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NINR Research Centers Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about NINR's P20 and P30 Centers of Excellence.
For more specific inquiries, please contact:
Dr. Jeri Miller
Chief, OEPCR, NINR Division of Extramural Science Programs
Telephone: (301) 594-6152
B. QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT
A. GENERAL QUESTIONS
Q: What are Centers of Excellence (P30)?
A: The NINR Centers of Excellence (P30) plan, build, and sustain programs to enhance research infrastructure and centralized resources in support of nursing science. 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 research pilot projects organized around shared resources and research infrastructure. The P30 may lead to Center sustainability and/or the ability to be funded through other specialized or comprehensive grants. The goals of the NINR P30 Centers of Excellence are to: 1) support the expansion of sustainable interdisciplinary biobehavioral research capacity for conducting nursing science, 2) refine and support ongoing development of centralized research resources and infrastructures, and 3) conduct pilot studies that will develop into new programs of research led by independent investigators. All activities pursued by the P30 Centers of Excellence are designed to enhance the efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, and dissemination of nursing science.
Q: What are Exploratory Centers (P20)?
A: For institutions with relatively new programs of research, NINR supports Centers (P20) focused on building research expertise and teams for the future. The P20 mechanism is used to support planning for new programs, expansion or modification of existing resources, and pilot studies to explore various approaches to the development of interdisciplinary programs that offer potential solutions to problems of special significance. The P20 may lead to Center sustainability and/or the ability to be funded through other specialized or comprehensive grants. The awards support shared resources and small research pilot projects conducted by investigators focused on a common research theme. The goals of the NINR P20 Centers are to: (1) develop sustainable research capacity for nursing science by establishing centralized resources and a research infrastructure; (2) advance the Center’s thematic science area through complementary, synergistic research activities; and, (3) enable research that will develop into new programs of science and independent investigator research applications.
Q: What Cores are required in a P20 or P30 Center?
A: Each Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will specify the component Cores required in a Center application. The organization and structure of the Center Cores should reflect the goals of the Center, encourage collaboration, develop and implement Center-wide research initiatives, and promote the use of shared resources and research pilot project funds. The structure of the Center will be determined by the applicant and, in general, will contain the following Cores and Programs:
- Administrative Core
- Pilot Administrative Core
- Pilot Projects
The Administrative Core plays a key role in the coordination and functioning of the Center. Therefore, it should manage the overall activities of the Center, including developing, promoting, and managing use of Center resources. The Pilot Project Program focuses on the conduct of small research pilot projects in topics or research themes that are in alignment with the Center theme and of strategic interest to NINR as specified in the FOA. The Program is part of the Pilot Administrative Core. Enrichment Programs are often included in FOAs that support activities such as seminars, guest speakers, visiting scientists, consultants, and workshops. Additional Optional Cores may be included if specified in the FOA. The Optional Cores may change as needed based on new scientific opportunities and partnerships. In addition, the FOAs specify that Centers contribute to the NINR Common Data Element (CDE) initiative.
B. QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT
Q: How do I apply?
A: When an opportunity to apply for a Center grant is available, the NINR will release a Request for Applications (RFA) through a FOA. The FOA will detail the information that must be submitted in the application. Most applicants will use NIH’s ASSIST system to prepare and submit applications through grants.gov to NIH. Applications prepared and submitted using applicant systems capable of submitting electronic multi-project applications to grants.gov will also be accepted. For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application, Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.
Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: The FOA defines both the eligible individuals and institutions/organizations, as well as the eligible Principal Investigator(s) (PI). Please 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: Who is eligible to be a Center Director (Program Director/Principal Investigator) 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 their organization to develop an application for support. Applicants should carefully review the Eligibility Information described in the FOA.
The Center Director(s) (the Program Director/Principal Investigator on the P30 or P20 application and the Director of the Administrative Core), must be a nurse scientist and hold a research doctorate degree. The Director must have a demonstrated record of effective administrative and scientific leadership and proficiency in managing a large, multi-component project. The applicant must also be a faculty member or senior investigator of equivalent rank at the applicant College/School of Nursing. The Director will be responsible for the organization and operation of the Center and for communication with NINR on programmatic matters. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.
Q: What is the eligibility for the Core Directors for a P20 or P30 Center program?
A: Please refer to specific eligibility information in the FOA. In general, a Center Core Director must hold a doctorate from a research training program and be a faculty member or senior post-doctoral fellow or investigator of equivalent rank at the applicant organization. The Core Leaders may not serve as a pilot project PIs.
Q: What is the eligibility for a research pilot project Principal Investigator within a P20 or P30 Center?
A: Applicants should review the eligibility requirements for research pilot project PIs described in the FOA. In general, the pilot project program is directed at new and early stage investigators, and post-doctoral fellows (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/#definition). Investigators eligible for pilot project funding must be nurse scientists and have an appointment with the College/School of Nursing and include:
- New and early stage investigators without current or past individual NIH research support as a PD/PI (e.g., NIH K-awards or R-series awards). Investigators who have been funded on NIH R34, R41, R42, R43 or R44 awards are eligible as pilot investigators. Current or past support from other sources should have been less than the expected budget for an R01 award.
- Post-doctoral fellows in the College/School of Nursing with a designated mentor and appropriate mentoring plan.
Q: For a Center grant, must the Center 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 area of 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.
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. The Administrative Core Director must contribute no less than 1.8 person months (15% time and effort) to the Core’s activities. 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: 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, this is entitled "Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan" and must be included. The rationale for choosing a multiple PD/PI approach must also be explained. The governance and organizational structure of the leadership team and the research project should be described, and should include communication plans, the 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: 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 that likely can provide you with your organization's research funding history and assist you in determining if your organization is eligible to apply for this FOA.
Q: Can an institution/organization have more than one Center?
A: 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 additional Centers at a single institution should be addressed.
Q: Can a Center PI/Director or Core Leader also be the recipient of a pilot project research award from the Center?
A: No. Please refer to the FOA for specific information. In general, pilot project research funds are targeted for post-doctoral students, early-stage investigators, and/or early-career scientists. Center PIs and Core Leaders should not be junior investigators.
Q: What are Center research pilot projects?
A: Please review the FOA for specific guidance on research pilot projects. In general, a Center pilot project is a small, discrete, well-defined research project that can realistically be completed in two years or less and that requires a limited level of funding. The pilot proposal in the application should clearly delineate the question being asked, detail the procedures and approaches to be followed, and discuss how the data will be analyzed. It must be on a topic related to the objectives of the Center and meet the research objectives described in the FOA. Center pilot projects should be focused, with sample sizes that are statistically justified and with potential for success within the time constraints of a pilot project, and within the level of funding support. In general, a research pilot project must include:
- The theoretical or conceptual basis for the pilot project must be clearly explicated.
- An interdisciplinary approach is required to promote the collaboration of nurse scientists with scientists of other disciplines as appropriate.
- For investigators without current or past NIH research support as a PD/PI, a mentorship plan should be described. The mentorship plan should be more extensive for post-doctoral investigators and should include mentoring in the conduct of research, as well as the science. The mentorship plan should extend to include mentoring the pilot investigator through the submission of a subsequent NIH RPG funding application.
- The application must indicate how the proposed pilot is relevant to research specified in the FOA and the relation of the pilot to the specific aims of the Center.
- Each pilot project proposal should state clearly the justification for eligibility of the investigator under the criteria stated in the application’s Research & Related Senior/Key Person Profile (Pilot Project).
Pilot projects may not include secondary analysis of existing data, development of research methodology, or development of new research technology. Investigators are eligible only once for pilot project award support, unless the additional proposed pilot project constitutes a significant departure from ongoing research and has received prior approval from NINR. Pilot projects selected after the Center Grant is awarded require prior approval by NINR (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps/html5/section_8/8.1_changes_in_project_and_budget.htm and https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-129.html).
Q: Is there a limit to the number of research pilot projects allowed and limits to the duration of a research pilot project?
A: The FOA will define the number and duration of research pilot projects required for a Center. Pilot projects are intended to enable eligible investigators to explore a scientific topic related to the FOA objectives, and to amass sufficient expertise and data to complete the study and develop an independent research application (e.g., NIH Research Project Grants: R15, R21 or R01). Research pilot projects cannot be used to supplement currently funded research. The FOA will specify the minimal number of pilots that must be conducted during the period of support; however, within the Center application there must be included at minimum, two (2) initial pilot research projects that will be part of the total number of pilot projects required during the period of Center support. Please read the FOA for specific information on pilot project requirements, including information to be included in the grant application.
Q: Which "study section" will be reviewing these applications?
A: Generally, applications submitted in response to a FOA for the Centers Program are reviewed by a study section specially convened by the NINR Office of Review (i.e., a Special Emphasis Panel or 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 target population, condition, or setting, be careful to develop your science around the objectives described in the FOA. If the FOA broadly defines the target population(s) or setting, it is 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 so the science emanating from the Center will be able to make significant and meaningful contributions to the field.
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, 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 overall Center will be scored.
Q: What is the role of an External Advisory Committee to a Center grant?
A: The FOA will provide specifications on a required External Advisory Committee (EAC). The EAC has no authority to require or prohibit activities or expenditures; however, they may recommend actions for NINR's consideration. In general, the EAC's role is to evaluate the overall research programs of the Center, the development and utilization of research resources, the effectiveness of communications within the Center, and any activities in which problems arise for which expertise is required or desirable. The EAC should meet in-person at least once annually. In addition, the FOA may specify requirements for the reporting of minutes of meetings of the EAC and responses to comments or recommendations from the EAC by the Center PI/PD to be provided to NINR.
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. Follow all instructions for the Appendix (please note all format requirements) as described in the PHS398 Application Guide.
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.
Q: For Center grants, can funds budgeted for the support of meetings be used to pay for food or beverages?
A: In these cases, food-related costs are governed by the respective cost principles and the terms of award which include references to the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Q: Can we simultaneously apply for a P20 and a P30 Center grant?
A: Yes, if the science is unique within each Center and the University does not have current P20 or P30 funding for more than 10 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 New Investigator (NI) status when the award is made. If the new investigator is the lead of a pilot project or Core other than the Administrative Core, but not the PD/PI for the overall application (Center Director and Administrative Core Director), the individual will retain NI status when the award is made.
Q: Is there information on pilot research projects specific to human subjects?
A: The Center application must include the internal institutional plans and procedures to ensure that all Pilot Projects comply fully with all applicable Federal regulations, policies, and guidelines, including those for research involving human subjects including the evaluation of risks and protections in project proposals and appropriate ethical oversight of funded projects must be described. If the Pilot Project is an NIH-defined clinical trial (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-015.html), a data and safety monitoring (DSM) plan, which is appropriate to the level of risk of the project and which conforms to the NINR DSM Policy (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-015.html) and assurance of NIH Policy of Good Clinical Practice training should be described (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-16-148.html)
Q: Are research pilot projects in the application scored separately from the overall Center?
A: Based on their own scientific merit, the research pilot projects submitted in the application will receive individual scores separate from the overall Center score. Standard guidelines for IRB/IACUC approval, DSMB or DSMP, targeted enrollment inclusion 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. Please check FOA for details; however, in general each pilot 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 topic of interest specified in the FOA, and how the Project will utilize and interact with Center Core resources.
Q: For an MPI leadership team, what is the minimum calendar months of oversight for the Center PI/Director?
A: Applicants should review the FOA for information on minimum months required as a Core Director.