NINDS's Building Up the Nerve

Episode 10: Issuing the Grant Award

February 21, 2020 NINDS Season 1 Episode 10
NINDS's Building Up the Nerve
Episode 10: Issuing the Grant Award
Chapters
00:00:00
Intro
00:00:22
Introductions
00:04:00
Q&A
00:16:59
Advice
00:18:37
Outro
NINDS's Building Up the Nerve
Episode 10: Issuing the Grant Award
Feb 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 10
NINDS

Learn about the Notice of Grant Award and the role of the NINDS Grants Management Branch from Chief Dr. Tijuanna Decoster and Grants Management Officer Elizabeth Conklin.

Building Up the Nerve is a podcast from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we’re here to help—it’s our job!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Learn about the Notice of Grant Award and the role of the NINDS Grants Management Branch from Chief Dr. Tijuanna Decoster and Grants Management Officer Elizabeth Conklin.

Building Up the Nerve is a podcast from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we’re here to help—it’s our job!

Lauren Ullrich:

Welcome to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's, Building Up the Nerve, a podcast for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we're here to help. It's our job. Hi, I'm Lauren Ullrich, a scientific program manager at NINDS

Marguerite Matthews:

and I'm Marguerite Matthews, a health program specialist at NINDS and we're your hosts today. In the last episode we discussed grant resubmissions. Today we're going to discuss the issuance of the grant award

Lauren Ullrich:

and as always, I want to state the disclaimer that everything we talk about may only be relevant for NINDS, so if you're applying to a different NIH Institute or center, it's always best to check with them about their policies.

Marguerite Matthews:

And joining us today are Dr. Tia Decoster, the chief of the grants management branch, and Liz Conklin, a supervisory grants management officer in the grants management branch. So please introduce yourselves.

Tia Decoster:

I'm Tia Decoster, I'm the chief grants management officer. I've been here approximately 12 and a half years. As a chief grants management officer I oversee all of the grants within NINDS, issuance of all the grants within NINDS. We have a staff of approximately , um , when fully staffed approximately 25 people. Three teams; each team consists of six people, including the team leader seven people. Before starting here, I worked for the department of justice as a grant specialist and then I moved into a grants policy, policy advisor , uh , driving a lot of public policy for the department of justice. Uh, prior to that I worked with the department of commerce. Uh, I've worked with private industry, KPMG consulting as a senior consultant in grants. Uh, and uh, prior to that I did work for NIH as a grant specialist in the Heart Institute for 12 years.

Lauren Ullrich:

Wow.

Marguerite Matthews:

So you are truly a grants expert.

Tia Decoster:

Yes I am, yes.

Lauren Ullrich:

And what's one of your hobbies or passions outside of work?

Tia Decoster:

I like to swim and I like to cook.

Liz Conklin:

Hi, my name is Liz Conklin. I'm a supervisory grants management officer here at NINDS. So I have a team of six specialists. And I work with them to make sure the awards are correct. And we also work with program officers and the program staff just to make sure we're doing everything, you know, by the book. A big part of our job is taking questions from grantees and even potential applicants as well. So we're sometimes we're like one of the first people that they, that they encounter when they call. So, you know, we try to be there and be helpful and try to redirect things even if they call us and we might not be the right place to call, but we try to redirect as needed. I've worked here for, it'll be 11 years in January. I started out as a grants management specialist and then in 2015 , uh , I became a team leader. So before I started here , um, I, you know, got out of college and got married and became a mom and was a stay at home mom for a little while. And then I went back to school and got my MBA in uh , finance concentrated in finance and then saw a job opening for something called the Emerging Leaders Program at Health and Human Services. And I thought, "well, that sounds interesting." And within the year, my family and I had moved down from Pennsylvania and we were, you know , started here. So I was very fortunate to be able to be a part of that program. And , uh , from there I went, worked at a bunch of different operating divisions at HHS, but then ended up in the office of grants policy, a downtown and the office of the secretary and then , um, came to NINDS to do grants work here and work with Tia . And I've, I've been here ever since. So yeah, so I do, I have , uh , two children. One is , uh , just married and one's in college. So I try to spend as much time as I can with them. Um, I knit and , uh, spend as much time as I can with my dog, either walking through the woods or sitting on the couch.

Lauren Ullrich:

In our last episode, we left off with: council has happened, there's been a decision made, the, I think the last-last episode was, let's say you have to resubmit. And now this episode we want to focus on , um, an award is slated to be funded. And really what's happening behind the scenes as the awards are being prepared?

Tia Decoster:

It depends. [laughter] Okay. Um , behind the scenes if we have , uh, addressing programmatic needs, of questions that they may have, looking at overlap, budgetary overlap , uh, reviewing the budgets , making sure that they are accurate , uh , reviewing , if information is needed for clarification. We work with grantees to get that. Uh, looking at , reviewing the F&A rates , uh , making sure we have the most updated F&A rate , um, to award the grants.

Lauren Ullrich:

Do you want to talk about what F&A is?

:

Excuse me. Indirects, the indirect cost rate. F&A is facilities and administrative costs. Those are the indirect costs. So you may hear indirects or F&A but it's all the same. Working to ensure that we are awarding the grant correctly and making sure that, most of all, that what we're doing is, we are federally compliant in what we're doing.

Marguerite Matthews:

Now, what is the just-in-time information and how do investigators submit that?

Liz Conklin:

So the just in time information has is just like what it sounds like. So it's information that we need just prior to award. So this is information that could be included in the grant application, but even if it is, we're going to need it within 120 days before the award is made. We want to be sure that this information is current. So the elements of just in time: uh, other support information, that needs to be current; other items that we might need are um , IRB approvals for human subjects work or IACUC approvals if there's any work involving animals. Sometimes there may be some other information that can be submitted by just in time like if there's a resource sharing plan or maybe some more clarification on the budget or something, you know, something of that nature that can be submitted with Just in time. As for how to submit it, the best way to do it is through the commons. There should be a just in time link that's associated with the commons account. And so that's always the best place to upload it because that ensures that a variety of people here can see it, the grant specialists and also the program officials. If anyone's out of the office, you know, anybody can see that. So that is always very helpful. Uh, when uploading to just in time, you don't necessarily have to have everything ready before you start to upload. You can upload in pieces. So if you just have some elements, you know, you can upload very often we'll get the IACUC approval later or the IRB approval later than some of the other support or other documents. So that is acceptable. If for some reason your just in time link isn't active, you could please just send that information via an authorized signing official to the grant specialist and also to the program official.

Lauren Ullrich:

I was wondering if you want to talk a little bit about the role of the authorized signing official? Because I think trainees might not necessarily be aware of everything that that person does or their importance.

Tia Decoster:

Okay . The , the AOR or known as the authorized signing official, that person is responsible for submitting information to the NIH. They are the people that we contact if there are issues. They are the people that keep their institution compliant. Uh, so it's important that you work with them. Some offices may call them your sponsored programs office, some other offices may call them your sponsored research office , uh , or research administration. It's important that you work with them so that what what is submitted is correct and you are dependent, you are, your information reflects their institutional policies. Those, again, those are the people that keep your institution , uh , compliant.

Lauren Ullrich:

Right. And anything official has to come through them. So you might send us something and we'll come back and say like, no, have your AOR, send that to us.

Liz Conklin:

Especially if it comes through email. Now if it comes through the Just in time, then you should be alright because you've , you have , um, you know, if you have access to the Just in time link, then you should be able to upload it without necessarily having to go through somebody else at your organization. Um , but if not , uh, you know, that'll just depend on your organization as well and how the privileges are set up in the commons

Tia Decoster:

And also the business official or sponsored programs person or research administration, those people are, should be your first line of defense when it , when it comes to questions, because again, we have to work within the confines of your institutional policies.

Marguerite Matthews:

And if you're at the stage of the award, you've probably already talked with these people cause they're the ones who submitted your application. So don't panic. These aren't different people. Um , it may be a different specific person, but they're probably coming from the same office at your institution. So if a grant is to be awarded, how long will it take for the investigator to receive their funding? The big question, when do we get paid?

Tia Decoster:

Liz you ready?

Liz Conklin:

Oh sure.

Tia Decoster:

It depends.

Liz Conklin:

It depends! It definitely depends.

Tia Decoster:

Okay. It depends upon what is missing from the application as far as needing to be funded. Um, if everything is, is in, the program official has completed the, the internal process of our checklist, as soon as Council is over, we can get that award out. Uh, if there are issues , uh , again with overlap, if there are issues with , uh, any type of scientific concerns that can hold up an award. So it's best once you, once you receive , uh, an email from either the grant specialist or the program official, it would be great if you could respond immediately because the faster you are, the faster we can get it out. Liz, you want to add something?.

Liz Conklin:

No , that's true. It also, you know, it will depend on our pay plan . So if you , uh , depending on how your application was scored , uh, and you know, the pay plan for the Institute , uh , sometimes things are funded on an expedited basis, but that isn't always necessarily the case. So it can take some time. There can be some internal , uh, review, you know , of course there's time we need to allow for internal review. So it can take some time. It can be very quickly and it could also take several months. So it really just depends. I would say get in touch with your grants management specialist and ask them.

Lauren Ullrich:

Right. And our fiscal year starts October 1st and all the systems shut down. And so that's another thing that can delay the issuance of the award. So, what is the notice of award and what kind of information does it contain? And is there anything in particular that investigators should be paying attention when they get that NOA?

Tia Decoster:

The notice of award is basically a letter with your money. It's attached to your money. It's important that you read the terms and conditions of the award. Every award has terms and conditions. It's important that you read those. And if you have questions, contact the grant specialist or the program officer. The notice of grant award also tells you the amount of money that you have, direct and indirect costs. It will have , uh, information , uh, who the program officer is, the program director. It will have information as far as who's the grants management specialist. All the contact information you need is in the notice of award spelled out.

Liz Conklin:

I would say, too , there's no , um , there's no official award until you see that notice of award . So you're going to get, you know, the NIH will send out many , um , automatic emails, you know, congratulating on your score or letting, you know, things were reviewed, that--this sort of thing. And that's all wonderful. But that's not an award. So until that notice of award is issued, it's not finished. You don't have an award until then. And Tia mentioned the terms of the award. So those are contained in sections three and four of the award. Section three contains terms that are standard to NIH, to all of NIH awards. And then section four will include NINDS-specific terms of award. So especially if you have milestones or if you have a phased award or anything like that. Any, any , um, you know, special instructions, please be sure to look in section four. And then at the end like Tia said, you have your specific contact information will be there. There may also be some contact information in section four that may differ a little bit from the individuals at the end. Those may be extra people for you to contact. The award will also include information about , uh, any , uh , future years that are anticipated for funding. Now, that's not a guarantee for the future years because it's, you know, dependent on congressional appropriations, et cetera . But that represents the intention of the NIH to fund future years given that everything goes according to plan. So please pay attention to those. 'Cause if you're expecting three years and you only get two , it's, or something like that, it's much better to know early than to know later. So please do read through that. And also it's good to know who at your organization receives a copy of that notice of award. So the principal investigator will receive that award. Um, and also , uh, of course the business office , uh , sponsored projects, whatever it's called, will receive a copy of that because remember the award goes to the institution. So it's not just the principal investigators award, it's, you know, its the institutional award . So , um, but again, you know, work with your individual business office and they'll help you with any, you know, questions or internal procedures or, or whatnot.

Tia Decoster:

Again, if you, for some reason there's a computer glitch and you don't get the notice of award, contact the business official and they can provide you with a copy of it.

Marguerite Matthews:

So when and under what circumstances should investigators contact the grant specialist regarding their award?

Tia Decoster:

questions, questions, questions, make sure that you understand everything on that notice of award. If you don't understand how the award was made, the dollars, make sure that you contact them and they can walk you through your award line item by line item. They can tell you what was excluded. They can explain your F&A or your indirect cost rate, what was included in that rate. Anytime you have a question or, or any time that you don't quite understand, please contact the grant specialist. That's why we are here.

Liz Conklin:

I would say, you know , they should definitely, always feel free to contact--that their first line of defense should also be, right, the business office. But always feel free to contact us if it's something having to do anything having to do with the actual program or the science or you know, their specific aims or anything of that nature. I would say it's probably best to contact the program first because if you contact your grants management specialist with those questions, we're going to say we don't know because we don't handle the science. So we would just refer you to program. But if you have certainly any questions about the money or the terms or you know, really just anything, you know, like Tia said, just contact us and we, if we're not the people to , uh , to help, we will put you in touch with who can help you.

Tia Decoster:

If you ever have questions regarding, well, what's the difference? Money: grants management specialists, science: program officers,

Lauren Ullrich:

Right. And we work together pretty closely , um , to get the grants out the door. And so if you, if you get confused, you don't know who to contact, just pick one and they can direct you to the right person. All right. Well is there anything else you want applicants to understand about the grant issuance process? Some common misconceptions that you've found that you want the chance to clear up?

Tia Decoster:

Some of the basic errors that I've noticed with applications is miscalculation. Making sure that you are, if the FOA , if it states modular budget or if it says make sure you, you, you comply with it if its a modular budget or if it is a categorical budget, make sure you understand that. Make sure that again, miscalculation errors. We find a lot of those and make sure that you're calculating your, your dollars correctly and your justification. Make sure your justification matches your dollars.

Liz Conklin:

Some other things to keep in mind is um , your budget request. Your project requests might not always equal the amount of that's awarded or the number of years that's awarded. Uh , depending on a number of things: we don't fund inflationary escalation in the out years, so that could represent a cut. We have standard cuts that are applied to our awards, which are outlined in the funding plan, you can see that on our website under the NINDS funding plan. So that'll give you an idea. And also another thing to remember is that grant awards, they're meant to be assistance mechanisms. They're not always meant to fund projects fully, right? So it's a matter of assisting, not necessarily fully funding.

Lauren Ullrich:

All right . Well thank you both for sharing your wisdom today. And can I ask each of you for one last piece of parting advice for our future applicants?

Tia Decoster:

Patience

Liz Conklin:

I agree, I agree. Patience and um, just ask lots of questions.

Lauren Ullrich:

And Marguerite, do you have any advice?

Marguerite Matthews:

Yeah. One of the common themes throughout the podcast is talk to a program officer and now you're hearing, talk to your program specialist and talk to the people at your institution. These are not people who should feel like strangers to you. They should be people that you know enough to feel comfortable to reach out for any questions. You should not be confused about how this process works. There is a lot going on from the time you think of an idea that you want to be funded the way to, the time that you get funded for that idea. There's a, there's a lot of paperwork, a lot of um, things to sign, things to submit. Um, but if at any time it gets overwhelming, reach out to the people who are specialists at this, we are experts and we want to help you. What about you Lauren?

Lauren Ullrich:

I think just being proactive about making sure that NIH has all the information that it needs to issue the award. Um, so making sure your IACUC or your IRB information is in there and, but it can also include other components and just check with your program director, your grants specialist , and make sure that they have all the information you need, especially if things seem to be taking a little bit longer than they should. Be proactive. That's my advice. So that's all we have time for today on Building Up the Nerve. Thank you to our guests this week for sharing their expertise and thank you to program director Dr. Bob Riddle for our theme song and music. See you next time when we tackle monitoring grant performance. You can find past episodes of this podcast and many more grant application resources on the web at ninds.nih.gov.

Marguerite Matthews:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NINDSDiversity and @NINDSfunding, you can email us your questions at NINDSNervePod@nih .gov. Make sure you've subscribed to the podcast on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast app so you don't miss an episode. We'll see you next time.