NIGMS announced the phase-out and termination of its participation in the NIH Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (R37) Program in June 2018 (see NOT-GM-18-036). While new merit nominations are no longer being accepted, MERIT Award extensions will continue to be considered according to the following NIGMS policy.

After the initial 5 years of support, the MERIT awardee may request an extension of 3 to 5 more years based on an eight-page progress report, which will be gauged against the initial vision statement, and a one-page abstract of the research plan for the extension period. Peer review is provided by the Council. The Council reviews applications for MERIT Award extensions approximately 15 months before the end of the initial MERIT Award project period (approximately 3.5 years after the beginning of the project period). This allows the applicant sufficient time to prepare an application for study section and Council review without a lapse in funding in the event that the Council decides not to approve an extension. However, because the application is prepared so early, the investigator may not have had sufficient time to reap the full benefits of the MERIT Award, and Council should take this into account when reviewing the extension application.

Applications for extension should propose a continuation of the previously pursued line of research and an overall level of effort similar to that of the previous competing segment. Applicants wishing to propose the initiation of major new lines of research, a multi-PI award, and/or significantly increased levels of effort will be advised to submit a regular competing R01 application or a competing supplement at the appropriate time. NIGMS staff will conduct an in-depth analysis of the application and will develop a staff recommendation for consideration by the Council. This recommendation will include an analysis of recent progress and the proposed research and a recommendation for the length of the MERIT Award extension period and budget. Council members will receive the staff recommendation memo, the complete extension application, and any other information that might be pertinent. The Council should consider the appropriateness of the proposed plans and the progress since the most recent competing application. Council should ascertain whether the MERIT awardee has continued to be a leader in her/his field. The Council may advise the NIGMS director to take one of the following actions:

  1. Approve for up to 5 years extension at a specified budget level for each budget period;
  2. Defer for additional information; or
  3. Deny the extension; the principal investigator will be advised to submit a competing application.