The National Institutes of Health (NIH) staff are taking further steps toward the goal of fully electronic proposal and award management. And, they are focused on making sure that S2S systems are full partners in that process to the extent possible because they realize that universities, research institutes and research intensive hospitals – their primary client base for extramural support – are becoming heavily vested as a group in S2S technology. The importance of S2S in the portfolio of NIH is demonstrated by the fact that for the October 5th 2011 R01 deadline, 40% of applications were submitted via S2S.
Any day now (perhaps by the time you read this article), NIH will begin publishing opportunity packages on Grants.gov to support the submission of administrative supplements. This parallels functionality being rolled out via the Commons for submitting administrative supplement requests. The primary reason NIH is posting these on Grants.gov is to support the S2S community – so that institutions with S2S systems will be able to develop, process and submit administrative supplements through their S2S systems rather than directly on the Commons with a requirement to then redundantly input data into institutional systems. InfoEd Proposal Development (PD; version 12) is administrative supplement-ready with no updates or patches required.
There is one bit of information that you’ll need to know to support your users in developing administrative supplements via InfoEd, however. That relates to the way NIH is posting information about the packages and to some technical vagaries of the way the data are structured in the Grants.gov schemas. What this comes down to in practice is that the Competition ID, a value used traditionally to differentiate between multiple packages (or schemas) associated with a single opportunity posting, doesn’t provide the flexibility needed by NIH to adequately convey when a user should choose one package vs. another. NIH will be supplementing the Competition ID data with additional data in another field – Competition Title. Unfortunately, that data value is not yet accessible to InfoEd or other S2S systems from Grants.gov. We have solutions for this for use immediately, short term and long term.
The immediate solution is that we have published the information from NIH necessary to be able to choose the correct package based on the rather cryptic Competition ID data. Our short term solution will be provided in a patch and we will integrate the appropriate matching pairs for NIH administrative supplements into the display of results data when opportunities are returned in PD. Our long term solution will be to implement a change to be made by Grants.gov to distribute the Competition Title data for consumption by S2S systems. When that data feed is available, we will incorporate it into our data display. This long term solution will support other NIH initiatives, or those of other agencies, where the Competition Title field is used.
Administrative supplements will very soon be able to be submitted electronically via either the Commons or S2S systems during a pilot program. During this pilot program, users may also choose to submit their administrative supplement requests via other methods such as paper or other electronic systems such as the NIMH web based system.
NIH staff are also engaged in another new initiative regarding complex applications. These include program projects, centers and the like – basically projects that include cores and sub projects – and which represent about 6% of the annual NIH application volume. The existing Grants.gov data model does not support nested projects that are required to handle complex projects. NIH is developing a web-based system to support submission of complex applications. In developing that system, they are reusing the Grants.gov data model and methods and extending them where needed to support the nuances of complex applications. S2S will be fully supported by this new system – applications from S2S systems will be accepted via Grants.gov and processed through to NIH essentially just as the current 94% of NIH applications are handled.
The details regarding both the web interface for complex applications and the S2S interface that InfoEd PD will use for submission are both still being worked out, although significant progress has already been made. NIH staff anticipate a pilot to initiate perhaps in Fall 2012. InfoEd Global is already working to ensure full support for submitting complex applications to NIH via PD.