Q. How many Bridges students should be in the program?
A. Your self-assessment is a great first step to determine the number of students that makes the most sense for your program. We suggest you consider the following: What is your current baseline of students enrolled full time in a participating department/interdepartmental program? What does the pool of potential Bridges-eligible students look like? What is the pool of viable faculty/preceptors and summer research mentors? What would be a reasonable goal to achieve in the next 5 years?
Q. What is meant by “biomedical science”?
A. NIGMS supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. An overview of areas that fit within the NIGMS priorities in basic research can be found on our NIGMS website. Bridges’ applications are evaluated in the context of their alignment with NIGMS priorities, availability of funds and geographic diversity. For unique programs, applicants are encouraged to contact the appropriate program officer in order to gauge the compatibility of your proposed program with the Bridges’ Program priorities.
Q. Should articulation agreements be included in the application?
A. Yes, the articulation agreement describing the status for the transfer of courses and credits from the community colleges to the baccalaureate institution(s) is h2ly encouraged. The articulation agreement strengthens the Institutional Environment and Commitment component of the Research Education Program Plan. If this information is missing in the application, the reviewers’ enthusiasm is likely to be dampened.
Q. Which tables should be included for a new or competing renewal application?
A. For the Bridges to Baccalaureate Program, the following tables should be included:
Table 8D is required for both new and existing programs. For new applications, the institutional self-assessment will be a critical activity. Your self-assessment should provide the data and information you need to complete this table. Please report on the programs and pool of students that are relevant to your Bridges program.
For the Bridges to Doctorate Program, the following tables are needed:
Sample Format Table A should be included as part of the narrative in the Research Strategy when addressing the Institutional Environment and Commitment. The training Data Tables should be uploaded as “other attachment” in the Research & Related Other Project Information section with the table name as the filename (e.g., “Table 2.pdf”).
We encourage you to contact your program officer, for specific concerns regarding completion of the tables.
Q. Is student tuition an allowable cost?
A. Student tuition and fees are not allowable costs in the Bridges to Baccalaureate Program. However, this is an allowable cost for the Bridges to Doctorate Program and should be accounted for in Section F. Other Direct Costs under Other Program Related Expenses.
Q. Can funds be budgeted to pay for participant’s (student’s) travel to conferences?
A. Yes, allowable travel includes the following:
- Costs for faculty research mentors to attend national scientific meetings if the faculty member is accompanying Bridges students who are presenting at the meeting.
- Costs for Bridges student travel to domestic scientific conferences; costs for travel (mileage expenses) of Bridges students to participate in special research development activities (e.g., to serve as laboratory assistants) and summer research internships if the distance between the Ph.D.-granting institution (or 4-year school, B2B) and the partner master's-granting institution (community college, B2B) is more than 50 miles (round-trip).
Q. Do Bridges students receive a stipend?
A. Bridges students receive a salary for up to 20 hours/week for the academic year and 40 hours/week during the summer. Please itemize the participant costs in the proposed budget, and ensure the itemized salaries reflect what is consistent with employee salaries at your respective institutions. The Bridges students may receive fringe benefits.
As a reminder, please provide details and explanations of items of costs in the Budget Justification. If an item is not justified well in the budget and its programmatic contribution is not outlined in the proposal, the item will be deleted from the awarded budget.
Q. Is it allowable to compensate faculty participating in programmatic activities with honoraria, or must everyone be funded with effort?
A. Applicants should follow established written institutional policy to determine compensation. For the Bridges to Doctorate Program, support for faculty from the master’s and doctoral institutions jointly developing new/advanced courses or updating existing courses for skills development that are critical to the competitive academic preparation of students at the master’s degree institution is allowed. Other allowable costs include the following:
- Support for faculty from the doctoral institution serving as visiting lecturers, offering lectures and/or laboratory courses for skills development in areas in which expertise needs strengthening at the master’s institution;
- Support for faculty from the master’s degree-granting institution for developing or implementing special academic developmental activities for skills development; and
- Support for faculty/consultants/role models (including Bridges alumni) to present research seminars and workshops on communication skills, grant writing and career development plans at the master’s degree institution(s).
For both Bridges programs, if mentoring interactions and other activities with Bridges participants are considered a regular part of an individual’s academic duties, then any costs associated with the mentoring and other interactions with participants are not allowable costs from grant funds.
Q. What is the amount of support allowed for research supplies for students?
A. Requests for support for research supplies for students should not exceed $2,000 (B2B) and $3,500 (B2D) per student per year.
Q. Do the reviewers expect to see financial resources committed by all partner institutions, or can the institutional commitment be mostly or even entirely borne by the doctoral institution?
A. Institutional commitment from the community college partner (B2B) or the UG institution (B2D) can enhance the reviewers’ enthusiasm for the proposal as it shows some participation/input from these partners even if it is not financial. Also, this part of the application should include information on what kind of support, activities, resources, etc., will be made available to the Bridges participants after they complete the program, or Bridge, to the next level.
Q. Do the reviewers favor evaluation plans that use external and/or professional evaluators, or is a thorough evaluation plan conducted by a programmatic leadership advisory board sufficient?
A. There is not a single way to successfully execute the assessment of a Bridges Program. Some PIs use external and/or professional evaluators. Others tap the skills of colleagues as evaluators. The reviewers will be looking for an evaluation plan that is realistic and will yield information such as an aggregate number and demographic characteristics of Bridges participants; effectiveness of the newly implemented Bridges activities; participant feedback; the successful ‘bridging’ of participants; the number and percent of participants completing their bachelor’s or master’s degree and enrolling in and graduating from Ph.D. programs. We encourage you to carefully read the program announcement for additional items you may want to keep in mind as you put together the evaluation plan.
Keep in mind that the cost for program evaluation (assessment) is limited to $3,000 for the entire project period. This includes salaries for evaluation consultants, if any.
NIGMS expects funded Bridges programs to use the NIGMS CareerTrac system to track student progress and outcomes for up to 15 years, if applicable.
Q. The program announcement suggests that the activities should be “institutionalized”—what evidence are the reviewers looking for?
A. The reviewers look for some evidence of institutional support for Bridges Program activities that are found to be effective by the sponsoring institution. A way to show evidence of this, for example, is to document how a course that was previously created and funded through the Bridges Program will now become part of the institutional commitment (in terms of faculty time and resources) instead of Bridges money being used to cover any expenses. Perhaps, a support letter from a university official could indicate how a Bridges institution has ‘institutionalized’ a set of particular activities.
Q. Is it required that the PD/PI have R01-level research support? Is it acceptable to include research mentors who do not have R01s currently, if they have very h2 training records?
A. No, R01-level funding is not a requirement for the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, although faculty mentors should be actively involved in research. For the Bridges to the Doctorate Program, having faculty research mentors with R01 or equivalent research support may enhance the reviewers’ enthusiasm. PD/PIs should have student counseling, academic administrative and/or scientific research experience.