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Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Program Update


 

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing and Submitting a New SC Application

Q. Where can I find the most recent SCORE Funding Opportunity Announcements?

A. The most recent SCORE Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) are available at:

Q. What are the submission dates for SCORE SC1, SC2 and SC3 applications?

A. The submission/receipt dates are January 25, 2017, May 25, 2017; January 25, 2018, May 25, 2018; January 25, 2019, May 25, 2019. For AIDS applications: May 7, 2017, September 7, 2017; May 7, 2018, September 7, 2018; May 7, 2019, September 7, 2019. Since applications must be submitted electronically, they must be successfully received by Grants.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. local time (of the applicant institution/organization) in order to be considered "on time."

Please note that AIDS applications undergoing expedited review will be assigned to the most appropriate Scientific Review Group (SRG) in the Center for Scientific Review.

Q. Which institutions are eligible to apply for SCORE SC awards?

A. SCORE applications may be submitted by institutions that have an explicitly stated historical mission focused on training and graduating students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research. In addition, eligible institutions must award science degrees to undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate students (M.S. or Ph.D.) and have received less than $6 million dollars of NIH R01 support in each of the last 2 fiscal years.

Most institutions of higher learning have mission statements that identify an institution’s purpose and the reason for its creation as well as the student populations that it seeks to educate and serve. If your institution's mission statement explicitly states that its historical mission is to educate students from any of the populations that have been identified as underrepresented in biomedical research as defined in NIH NOT-OD-15-053 your institution would meet the first prong of the SCORE FOA's eligibility requirement.

Some institutions might not have the explicit language in their mission statements but they may make the case that they have a demonstrable history of training and graduating substantial numbers of students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research and contributing substantially to the national pool of underrepresented individuals who pursue biomedical research careers as evidenced by institutional data from at least the last 10 years.

As explained under Section IV.2 (Application and Submission Information) of the SCORE FOAs, the evidence of the institution's historical mission and/or a historical record of training and graduating students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research (as defined above) and contribution to the national pool of underrepresented individuals who pursue biomedical research careers is required as part of the other project information part of the application. Otherwise, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.

Please note that SCORE eligibility cannot be determined before an application is submitted. All the required information will be assessed during the peer review process. Institutions that receive support from the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) are not eligible to apply/hold SCORE awards.

Q. How many applications may an eligible institution submit/hold?

A. Eligible institutions may submit/hold a maximum of 20 individual investigator-initiated SCORE awards. Applications submitted/awarded in excess of this cap will be withdrawn.

Q. What is the role of the institution in SCORE?

A. Even though faculty will be the PIs of SCORE SC individual awards, the fiduciary responsibility for applying and receiving an NIH award resides in the institution. Additionally, in the case of SCORE, it is strongly recommended that the institution have a plan to: 1) determine which faculty members are best suited for SCORE participation based on their developmental/enhancement goals and needs, 2) track the number of submitted/awarded individual SCORE applications to keep the total number under the maximum allowed of 20 per year and 3) assist applicants with the electronic submission and post-award management of their applications.

Q. At a SCORE-eligible institution, which faculty members are eligible to apply for SCORE SC research awards?

A. Only full-time individuals on regular faculty appointments may apply for SCORE SC awards if they are seeking to develop their research competitiveness and eventually transition to non-SCORE support. Postdoctoral fellows, research or teaching instructors, research assistant professors, research scientists, other research appointments or appointments contingent on an individual securing his/her salary from grants, part time or adjunct faculty and faculty who have joint appointments in which one is at a research intensive institution are not eligible to apply for SCORE individual awards. Emeritus or distinguished/retired investigators/professors as well as individuals with a track record of research support, e.g. R01 or other research grant awards from federal or non-federal sources and publications are considered to be fully developed and may not apply for this award (see next question). Current PD/PIs of R01 or of other investigator initiated federal or non-federal research awards or of program projects, center grants, cooperative agreements or other institutional research awards are ineligible to apply for/receive any of the SCORE awards.

Investigators who have developmental/enhancement grant support with goals similar to SCORE are ineligible to apply for SC awards until the completion of these awards, i.e., SCORE awards are not intended to duplicate other individual or institutional developmental awards; these include K awards and research support provided as part of institutional centers, program projects, cooperative agreements such as from COBRE, INBRE, RCMI, BUILD, etc.

Please note that at the time a SCORE SC1 or SC2 award is made, PIs cannot have any other active research support. In the case of a SCORE SC3, a PI can have up to $75,000 total costs of other active research support at the time of an award provided there is no scientific overlap between these grants and the other project is also for a project of limited scope.

Q. Which investigators are considered to be fully developed for the purposes of the SCORE developmental program?

A. The following investigators (PIs) are considered to be fully developed and are not eligible to apply for any of the SCORE individual awards:

  • Faculty who have had a track record of significant non-SCORE external support (i.e., more than one funding cycle of NIH, NSF or other federal or non-federal support);
  • Faculty who have current R01 or other NIH research (R) support, NSF support or other significant federal support or foundation grants;
  • Retired or emeritus professors;
  • Endowed or distinguished professors;
  • Directors, co-directors of research centers;
  • Faculty who are productive PIs or co-Principal investigators of major program projects (e.g. P01, P20, U54, G12, RCMI, INBRE, COBRE, etc.);
  • Faculty who have received grants based on their distinguished research accomplishments or special research recognition awards (e.g. PECASE awardees);
  • Faculty who have achieved the SCORE goal of transitioning to non-SCORE research support (e.g., R01, R15, P01, NSF or other federal or non-federal agency awards); and
  • Faculty at SCORE-eligible institutions who also have a research appointment at a research institution or center.
  • Faculty on research appointments and/or affiliated with research centers.

Q. Can a research instructor, research assistant professor, research scientist or a postdoctoral fellow apply for an SC award?

A. No. Only full-time individuals on regular faculty appointments may apply for individual SCORE awards. Research track appointments are not considered regular full-time faculty appointments. Thus, research assistant instructors, research assistant professors and research scientists are not eligible to apply for SCORE individual awards.

Q. Are Co-PIs allowed on SC award applications?

A. No. SCORE enhancement awards focus on the research development/enhancement of a single PI.

Q. How can a new applicant to SCORE choose the SCORE research enhancement mechanism that matches his/her career stage/goals?

A. Eligible PIs planning to apply for an SC award should conduct a self-assessment of their research project, research productivity and career goals to be able to determine which mechanism is more suitable for them. Recommended areas of assessment include the PI's expertise and research productivity, project's goals and fit with the NIH mission, need for mentors or collaborators, etc.

Q. Where can an applicant find information on the scientific areas funded by NIH?

A. The Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) allows you to perform searches of descriptions (abstracts) of funded grants using specific key words.

Q. Where can an applicant find information on how to prepare an NIH grant application?

A. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' website has useful information on how to prepare an application (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/apply-grant) and also offers sample applications (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/apply-grant).

The TWD Division also sponsors a Grant Writing Workshop Link to external Web site for faculty at SCORE-eligible institutions who already have a draft SC or other research application with well-defined specific aims and research strategy. This workshop is offered by University of Kentucky staff every year.

Q. Do I need to use the new biographical sketch format for applications submitted to the SCORE Program?

A. Yes, as indicated in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-15-032, all SCORE applications submitted on or after May 25, 2015, are required to use the new biographical sketch format. It is also important to note that there are new instructions in the SCORE FOAs that specify that the PI’s Research Enhancement Plan (which must present the PI’s research enhancement objectives and plan) as well as the SC2 Advisor’s Role in the Research Enhancement Plan must be included in the attachment for “Other Project Information” (see Section IV of the SCORE FOA).

Q. Do PIs need to include career enhancement or developmental objectives and plan to accomplish them in a SCORE SC award application?

A. Yes, all of the SCORE SC award applications require that a PI research enhancement plan be provided as part of “Other Project Information” (see Section IV of the FOA). This plan must include the PI’s research career enhancement objectives and a plan and timeline to achieve them. The research enhancement objectives must be consistent with the goals of each individual mechanism (see the SC1, SC2 and SC3 funding opportunity announcements on the SCORE website for further details) and demonstrate how the PI’s research competitiveness and productivity will increase as a result of SCORE funding.

The plan must justify the need for development and provide an explanation of how the proposed project and the time devoted to it will help the PI further his/her research competitiveness and significantly improve his/her productivity. A timeline for the transition to non-SCORE support must be provided for SC1 applicants. The developmental plan should show a logical progression from the candidate's current support to the SCORE SC1, SC2 or SC3 support and to transition to non-SCORE support.

Please note that applications that lack a research career enhancement objectives and/or plan are considered incomplete and will be withdrawn prior to review.

Q. Is the PI of an SC2 application required to have an advisor (mentor) even if he/she has prior experience with the techniques to be used?

A. Mentorship or advisement from an experienced investigator in the proposed research area is required to facilitate a PI's research development. Please note that the role of the mentor in the PI's research enhancement plan must be explained in detail and presented as part of Other project information (see Section IV of FOA). Note that a letter from the mentor is not required as part of an SC2 application.

Q. What should be included in the role of the advisor (mentor)?

A. In the advisor’s role, the advisor must include: 1) his/her research qualifications and his/her previous experience as a research advisor; 2) nature of his/her mentoring role and how s/he will assist the PD/PI in his/her research development, 3) frequency of the supervision and how the applicant’s progress toward specified milestones will be monitored.

An SC2 mentor must be an accomplished, well-funded, active investigator in a research area. He/she is expected also to: 1) work with the mentee on the development of the SC2 proposal and 2) have a successful track record of advising/mentoring individuals who succeeded in getting independent research support.

Please note that foreign advisor/mentors are not allowed.

Q. What amount of effort is required in SC2 awards?

A. SC2 awards require a minimum effort of 50 percent of a full-time appointment at the applicant institution equivalent to 6 person months.

Q. What is the expected role of a domestic consultant or a collaborator on a SCORE individual award?

A. Consultants from outside the applicant institution are individuals who have committed to contributing intellectually to the scientific project development or its execution, but are not committing any specified measurable effort (in person months). These individuals are typically presented as "effort of 0 person months" or "as needed." This would also be the appropriate way of designating the role/effort of a mentor on a project.

Collaborators, who are recognized experts in a field from the applicant institution or another institution, generally provide expertise in a very specific aspect of the execution of the proposed project in which the PI does not have any experience or has limited experience, (e.g., with a research protocol, running a test on some samples, etc.). Travel for external domestic collaborators or for the PI to visit the collaborator's laboratory is allowed.

Consultants and collaborators must have their own research support. SCORE funds cannot be used to fund a consultant or external collaborator's research project or to pay their effort in person months. However, consultants can be paid a modest honorarium. Letters from the proposed consultants and/or collaborators specifying their role in the project and their biographical sketches must be included in the grant application.

Please note that foreign collaborators/consultants are not allowed.

Q. Are postdoctoral fellows allowed on SC awards?

A. Postdoctoral fellows may only be requested on SC1 awards provided that: 1) the research proposed justifies the need for their particular expertise and 2) their participation in the proposed research project will further their professional career. It is also required that the postdoctoral fellow be employed in a research-rich environment in which he/she will have opportunity to be an independent thinker and to develop by participating in mentoring activities and interacting with other postdocs, Ph.D. students and research faculty. Justification for a postdoctoral fellow and his/her specific role/time on a project is required as part of "personnel justification" in the modular budget format. This justification must include: 1) a professional and research development plan for the postdoctoral fellow which should detail the mentoring activities he/she and other postdoctoral fellows at the institution will be engaged in (e.g., career counseling, grant writing, training in research ethics, teaching, etc.), 2) a description of the postdoctoral fellow's involvement in the project as well as his/her anticipated time commitment and other obligations, 3) a brief description of the number of postdoctoral peers/Ph.D. students/research faculty with whom he will be able to interact in the lab, and 4) a brief narrative of the track record of the PI in training postdoctoral fellows, particularly from underrepresented groups.

Q. Can non-modular budgets be used in an SC application?

A. No. Modular budgets are required of all SCORE individual applications.

Q. Which costs must be justified in an SC modular budget?

A. Per the SF424 application instructions, detailed information on the following items must be included in the modular budget justification narrative:

  • Personnel: List all personnel, including names, number of person months devoted to the project (indicate academic, calendar and/or summer) and a detailed explanation of their roles on the project.
  • Consortium Arrangements: Provide a breakdown of the direct and indirect costs for each year (rounded to the nearest $1,000). List the individuals/organizations with whom consortium or contractual arrangements have been made, along with all personnel, including percent of effort (in person months) and roles on the project. NOTE: Consortium arrangements are only allowed with SCORE-funded institutions.
  • Miscellaneous: A typical modular grant application will request the same number of modules in each year. A separate narrative justification must be provided explaining any deviation in the number of modules requested each year.

Q. My project will involve the use of hazardous agents (biohazards). Are there any specific requirements about the use of biohazards that I should address in the application?

A. Yes. Per the SF424 application instructions, you must point out any procedures, situations or materials that may be hazardous to personnel and the safety precautions to be exercised.

Q. Do I have to address scientific rigor and reproducibility by using the new “authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources” attachment?

A. Yes, you must follow the new application guidelines as per NOT-OD-16-011 (see Updated Application Instructions to Enhance Rigor and Reproducibility for more details).

Q. Are Co-PIs or multiple PIs allowed on SC award applications

A. No. SCORE enhancement awards focus on the research development/enhancement of a single PI. Please note NIH uses the term co-investigator to mean collaborator. The term co-Principal Investigator (i.e., co-PI) should not be used to refer to a collaborator.

Q. What may be included in the appendix of an SC application?

A. Applicants must follow the specific instructions on Appendix materials as described in NOT-OD-17-035.

Q. If a PI who has or has had SC2 support applies for an SC3 or SC1 award, does he/she need to include a progress report?

A. An SC3 or SC1 application would constitute a new application. In a new application, elements of a renewal or resubmission are not allowed (see NOT-OD-15-059), including a progress report. However, preliminary studies are expected in SC3 and SC1 applications and should include preliminary studies, data or experience resulting from the SC award, since an SC3 or SC1 application represents an appropriate developmental mechanism in the research career progression of SCORE PIs. Remember also that preliminary data can be an essential part of a research grant application and can help establish the likelihood of success of the proposed project.

The same guidelines and advice would apply when an SC3 PI applies for an SC1.

Q. My project is a clinical trial or clinical intervention, can I submit to the SCORE program?

A. No, the SCORE program does not support clinical trials or clinical interventions.


 

Resubmissions (revised application)

Q. A PI previously submitted an SC2 award which was not funded. If he/she is planning to apply for a different SCORE individual award, will this application be considered a new one or a resubmission (i.e., a revised one)?

A. The first submission of an application in response to any of the SCORE individual awards will be considered a new application.

Q. If a PI submitted an SC application that was not funded, can he/she revise it and resubmit it as a Resubmission application?

A. Yes, current NIH policy allows one Resubmission application. Please note that there is a time limit for the submission of the A1 resubmission of a competing application (see NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-10-140). Failure to receive funding after two submissions (i.e., the original and the single amendment) will mean that the applicant should substantially re-design the project rather than simply change the application in response to previous reviews.

A Resubmission application must have an introduction which is limited to one page. The introduction must summarize the substantial additions, deletions and changes. The introduction must also include responses to the overall criticisms and issues raised in the summary statement. It should not be used to rebut each point raised by each one of the reviewers. The introduction must be inserted just before the very beginning of the Research Plan (see the PHS 398 instructions).


 

Non-Responsive Applications

Q. What are the most common reasons why an application is found to be incomplete or non-responsive to the SC1, SC2 or SC3 program announcements?

A.The most common reasons why SC1, SC2 or SC3 applications are found to be non-responsive are:

  • Research proposal outside of the NIH mission;
  • Non-compliant with the application forms and instructions (e.g. excessive number of pages);
  • Lack of institutional mission or data;
  • Lack of the PI's research development/enhancement objectives and plan to accomplish them;
  • PIs who are fully developed and thus not eligible to apply to SCORE;
  • Applications from PIs at institutions that do not fulfill SCORE eligibility criteria;
  • For SC2 applications, lack of a research advisor or mentor, his/her biographical sketch and/or the detailed role of the mentor in the PI’s research enhancement plan;
  • Co-PIs or multiple PIs (which are not allowed);
  • Lack of budget page or personnel justification;
  • Lack of a progress report in a renewal application;
  • Lack of an introduction in revised applications;
  • Applications in which the PI’s research is fully dependent on resources/facilities available at research institutions; and,
  • Ineligible PIs on research or part-time faculty appointments, including PIs on postdoctoral appointments.

Q. What happens if an application is incomplete/not responsive to a program announcement?

A. Generally, the application is withdrawn prior to review.

Q. If an SC application is withdrawn because it was found to be incomplete/non-responsive, is the revised version of the application considered a resubmission?

A. The revised version of an incomplete/non-responsive application constitutes a new application.


 

Electronic Submission

Q. System problems were experienced during the electronic submission of an SC application. Where can we find information on what to do?

A. Questions regarding the electronic submission of applications should be directed to grants.gov or the eRA Commons Help Desk (see frequently asked questions).

View a quick reference of support/help.


 

Submitted AIDS and AIDS-Related Applications

Q. After submitting my SC application to conduct AIDS research for one of the program standard submission dates, I received a communication from the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) explaining that my application was entitled to expedited review and therefore could have a later submission date. What does this mean?

A. AIDS and AIDS-related new, renewal and resubmission applications submitted for the SC1, SC2 or SC3 mechanisms are entitled to an expedited (accelerated) review to award process. The three submission dates for the expedited review are May 7, September 7 and January 7. When an AIDS or AIDS-related application is submitted for any of the SCORE program standard submission dates, CSR will contact the PI to explain that his/her application is entitled to expedited review. The options that a PI then has are to consider withdrawing the application and resubmitting for the next AIDS (expedited review) submission date or simply allowing CSR to defer the application for the next AIDS submission date.

Applications undergoing "expedited" review will be assigned for initial review of scientific merit to the most appropriate Scientific Review Group (SRG) in CSR.


Funding

Q. What is a fundable priority score? How are the funding decisions made for an SC application?

A. There is no predetermined fundable score for an SC application. Applications compete for available funds with all other recommended applications from eligible institutions. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific merit of the proposed project as determined by peer review
  • Availability of funds
  • Relevance to program priorities
  • PI's other external support

Q. I received an automated e-mail from the eRA Commons system stating that I need to submit my just-in-time information. Should I follow the instructions of the e-mail or wait for NIH staff to request this information from me?

A.If you receive the automated just-in-time (JIT) request from the eRA Commons system, then your application was scored in a range that could possibly be funded. However, it is advisable not to submit any JIT information via the eRA Commons website until NIGMS staff request this information.

When preparing the updated other support documentation, grantees are encouraged to follow the Other Support format example.

** NOTE: If the Initial Review Group determined that the proposed research involving human subjects and/or vertebrate animals was unacceptable (Code 44), when NIGMS staff requests JIT information you should include a detailed statement addressing the IRG's concerns with your just-in-time submission. This will expedite the pre-award process if your application is selected for funding.

Q. My application was submitted on X date. When will I know if it will be funded?

A. Although NIH is trying to shorten this time interval, the current time from submission to award is about 10-11 months. During this time, your application is received, assigned to NIGMS and referred to a study section for the first level of review. After it is scored, it undergoes the second level of review by the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council. Program staff make funding recommendations to the director of NIGMS. Until funding recommendations are approved, CRCB staff will not be able to provide the applicant definite information on the funding status of an application.

Q. I understand that my SC grant is included under "expanded authorities." What does this mean?

A. NIH has waived prior-approval requirements for many activities and expenditures. A detailed description of these "expanded authorities" is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Grantees are reminded that they are still required to ensure that they exercise proper stewardship over federal funds and that costs charged to awards are allowable, allocable, reasonable, necessary and consistently applied regardless of the source of funds. Additionally, specific SCORE program requirements may stipulate limitations on some expanded authorities (e.g. the establishment of consortium arrangements is only allowed with other SCORE-eligible institutions). Grantees should review the applicable SCORE Program Announcement for specific restrictions that might apply.

Q. I am a relatively new investigator and have many questions about my award. Who should I call for help?

A. Before you contact NIH staff, review the following sources of information as they will likely contain the answers to the vast majority of questions you may have:

  • The Terms and Conditions stated in the Notice of Award for your grant;
  • The specific program announcement that your application was submitted under, which is available on the SCORE website;
  • The NIH Grants Policy Statement;
  • Your institution's grants and contracts office; and 
  • he NIH grants management specialist (policy/budget issues) or scientific program officer (policy/technical issues) listed in the last section of the Notice of Award for your grant.

Q. Are SC awardees eligible to apply for/receive diversity or administrative supplements?

A. No. SC awardees are not eligible to apply for/receive diversity or administrative supplements.

Q. Can the PI of an SC award apply for R01 research support?

A. Yes, the PI of an SC award may apply for R01 support provided that the R01 application that is submitted is scientifically distinct from the funded SC project. However, if a PI receives R01 or equivalent research support, he/she will be able to complete the SC award but will not be able to renew it.

Q. Can an SC1 PI be designated as a New Investigator (NI) or Early Stage Investigator (ESI) when he/she applies for an R01 award?

A. PIs of SC1 awards, which are significant independent awards, are not eligible to be considered for NI or ESI status.

Q. I currently have an SC award, can I hold another developmental award at the same time (e.g., an NSF Career award, COBRE project, etc.)?

A. No, an SC PI is already receiving a developmental award. Therefore, he/she cannot have any other developmental or career award while the SC award is active.

Q. I am the PI of an SC award and I am planning to accept a job at another SCORE-funded institution. Can my SC award be transferred to this institution?

A. No, SCORE SC awards cannot be transferred to another PI or to another institution.

Q. As the Principal Investigator of an SC award, if I succeed in transitioning to non-SCORE support during the SC award's first cycle of support, will I be able to renew my SC award?

A. No, if a PI transitions to non-SCORE support while funded by an SC award, he/she will be permitted to complete his/her SC award. However, he/she will not be able to renew his/her SC award or to apply for another SC award.


 

Progress Reports and Noncompeting Applications

Q. Must an SC PI submit a progress report (noncompeting continuation application) each year? What application form should I use to prepare my progress report, and where do I find it?

A. Any SC PI must submit a progress report (noncompetitive continuation application) to request support for years two, three and four of the grant period. Failure to submit a satisfactory progress report by the deadline (see next question) might lead to delay, suspension or termination of the grant.

The progress report due information is available in the Commons status system.

Progress reports to continue support of a Public Health Service (PHS) grant must be prepared using the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR). In addition to following the RPPR instructions, a PI is required to include what he/she accomplished toward fulfilling his/her developmental objectives in the “Accomplishments” box.


 

Contact for Additional Information

Q. Who should an applicant contact for additional questions regarding the SCORE investigator-initiated award program policies, review process, budget and grants issues?

A. For program policies regarding proposal application and submission that are not related to existing grants:

Hinda Zlotnik, Ph.D.
Program Director, Center for Research Capacity Building
National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH
45 Center Drive, MSC 6200
Room 2AS.43Q
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Tel: 301-594-3900
E-mail: zlotnikh@nigms.nih.gov

For questions on the review of applications:

Stephanie Constant, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Scientific Review
National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH
45 Center Drive MSC 6200
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Email: stephanie.constant@nih.gov

For questions on grants management and fiscal matters:

Christy Leake
Grants Management Team Leader
Grants Management Branch
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH
45 Center Drive, MSC 6200
Room 2AN.32G
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Tel: 301-594-7706
Fax: 301-480-2554
Email: christy.leake@nih.gov ​​

This page last reviewed on March 14, 2017