NAGMS Council Guidelines for Funding Decisions

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. NIGMS-funded scientists investigate how living systems work at a range of levels, from molecules and cells to tissues, whole organisms and populations. The Institute also supports research in certain clinical areas, primarily those that affect multiple organ systems. To assure the vitality and continued productivity of the research enterprise, NIGMS provides leadership in training the next generation of scientists, in enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and in developing research capacities throughout the country. In order to achieve these goals, research grant applications recommended for approval by the National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council are considered for funding using the following criteria:

  1. Scientific and technical merit of the research, as determined by peer review.
  2. Scientific program needs and balance.
  3. The availability of funds.

The NAGMS Council has recommended that the Institute scientific staff take additional factors into account in making funding decisions.

  1. In determining whether or not to make an award, Institute staff should give special consideration to a highly rated application from a new/early stage investigator or other investigators who have little or no other significant source of research support.
  2. Prior to considering awards to investigators whose total research support from all sources, including the pending award, exceeds $750,000 (annual direct costs), special analysis and justification should be required.
  3. In determining the appropriate funding level for renewal awards, the Institute scientific staff will consider:
    1. The previously awarded level of support.
    2. Special needs for equipment.
    3. Whether the application is the first renewal of an investigator's initial NIH research grant.

Operating Procedures and Guidelines for Staff Action

A. Adjustments in Amount and Time

The following guidelines for negotiating adjustments of a research or training grant award are agreed to between NIGMS staff and the NAGMS Council. In determining award amounts and duration, Institute staff will follow the established principles.

  1. Utilizing the amounts recommended by the Council as a guide, the amount to be awarded, as well as all amounts recommended for future year support, may be changed to reflect the latest information on actual or estimated needs and to be consistent with current policies regarding budget policies and cost management.
  2. NIGMS staff may approve increases in the direct cost budget of a grant provided the increase does not substantially impact the scope of the project.
  3. When the initial review group reduces the number of years requested by the applicant, NIGMS staff may restore up to one year without Council approval.
  4. If an early stage/new investigator has not requested five years of support, staff may add one more year to the project if it is deemed appropriate.

B. Support of Research in Well-Funded Laboratories

In May 1998, the Council adopted operating procedures regarding support of research in well-funded laboratories (defined as those with over $750,000 in direct costs for research support at the time of the Council meeting, inclusive of the initial review group-recommended level for the pending application after staff cuts have been applied). Prior to the Council meeting at which the application will be reviewed, investigators must provide staff with a complete just-in-time list of other active and pending research support. Staff evaluates this support and makes recommendations to the Council about funding. If the Council does not concur with a staff recommendation for funding, the grant will not be funded.

For both renewal (Type 2) and new (Type 1) grant applications from well-funded laboratories, the Council expects the Institute to support projects only if they are highly promising and distinct from other funded work in the laboratory and only when the principal investigator has sufficient time to commit to overseeing the totality of his/her laboratory's research activities. The Council also expects the Institute to implement, where appropriate, reasoned budget reductions greater than average for awards made to laboratories with somewhat less than $750,000 in direct costs.

If a well-funded investigator is included as a member of a multi-PI team on a grant application, it could adversely affect the chances that the application will be funded. In addition, although NIGMS encourages collaborations, PIs who are already well-funded are strongly encouraged to enter into collaborations using their current funding rather than requesting additional support. In applications, collaborators should provide strong letters of support that explain their commitment to the proposed research, and PIs should include clear descriptions of the collaborators' roles.

C. Applications from Foreign Laboratories

NIGMS receives some applications from foreign institutions, which must be brought to Council's attention if staff want to consider them for funding. Because staff generally recommend for funding only those applications that offer unique opportunities when evaluated in the context of existing grants in their portfolios, even well-scored applications may not be awarded. For those applications, staff will prepare a staff summary statement that outlines the special opportunities, resources, etc., presented in this proposal. If the Council agrees with the staff recommendation, the approval is obtained by en bloc vote; otherwise, discussion in full closed session is required. Staff will be guided by the sense of Council in making funding decisions.