Thursday, July 12, 2007

Whew, the titans heat up.

Wow, in case we were napping this am... or alternately writing like mad, a presentation this morning on the methods for process evaluation got our back row of NIH folk fired up more than anything before. As my buddy next to me says, it's always nice to be a fly on the wall as big muckety mucks in NIAAA, NIDA, CSR and others debate something amongst themselves. But alas, it was perhaps more an appearance than true substantive differences. Regardless, let me summarize the important points as I interpreted them.

  • basic point -- NIH does not fund evaluation research, if you don't have an outcome to measure, don't come knocking.
  • process evaluation is most often used to measure fidelity to an planned intervention, and you aren't going to get thru CSR (the folk that score your proposal) without it (altho another from NIAAA said it was less important to him to do more process eval on interventions that were well baked and documented)
  • but it can be used in a non-intervention setting to track your aims... like measuring satisfaction and faith in the process with yr CBPR folk, like measuring the level of project/topic education by your cbpr folk, like comparing the number/demographics of actual people enrolled to the potential enrollment population
  • now back to intervention, NIDA person said, as they start to emphasize interventions that have longer interaction periods, the value of process evaluation increases, because the impact of the intervention can be affected by greater number of factors, which then need to be monitored through process eval.
Another side note: whenever you have a survey of participants... always ask at the end if you can contact them again!

And yet another note: an often overlooked item in NIH applications is a data safety and monitoring plan, in the words of Dr. Bill - don't forget it!

Now, it's time for a break and in the words of our esteemed co-chair... "I'm sure there's another thousand calorie snack out there from wolfgang puck"

--- Break + 2k calories of muffins later ---

Another note I forgot from before: new applicants to NIH now can get expedited comments and then are allowed to resubmit in next cycle, which could be as soon as one month away.

Now, as many of you know but some may not... NIH grants can be submitted 3x, the process can easily take 2 yrs. At each time, your application can be returned as 1. not scored (but with review comments) 2. scored but not well enough to be funded or 3. scored well and funded. Scoring happens over in Dr. Bill's shop, the Office of Sci Review (OSR). Funding happens according to "paylines" decided by the institutes that take your grant into their "portfolio". Each PA usually has an institutional portfolio attached (and it's one more reason to start your process by asking the grant person at the institution about what's important to them, because there are some portfolios that are full for certain PAs, so it's your waste if you apply for them, they won't get funded).

Also, if I can remind folk: I might get some of this wrong, so don't live by it!

Now in the words of Kate Greeno: She expects to get funded, but right now with paylines so low, she does not expect to get scored on the first submission, many seasoned funded researchers do not these days. She also plans that each application will need full 3 submissions to get funded. (so plan early!)

Now, another note of info from last night. What is the difference between all those different funding announcement types at NIH?

The name for all types of announcements is FOA now, Funding Opportunity Announcements.
Remember at NIH, you never are really working on a "proposal" it's almost always an "application".

PA = program announcement, most common, regular due dates, can stand for years. This is NIH's routine way to say "we want to see applications that are about this". Some are very very broad, since smaller grants (R03, R21) have to reply to a specific PA and they wouldn't want to exclude good ideas by having all PAs be narrow.
PAR = PA + "receipt referral review" PA plus special due dates. often LOI should come first.
RFA = one time shot with $ attached, often used to fund a small number of studies to kickstart a different area of interest. Interestingly, if you apply for this and don't get it you can reapply under a regular PA, giving you kinda an extra shot at it.
PAS = like an RFA that lasts for many years, there are set aside funds attached to this as well, but it's longer term than a PA.

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