Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about NINR's P20 and P30 Centers of Excellence.

Click on a question to jump to the answer.

For more specific inquiries, please contact:

Dr. Donna Jo "DJ" McCloskey
Program Director, Office of Extramural Activities
Telephone: (301) 594-5971
Email: mccloskd@mail.nih.gov

A. GENERAL QUESTIONS

Q: What are the goals of the P20 and P30 Centers of Excellence?
Q: What are the types of Centers supported by NINR?
Q: What are Exploratory Center Grants (P20)?
Q: What are Core Center/Centers of Excellence Grants (P30)?
Q: What is the award project period for an NINR P20 or P30?
Q: Where are the current NINR-supported Centers?
Q: Can I get involved in a clinical research study conducted at an NINR-supported Center?

B. QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT

Q: How do I apply?
Q: Who is eligible to apply?
Q: What are the page limits for P30 and P20 grant applications?
Q. Is there a limit to the number of research projects allowed and the duration?
Q: What will be the research project duration for the Center grant? How long will be the individual research project inside the center grant?
Q: Who is eligible to be a PD/PI on a P20 or P30 Center grant?
Q: Who can be the research project PI inside the proposed P20 or P30 grant?
Q: What factors will reviewers consider when assessing my application?
Q: Which "study section" will be reviewing these applications?
Q: Will identifying a specific clinical setting/disease (e.g. heart failure, diabetes) be viewed as too narrow?
Q: Does my application need to be postmarked or received by the receipt date?
Q: Will reviewers be assigned to review the full application, or one or two sections of each application?
Q: Should information (e.g. biosketches) be duplicated in different sections of the application?
Q: Must the PI (Center Director) of the application be the most experienced member of the research team?
Q: What percent effort is required of the PI for a Center grant?
Q: Can a Center PI/Director or Core Leader also be the recipient of a pilot award from the Center?
Q: Are there limits to the number of investigators that can be included in a Center application?
Q: Can a Center application have multi-PIs?
Q: Can community members who are not affiliated with a participating university be co-investigators in a Center?
Q: What is the role of an Advisory Committee to a Center?
Q: How do I know if my institution meets the institution eligibility requirements?
Q: Can an institution/organization have more than one Center?
Q: Are there limitations to the number of appendices or articles to be included in the appendices?
Q: Can color be used in appendix materials?
Q: How many CDs of appendix materials should be sent with the application and to whom should they be sent?
Q: Should a single budget be included in the application, or should each component have a separate budget?
Q: Is cost-sharing allowed?
Q: Can funds budgeted for the support of meetings be used to pay for food or beverages?
Q: What is the research base that would be needed to be competitive for the P20 RFA?
Q: Can a PI for a Pilot Project who has not been funded for some time be eligible for pilot funds?
Q: Can we apply for a P20 and a P30 Center grant?
Q: How is my New Investigator status changed if I am part of a multi-project award?
Q: Symptom clusters are mentioned in the RFA; confirm that the focus of the P30 can only be on one of the topics (e.g. sleep not pain).
Q: If another University has a P30 in sleep. Will reviewers be looking for balance of topics?
Q: Will someone who is near the end of a K-award be OK?  KL2?
Q: If someone has an R- award pending, but not funded, are they eligible?
Q: Where should the overall center description, including specific aims and research strategy (significance, innovation, approach), be placed?
Q:  Is information on project-specific human subjects, the planned recruitment table, the budget, budgetary justification, and references to be included within the 6 page limit for each research project?
Q: The RFA prohibits using the core budget to supplement the research projects. What is considered supplementing?
Q: Are research Projects scored separately from the overall Center?
Q: For a MPI leadership team, what is the minimum calendar months of oversight for the Center PI/Director?

A. GENERAL QUESTIONS

Q: What are the goals of the P20 and P30 Centers of Excellence?
A: The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) invites applications to establish Centers of Excellence for Symptom Science research (P30) and to Build Research Teams for the Future (P20). This FOA supports applications to develop interdisciplinary biobehavioral nursing research capacity in Symptom Science Research. Applicants are to select a topical area for their application based on a conceptually sound integration of the currently funded projects that comprise the research base of the Center. Applications should propose innovative ideas consistent with NINR's mission.

The goal is to:  

  1. enhance research infrastructure by expanding and targeting research resources available to promote and support Symptom Science research
  2. expand the number and quality of research projects aimed at improving (a) symptom management in persons of all ages with chronic and acute disorders, (b) the quality of life in persons with function-impairing symptoms and their caregivers, or (c) expand the number and quality of research projects aimed at improving health and quality of life in both healthy and chronically ill persons
  3. expand the number of research investigators involved in interdisciplinary nursing science research
  4. increase the quantity and quality of research projects utilizing, genetics/genomics, and biobehavioral methods
  5. plan for and develop sustainability of research programs by building an active and growing research program with collaborations and partnerships both inside and outside of the applicant organization.

Q: What are the types of Centers supported by NINR?
A: NINR currently supports two award mechanisms under its Centers program. For more information on each of these mechanisms, click on the corresponding link below:

Exploratory Center Grants (P20)

Core Center/Centers of Excellence Grants (P30)

Q: What are Exploratory Center Grants (P20)?
A: For institutions with relatively new programs of research, NINR supports programs of Centers focused on building research expertise and teams for the future. These Centers, awarded using the P20 Exploratory Grant mechanism, support the initial enhancement of research capacity at institutions with emerging research programs. The awards support shared resources and several small exploratory research projects (each at the level of an R03 research project) conducted by several investigators focused on a common research theme.

These Centers are expected to lead to: improved capabilities at institutions with nascent research programs; an increased number of investigators involved in interdisciplinary research of importance to NINR; and larger scale research projects capable of competing for R21 or R01 levels of support.

Q: What are Core Center/Centers of Excellence Grants (P30)?
A: For investigators and institutions with several years of demonstrated research success, NINR supports Centers of Excellence. These Centers, awarded using the P30 Core Grant mechanism, consist of several medium-sized developmental or foundational research projects (at the level of R21 projects) organized around shared resources and research infrastructure.

The individual projects focus on similar topics or research themes of strategic interest to NINR, while enjoying the benefits of a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment. By leveraging common resources, it is expected that the individual projects will demonstrate greater productivity and will develop into independent research projects, i.e. R01 projects, more quickly than they would as separate projects without a central infrastructure.

Q: What is the award project period for an NINR P20 or P30?
A: Scope of the proposed project should determine the project period. The maximum period is 5 years. 

Q: Where are the current NINR-supported Centers located?
A: Lists of current NINR-supported centers can be found at the following links:

P20 Centers
P30 Centers

Q: Can I get involved in a clinical research study conducted at an NINR-supported Center?
A: Yes. Please consult the websites of the individual Centers for more information on joining a clinical research study.

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B. QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT

Q: How do I apply?
A: When an opportunity to apply for either a Program Project grant or a Center grant is available, the NINR will release an Request for Applications (RFA) through a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).

Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: The FOA always defines both the eligible institutions/organizations, as well as the eligible Principal Investigator(s) (PI). Always read the FOA carefully to determine your eligibility; do not rely on past FOAs as their requirements may be different from the current FOA.

Q: What are the page limits for P30 and P20 grant applications?
A: Always read the FOA carefully; page limits are defined within the FOA, as are instructions for other items such as budget.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of research projects allowed and the duration?
A: Three research Projects over the period of support for the Center are mandatory, additional Projects may be proposed up to a total of four (4) Projects. They are intended to enable eligible investigators to explore a scientific topic on Symptom Science, and to amass sufficient expertise and data to complete the study and develop an independent research track and applications (e.g., NIH R01). Research projects cannot be used to supplement already-funded research at the applicant organization. The Center should have at least one ongoing research Project at all times during the period of support.

The Center application must include at minimum 3 research projects that will be undertaken during the period of Center support. All projects must come in with the application. Each research Project should be 2 to 3 years in duration and should include (see FOA for details RFA-NR-12-006; RFA-NR-12-009)

1. Specified Project Director
2. Title and Abstract (not the PHS 398 face page)
3. Specific Aims
4. Research Plan
5. If human subjects are to be participants, a Human Subjects section, including the Target Enrollment table
6. Budget (detailed and with justification)

Q: What will be the research project duration for the Center grant? How long will be the individual research project inside the center grant?
A: NINR allows for maximum 5 years of support for the P20 or P30 mechanism. The Center grant should have 3 or max of 4 projects in the proposal and each project should should be 2-3 years in duration. In other words, if you plan a 5 year center grant, some of projects will need to start after the initial budget period. 

Q: Who is eligible to be a PD/PI on a P20 or P30 Center grant?
A: Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

Q: Who can be the research project PI inside the proposed P20 or P30 grant?
A: Eligible PD(s)/PI(s) and collaborators include:

1. The PD(s)/PI(s) is an investigator who has not been a PD(s)/PI(s) in the past, or who is not currently funded by a DHHS research Project grant (i.e., R01, R03, R15 or R21). If you are currently funded with other mechanisms, such as R34, R41, R42, R43, R44 or any K awardee, you will still be eligible. 

2. Established investigators who wish to develop skill and expertise in conducting Symptom science research and for whom this area represents a clear and distinct departure from his/her ongoing research interests. Strong justification must be made in the application to include an established investigator as a PD(s)/PI(s). Evidence that this Project represents a new research career path that will be sustained by the PD(s)/PI(s) is required.

3. The applicant Center Principal Investigator (PI) and Core Leaders may not serve as a Project Director.

4. The Project Director must hold a doctorate from a research training program (e.g., PhD) and be a faculty member or senior post-doctoral fellow or investigator of equivalent rank at the applicant organization.   

Q: What factors will reviewers consider when assessing my application?
A: Always read the FOA carefully; the FOA defines what review criteria reviewers will be asked to use when reviewing a Center application.

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Q: Which "study section" will be reviewing these applications?
A: Generally, applications submitted in response to an FOA for the Centers Program are reviewed by a study section specially convened by the NINR Office of Review for this review, i.e., a Special Emphasis Panel (SEP), that contains all the requisite expertise needed to review the Center applications.

Q: Will identifying a specific clinical setting/disease (e.g. heart failure, diabetes) be viewed as too narrow?
A: If the FOA calls for a narrow population or setting, be careful to develop your science around these. If the FOA broadly defines the target population(s) or setting, it is generally advisable to select a specific population within the broadly defined group(s) and focus the work of the Center on this specific group so that the Center can demonstrate a clear expertise and the science emanating from the Center will be able to make significant and meaningful contributions to the field.

Q: Does my application need to be postmarked or received by the receipt date?
A: Receipt deadlines refer to the date the NIH must be in receipt of the application or the application is received by NIH. This is in contrast to a postmark deadline, where the application must be postmarked (or into an express delivery system's tracking system) by that date.

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Q: Will reviewers be assigned to review the full application, or one or two sections of each application?
A: All reviewers are asked to review the application as a whole, but each component will be assigned to two or more reviewers to lead and write the review of the component. Each component will be scored separately, and the Center as a whole will be scored.

Q: For Center Grant applications, should information (e.g. biosketches) be duplicated in different sections of the application?
A: Information such as biosketches should not be duplicated, especially if they are contained in the Administrative Core section of the application, which all reviewers read. Biosketches should be placed together in one section in alphabetical order after the PI's biosketch. Cores and Projects should explicitly cross-reference each other rather than duplicate each other wherever possible.

Q: For a Center grant, must the PI (Center Director) of the application be the most experienced member of the research team?
A: No, applicants often select the PI of a Center based on many factors such as publication track record in the targeted science, administrative/organizational/team-building skills, availability of time and effort to commit to the Center, and/or the ability to meet the eligibility requirements identified in the FOA. Although the most senior investigator in the group may have some of these essential traits, they are not always the best choice to lead the Center; for example, they may already be overcommitted and be unable to devote the necessary time needed as Center Director.

Reviewers tend to focus on the match between the Center goals and what the proposed PI brings to the Center, rather than on their "celebrity" status. A titular PI is generally reviewed poorly, as is a PI who meets the minimum requirements defined by the FOA and thus enables the Center application to be submitted, but who has weak leadership skills or scientific track-record in the targeted field.

Q: What percent effort is required of the PI for a Center grant?
A: The FOA will define if there is a minimum effort required for the PI. NINR generally considers 12.5% effort to be the minimum acceptable effort for a PI of a Center grant. If the effort is "contributed" by the applicant organization (i.e., the salary in support of this effort is paid from a source outside of the grant), the effort must still be listed in the application.

Q: Can a Center PI/Director or Core Leader also be the recipient of a pilot award from the Center?
A: No. Pilot project funds should be reserved for junior investigators. Center PIs and Core Leaders should not be junior investigators.

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Q: Are there limits to the number of investigators that can be included in a Center grant application?
A: No, however, the applicant is cautioned against listing investigators with no apparent activity or contribution to the Center. All key investigators must be well justified in the budget.

Q: Can a Center grant application have multi-PIs?
A: The FOA will define when multi-PI applications are acceptable. Generally, NINR accepts multi-PI applications. Note that a multi-PI application has one additional section of the research plan that is required, i.e., a new section, entitled "Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan" must be included. A rationale for choosing a multiple PD/PI approach must be described. The governance and organizational structure of the leadership team and the research project should be described, and should include communication plans, process for making decisions on scientific direction, and procedures for resolving conflicts.

Q: Can community members who are not affiliated with a participating university be co-investigators in a Center grant?
A: NINR does not restrict Center membership; any restrictions on investigators would be made by the applicant organization/institution.

Q: What is the role of an Advisory Committee to a Center grant?
A: Many Centers are required to have an External Advisory Committee. This Committee's role is to advise the Center Director in decisions, selection of research, and other activities that the Center is considering. In addition, the External Advisory Committee provides NINR with an annual report of their recommendations. The External Advisory Committee has no authority to require or prohibit activities or expenditures; however, they may recommend actions for NINR's consideration.

Q: For a Center grant, how do I know if my institution meets the institution eligibility requirements?
A: Your organization may already have an Office of Sponsored Projects or a Research Administration Office; they likely can provide you with your organization's research funding history and can assist you in determining if your organization is eligible to apply for this funding opportunity announcement.

Q: Can an institution/organization have more than one Center?
A: Always read the FOA carefully; the FOA defines what is and isn't allowed. Generally, an organization/institution may have multiple Centers awards; however, the number of Centers supported by NINR at a given time is limited by available funds. If your institution/organization already has a Center award from NINR, its existence should be acknowledged and the rationale for the need for two centers at a single institution should be addressed.

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Q: Are there limitations to the number of appendices or articles to be included in the appendices?
A: Yes, it is critical that you refer to the FOA for instructions regarding appendices and manuscripts/articles. NIH is currently updating these limits and the FOA will reflect current guidelines.

Do not use the Appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix (please note all format requirements) as described in the PHS398 Application Guide.

Q: Can color be used in appendix materials?
A: Color in images is fine. We would prefer that all text be black print on white background.

Q: How many CDs of appendix materials should be sent with the application and to whom should they be sent?
A: Only 1 CD of the appendix materials should be sent and that is to the Chief of the NINR Office of Review. No appendices should be sent with the original and the three copies to the Center for Scientific Review. If you want to be on the safe side, you can note in your cover letter that you have sent a single CD of all appendix materials. If it's missing, it will prompt us to contact you quickly.

  • All appendix materials should be contained within a single PDF file no larger than 20 megabytes.
  • Information in the PDF file should be organized in the order of the sections as they appear in the body of the application.
  • Identify sections and subsections using bookmarks.

Q: For a Center grant application, should a single budget be included in the application, or should each component have a separate budget?
A: Both; the Center application requires a composite budget, as well as a budget for each component. Generally, each component's budget should also contain a budget justification. The composite budget does not normally have a budget justification.

Q: Is cost-sharing allowed?
A: Institutional cost-sharing is not a requirement for an application, and reviewers will be instructed that they cannot use the presence or absence of cost-sharing as a part of the review. It is entirely up to you to include cost-sharing if you wish. There are some pluses and minuses to cost-sharing that you should carefully consider. If you do choose to include information on cost-sharing in your application for a budgeted item, this should appear in the budget and justification pages where that item is listed. You might also include a statement about cost-sharing in the "Resources and Environment"page, e.g., if you are choosing to describe an institutional financial source as a resource or as a reflection of the environment, such as the strong support the Center has from University Administration.

Q: For Center grants, can funds budgeted for the support of meetings be used to pay for food or beverages?
A: In these cases, the allowability of food-related costs is governed by the respective cost principles and the terms of award which include references to the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Q: What is the research base that would be needed to be competitive for the P20 RFA?
A: The P20 is a base to build teams using existing expertise in symptom science research. The expertise across disciplines will strengthen the application. P20 centers are the base for larger P30 center grants.

Q: Can a PI for a Pilot Project who has not been funded for some time be eligible for pilot funds?
A: Only if the funding for symptom science for the pilot projects is a new focus to the investigator.

Q: Can we apply for a P20 and a P30 Center grant?
A: Yes, as long as the science is unique in each and the University does not have current P20 or P30 funding for more than 8 years for each.

Q: How is my New Investigator status changed if I am part of a multi-project award?
A: If the new investigator is assigned a PD/PI role for the overall multi-project application, the individual will lose their NI status when the award is made.  If the new investigator is the lead of a project or core, but not the PD/PI for the overall application, the individual will retain NI status when the award is made.

Q: Symptom clusters are mentioned in the RFA; confirm that the focus of the P30 can only be on one of the topics (e.g. sleep not pain).
A: Yes, applicants must select 1 of the symptoms (e.g., pain, sleep, fatigue, cognitive/affect changes) and build their center application around this symptom, the organizing central theme of the application, so as to develop strong expertise in this research domain and move the field of science forward significantly.

Q: If another University has a P30 in sleep. Will reviewers be looking for balance of topics?
A: Reviewers are reviewing the merits of application based solely on the published review criteria.Reviewers are specifically instructed to assess the merit of the application independently of the content of others and the score that the application being reviewed receives is based on careful assessment of predefined review criteria

Q: Will someone who is near the end of a K-award be OK?  KL2?
A: They are eligible, provided they continue to satisfy the minimum effort requirements for the career award and do not draw salary from the pilot study.

Q: If someone has an R- award pending, but not funded, are they eligible?
A: Yes, but if they are awarded the R award after submission of the center application, they will need to be replaced prior to the award of the P20/P30.

Q:  Where should the overall center description, including specific aims and research strategy (significance, innovation, approach), be placed?
A:  Applicants must comply with the page limitations set forth in the RFA. A separate section for a description of the overall center is not requested and this information should be integrated into the allowable sections, specific aims (1 page), administrative core (6 pages), evaluation plan (12 pages), additional cores (6 pages per core), or research projects (6 pages per project), as the applicant believes fits the needs of their proposal. The human subject’s protection, animal protection, budget justification and appendix sections are not included in the page limitations set forth in these two FOAs. However, you should not use these sections to circumvent the page limitations for the Research Strategy (Item 5.5.3 of Research Plan). For further details, please consult the page limit table inside the PHS 398 instructions at page I-15.    

Q:  Is information on project-specific human subjects, the planned recruitment table, the budget, budgetary justification, and references to be included within the 6 page limit for each research project?
A: In relation to the research projects (6 page limit), there is no page limit for HS protection section, budget, budget justification, references, or recruitment table. However, applicants should not use those spaces, including the appendix, to circumvent the 6 page limit rule set forth in this announcement. The budget should be prepared as instructed in section 4.4 (Budget Instructions) of the PHS 398 Instructions. 

Q: The RFA prohibits using the core budget to supplement the research projects. What is considered supplementing?
A: The RFA states that “Core budgets may not be used to supplement any research Project within or outside of the Center. Cores are not intended to function as independent research projects, however, they may investigate the benefit of the Core’s services/resources, or means of enhancing Core services/resource provision.”  Activities such as offering statistical analysis as a core service are allowed except if specific funds were requested for those activities as part of the research project budget. Supplementing the approved aims of the research projects with additional funds from the core is not allowed or nor will the NINR consider approving a request to rebudget funds for additional aims. Institutions should follow the applicable cost principles and their own internal policies in determining whether costs should be allocated to the core or the research projects. No one Project should constitute greater than one third of the dollars allocated to Projects. Funds for these Projects should be allocated within the Administrative Core under the “Other Expenses” and listed separately for each project.

Q: Are research Projects scored separately from the overall Center?
A: Based on their own scientific merit, research projects will receive individual scores separate from the overall Center score. Standard guidelines for IRB/IACUC approval, DSMB or DSMP, targeted enrollment table(s) for human research and educational training for the protection of human subjects apply. The theoretical basis for the research projects must be clearly explained, as well as a brief statement of fit within the Center as a whole. Each Project is limited to a total of 6 pages which should delineate the question being asked, detail the procedures to be followed, and discuss how the data will be analyzed. The application must indicate how the proposed study addresses a Symptom Management topic, and how the Project will utilize and interact with Center Core resources. 

Q: For a MPI leadership team, what is the minimum calendar months of oversight for the Center PI/Director?
A: The RFA states “Administrative Core Center PD(s)/PI(s) should be the Administrative Core Director and contribute no less than 1.5 person months time and effort to this core’s activities). So, each would need 1.5 minimum calendar months.

Updated Date: May 8, 2012