30. Indirect costs on the Research Education Component are limited to 8%.
Please see the NIH Grants website, which notes that “NIH provides F&A costs without the need for a negotiated rate under the following classes of awards: Research Training and Education Grants (e.g., R25), and K Awards. F&A costs under Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants, educational and K awards will be budgeted and reimbursed at a rate of 8 percent of modified total direct costs, exclusive of tuition and fees, health insurance (when awarded as part of tuition and fees), expenditures for equipment, and consortiums in excess of $25,000. State, local, and Indian tribes (or "federally recognized Indian tribes") may receive full F&A cost reimbursement under NIH Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants and K awards. For this policy, State universities or hospitals are not considered governmental agencies.”
- Q: Page Limits/Specific Aims: Does each section of the application (Overall, individual Cores, Research Education Component) have its own 1-page Specific Aims?
A: Yes. One additional Specific Aims page should be included for each section of the application (Overall, each Core, and the Research Education Component). The page limits listed in the table in Section IV.2. only apply the Research Strategy/Program Description portion of the application. Under each section of the application (Overall, Core, Research Education Component), the bolded headings in Section IV.2. of the RFA indicate different sections of the application that need to be completed, as appropriate to your application.
- Q: Progress Reports for Renewal Applications (applies to RFA-AG-18-003 only): What is the timeframe that should be covered in the Progress Report for Renewal Applications from currently funded RCMAR Centers?
A: Applications should only report on progress from the prior period of support (Fiscal Year 2012- 2017). Reviewers are instructed to only consider progress made in the prior funding period. It can be difficult for reviewers to evaluate a Center’s progress if the time frame for the evaluation is unclear, thus the restriction on tables, publication lists, etc. being confined to the prior project period. Applicants with Centers that have been active for more than 5 years may briefly mention overall accomplishments (e.g. numbers of scholars served, number of scholars from prior periods with active aging research programs) in the narrative, but detailed descriptions of accomplishments should be limited the prior period of support. Below are the relevant sections of RFA-AG-18-003:
PHS 398 Research Plan (Overall)Applicants submitting Renewal applications should present evidence of accomplishment in each of the Core areas for the prior funding period, including publications and grant awards of RCMAR Scientists. Renewal applications from existing RCMAR sites may use this section to present overall progress and report information not contained in specific Core sections of the application (with citations where appropriate). Tables of RCMAR activities during the previous funding period can be presented here provided they fit within the page limits of this section. If Cores included in the prior period of support are not part of the current submission, describe their progress and explain why they are not included. Identify and justify any substantive differences in approaches from the prior period of support. Identify and justify any changes in research emphasis. If the structure of Cores has changed, show the correspondence to the prior structure.
PHS 398 Research Plan (Administrative Core)
Renewal Applications only: Provide evidence of successful overall integration of cores to promote the goals of the center. Describe the most important contributions to research in the RCMAR's area of scientific focus utilizing core resources. Reports should include Core objectives and evidence of accomplishment in each of the Core areas for the prior funding period only, including publications and grant awards of RCMAR Scientists from the prior funding period.
Renewal Applications only: Include a table summarizing publications and grant applications from RCMAR Scientists supported with pilot funding during the prior project period. Provide evidence of productivity of funded pilot grants and of success of RCMAR Scientists in achieving independent research careers, including evidence of federal or non-federal research funding. Renewal applications may present summary tables such as those provided in the annual Non-Competing Continuation Grant Progress Report detailing federally and non-federally funded grants received by RCMAR Scientists, and publications resulting from RCMAR-funded pilot projects.
Additional Review Criteria - Research Education Component
For Renewals, the committee will consider the progress made in the last funding period, and the success of the program in attracting and retaining individuals from diverse populations, including populations underrepresented in biomedical, behavioral and clinical research on a national basis. Does the center have a strong track record of mentoring diverse investigators to the point of receiving independent investigator awards? How strong is the evidence of accomplishment in each of the Core areas for the prior funding period, including publications and grant awards of RCMAR Scientists?
NEW FAQs updated on 6/21/2017
- Q: Renewal Application Summary Tables (renewal applications to RFA-AG-18-003 only): What should be included in the “table summarizing publications and grant applications from RCMAR Scientists supported with pilot funding during the prior project period”?
A: This table can be brief, since it needs to fit within the 12-page Research Strategy of the Research Education Component (REC). At a minimum, the table should provide an overview of the numbers of publications, grant applications, and grant awards for RCMAR pilot investigators supported in the last project period (2012-2017). Full citations can be provided in the REC Progress Report Publication List, where publications resulting from resources or developmental work carried out by this core (formerly known as the “Investigator Development Core”) should be listed. PLEASE NOTE: “RCMAR Scientists” is the new term to refer to what were previously known as “RCMAR Scholars.”
- Q: Progress Report Publication List (renewal applications to RFA-AG-18-003 only): Should the Progress Report Publication List in the Administrative Core (AC) and in the Research Education Component (REC) be comprehensive lists or should they be separate lists of RCMAR faculty and Scientists [scholars] publications?
A: Report publications from RCMAR Scientists (formerly known as RCMAR Scholars) published during the prior funding period (2012 – 2017) in the Progress Report Publication List for the Research Education Component (REC). Report all other publications generated by the RCMAR Center during the prior funding period in the Progress Report Publication List for the Administrative Core (AC). Please see Question 21 for more information on Progress Reports for renewal applications.
- Q: Pilot Project Abstracts: What is the appropriate length and content of the pilot study abstracts included in the application?
A: There is no specific requirement on length or content. However, these abstracts need to be included within the 12-page Research Strategy of the Research Education Component (REC). Pilot project descriptions in similar NIA P30 applications have been approximately one page, with considerable variation in length. Abstracts can include a "project narrative" (like those included in an independent research application) or a summary of the aims, innovation, and approach.
- Q: Scientific focus of Pilot Projects: Do pilot projects need to be focused on minority aging or health disparities research questions?
A: No. Pilot projects should be germane to the RCMAR’s area of scientific focus, but this focus does not need to be on health disparities/minority aging research (See Questions 8, 9, 10 above).
- Q: Selection of Pilot projects. We are asked to include abstracts for at least 3 pilot studies. We are also asked to articulate a detailed plan to use in choosing future pilot studies. Is the expectation that the proposed pilots will still need to undergo the same selection process we describe? That is, we will have an open call for proposals in the first year, and the proposed example pilot projects will be among the applicants?
A: Section IV.2. of the RFA states that “Each REC should propose a minimum of three pilot studies, with named investigators, for the first year and should anticipate funding a minimum of three pilot studies during each subsequent year. The application should include an Abstract of each of the three selected pilot studies proposed for the first year of funding.” NIA anticipates that most applications will include a set of pilots that they are ready to support, if funded, without an additional formal selection process for those pilots. Applications should justify taking a different approach. PLEASE NOTE: Prior to awarding funds for pilot projects in Year 1 and subsequent years, additional information must be submitted to and approved by NIA (See Section VI.1. Prior Approval of Pilot Projects).
- Q: External Advisory Group (EAG). Who can serve on the RCMAR External Advisory Group? May one include individuals from: a RCMAR’s home institution but outside of the RCMAR-funded program; a RCMAR-funded program outside of the home institution; or only a non-RCMAR-funded program outside of the home institution?
A: The RFAs place no restrictions on who may serve on the External Advisory Group. Renewal applications that already have an External Advisory Group may name existing members, if they will continue. New members should not be named (though areas of expertise may be named). New applications should not name individuals who will serve on the EAG (though areas of expertise may be named). The naming of EAG members creates conflicts for peer review. (See Question 18 above.)
- Q: Budget (REC). Beyond pilot projects, what expenses are appropriate for the Research Education Component? Can mentor FTE be listed in this component?
A: The pilots and support for the scholars should be a key component of the REC. One-on-one mentorship cannot be compensated in NIA grants. However, payment for providing formal coursework or other formal instruction can be covered. These costs can be included in the REC budget. (See also Questions 14 & 15 above.)
- Q: Tracking the progress of the pilots. Should the plan for tracking and recruiting pilot trainees be in the Research Education Component or in the Administrative Core?
A: This can be done in/in collaboration with the Admin Core: The application instructions (Section IV.2.) state that one of the requirements of the Admin Core is to “Create and maintain a system for tracking pilot-study investigators through award of independent research funding”. Since the REC will be doing the continued mentoring, there is likely to be interaction between the AC and REC around this issue.
- Q: Budget for mentoring. Should the costs of mentoring in measurement and methodology or use of existing or secondary data be included in the budget for the Research Education Component, or in the Analysis Core?
A: Not every application will have an analysis core, but for those that do, some of the costs required to “Support RCMAR Scientists' development of methodological skills needed for independent research careers through consultation and provision of data resources, as appropriate to the scientific area of focus” (from Section IV.2. Analysis Core) can be placed in that section of the application. PLEASE NOTE: As noted in the answer to Question 28 above, one-on-one mentorship cannot be compensated in NIA grants.
- Q: Multi-PI applications. If we submit a multi-PI RCMAR, can the PIs share the 20% of effort?
A: Yes, that is acceptable. Please note that “The Program Director/Principal Investigator of the proposed RCMAR must also be the Administrative Core Leader; sufficient time should be devoted to the core to ensure that the aims are met and required functions are carried out efficiently” (Section IV.2. Administrative Core). Reviewers will determine whether there is sufficient time devoted.
- Q: We are hoping to have a cadre of senior mentors to help mentor our pilot awardees. These senior mentors will not be drawing salary support as they are already supported. What do we need to submit for them--biosketches and/or Letters of Support?
A: Please see answer to Question 17 above. PLEASE NOTE: As noted in the answer to Question 28 above, one-on-one mentorship cannot be compensated in NIA grants.