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Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) Organizational Handbook

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Application, Review and Grant Award
Regional Libraries of Medicine and Offices


Application, Review, and Grant Award

Q: - Where can we find the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA)?
A:- You can find the full text of the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the Regional Medical Libraries for the Network of the National Library of Medicine (UG4) at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html  and the companion FOA for the Network of the National Library of Medicine Evaluation Center (NEC) (U24) at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-002.html.

Q: - If we decide to have an initiative with 1 or more other RMLs, should that be in the overall, RML core or in a specific place? What should we keep in mind when we write about these collaborations?
A: - Carefully follow the instructions provided about the Overall, Administrative and RML Components/Cores of the proposal ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html ). The Overall section is basically a summary of the information provided in further detail in the other required Components/Cores. However, do not include a summary of any optional Office in the Overall Component/Core and do not discuss your Office proposal in either the Administrative or RML components.

Q: - To clarify letters of support/commitment, we only need to include letters from those institutions in the region that would contribute time and effort to the RML programs, but not from EVERY library in the region? ¬Are letters of support that are not indicating commitment but generally supportive of the proposal permitted? Discouraged? (That is letters that are not indicating commitments but generally supportive of the proposal?)
A: - Most letters of support should be letters of commitment indicating an individual or organization is committing time and or resources to accomplish activities and projects with the RML or Office. You can include some additional letters that address the importance of the proposed project activities to the organization/state/region. Standardized form letters generally do not have the positive impact on reviewers that may be desired. Letters from all libraries in the region are not required. 

Q: - Program guideline says: "Only one application per institution is allowed." If Institution A agrees to participate as a subawardee on Institution B’s application, can Institution A submit a full UG4 application separate from Institution B?
A: - Yes.

Q: - Can Department X at Institution A enter into subaward agreement as part of the UG4 application being submitted by the Institution A Health Sciences?
A: - Yes, in accordance with the University A subaward guidelines.

Q: - What are the characteristics of a strong application? What are the grant reviewers looking for?
A: - The characteristics of a strong application are described in Section IV. Application and Submission Information. The review criteria are presented in Section V Application Review Information of the UG4 funding opportunity announcement ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html ).

Q: - For the review process, what is the question and answer process? Will the Panel have questions for Applicants? How many rounds of questions are foreseen? How much time will be given between questions and response due date(s)?
A: - The questions that will guide the UG4 reviewers are listed in Section V Application Review Information of the UG4 funding opportunity announcement ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html ). The review process for the UG4 applications will follow standard NIH review procedures involving a panel of external expert consultants who do not have conflicts with the proposals. To learn more about the NIH review process see https://grants.nih.gov/grants/peer-review.htm . Normally there are no additional questions presented to the applicants during the review. If an application is selected for funding, numerous questions may be presented to the successful applicant during the award negotiation process. 

Q: - Do the same reviewers review proposals for the same region?
A: - The assignment of specific applications to specific reviewers depends upon many factors. Geographic location is one factor that can be considered. To learn more about the NIH review process see https://grants.nih.gov/grants/peer-review.htm.

Q: - After review, will the applicant be given details as to why or why not the cooperative agreement was granted?
A: - Yes. Four to six weeks after the applications are reviewed all applicants will receive a copy of the Reviewer-written comments, provided in a document called the Summary Statement. The Summary Statement will be available to the PD/PI and University Official through eRA Commons. For more information see https://era.nih.gov/applicants/view-sscores.htm?q=applicants/view_ss_scores.cfm

Q: - Suppose you apply for an RML and one or more offices. During review, the Office scores high, but the RML does not. Is the Office application automatically rejected? Is there a mechanism/plan in the event this happens?
A: - Selection of an Office is dependent on the RML being selected for funding. If the RML is not selected for funding, any associated Office will not be selected for funding.

Q: - What additional information can you offer regarding situations when an award would be negotiated prior to the NOA? 
A: - Grants are not contracts and it is common that tasks are not performed exactly as written in the application. The aims, however, typically remain consistent. It is commonplace for changes to an application to occur between the time an application is selected for funding and the Notice of Award is issued. This time period is called the award negotiation phase. This involves emails and phone discussions between NLM Extramural Programs and the University Officials and PD/PI. 

Grant Applications are written and submitted over 9 months or longer before funding begins and often a year or more before the project begins. Needs and technology often change during this time period.  As a result, there are often changes in the methodology when the project begins. Additionally, reviewers and NLM staff can recommend changes before awards are made.  In the case of the NNLM, there is also the issue of coordinating your plans with the other awardees to create an effective national program. Changes in the Federal and NIH budgets also impact proposed plans. You should be prepared for changes to occur. 



Regional Libraries of Medicine and Offices

Q: - Are the Network Performance Measures expected to continue as is through the next cycle?­
A: - Yes, the Network Performance Measures (see https://nnlm.gov/workbook-performance-measures) are expected to continue through the next cycle. The Performance Measurers are regularly reviewed, so expect the Measures to evolve over time as needs and technologies change.
Q: - Is All of Us Research Program funding expected to continue?
A: - Negotiations are currently underway between NLM and the NIH All of Us Research Program for future support and programs. All of Us recognizes the valuable contributions the NNLM has made to the Program, and the contributions NNLM can make in the future. Please note at this time there is no approved federal budget for 2021. Do not include planning in your application for any activities specifically targeted to the All of Us mission. Please use the UG4 Funding Opportunity Announcement to guide your application development ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html ).
Q: - Are there new national initiatives on the horizon?
A: - For the current NLM and NIH Priority Areas for NNLM (national initiatives), please see https://nnlm.gov/workbook-infrastructure-operations#Priorities). In the future, you can expect changes to national initiatives over time. Use the national initiatives listed at https://nnlm.gov/workbook-infrastructure-operations#Priorities and the information in the UG4 Funding Opportunity Announcement to guide your application development ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-001.html ).
Q: - ­Did I hear correctly - 60% effort toward national, 40% toward regional?
A: - Yes. As a general planning guide, you can allocate 60% of resources and energy to national and multi-regional activities, and the remaining 40% to regional activities. For example, some projects may begin locally, and are initially tested on a regional or multiregional basis before being developed and launched nationwide. Other programs you initiate in your region may be replication or expansion of a successful program developed in one or more other regions. Other programs may have begun as a national initiative and within your region you modify and evaluate the effectiveness of the program with a group within your region that has unique needs or characteristics. You may also develop innovative programs that are specifically targeted to the needs of your region. We expect the NNLM RMLs, Offices and Centers will cooperatively plan and implement evidence -based programs involving NLM, NNLM members, and other community partners.
Q: - What services/licenses are NWSO, NTO, and NCPHO expected to maintain in 2021-26?
A: - See https://nnlm.gov/workbook-infrastructure-operations#Offices
Q: - How is the NEC changed compared to the current NNLM Evaluation Office (NEO)? 
A: - The new NEC is intended to bring both established and innovative evaluation frameworks and evidence-based evaluation tools and practices to NNLM. The NEC will collaborate with RML, Office, and Center (ROC) staff to develop strategies and standardized approaches for evaluating outreach and education services; with the NNLM Training Office (NTO) to provide continuing education opportunities for NLM, RMLs and network members; and with the NLM Office of Engagement and Training (OET) to ensure NNLM evaluation strategies are aligned with the NLM Strategic Plan. The NEC will also develop and implement approaches for automated data flow and integration across reporting tools, as well as maintain and improve the NNLM Data Dashboard.  For additional details regarding the 2021-2026 goals for the NEC, see https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-LM-20-002.html
The current NNLM Evaluation Office (NEO) is working on the following initiatives: development of evaluation pathways that intersect K-12 Health, Rural Health, Underserved, and LGBTQ evaluation; ensuring alignment of evaluation reports and tools across NNLM and the NNLM All of Us Research Program; creation of a Request for Proposal(RFP) evaluation rubric for NNLM RMLs; and organizing data, documents and files in preparation for transition to the new NEC in spring 2021. To learn more about the current NEO, visit https://nnlm.gov/neo.
For more information, see https://nnlm.gov/workbook-foa-future-changes#change




Correction - An error was made during the Technical Assistance Webinar regarding Senior/Key Personnel and biosketches. In the ASSIST program, you can only in include biosketches for staff who are identified as Senior/Key Personnel.  However, NIH requires biosketches for staff who have a significant responsibility for program activities. For your application,  please list all critical program staff--including PI/PD, Executive/Associate Director, Office Head and all staff who have a significant role in the planning and implementation of the program--as Senior/Key Personnel in ASSIST, and include biosketches for each staff member. You can also list and include biosketches for administrative leadership staff, as well.
Q: - Does the Associate Director have to be identified in the application or is a letter of intent sufficient?­
A: - Having the Associate Director named is not an eligibility criteria for this application. However, most UG4 applications have been structured such that the Associate Director role is critical to the success of the program. Reviewers are likely to carefully review the experience and qualifications of the Associate Director to determine the quality of the proposed Project Team. It is likely that having a well-qualified person identified as the Associate Director will be an advantage. Since it may not be possible to hire the individual prior to the award, providing the candidate’s biosketch and a letter of commitment (intent) is often a good alternative. This strategy is used by many successful NIH applicants.
Q: - Do we need to submit job descriptions for staff named on the project or is a description in the budget justification sufficient?
A: - Use the budget justification section to describe the job responsibilities of the staff you plan to hire to work in the RML or Office.



Q: - Are the F&A costs associated with consortia partners part of the $975,000 annual limit on RML direct costs listed in the UG4 funding opportunity announcement?
Q: - If you are proposing a subaward on a core, are their F&A  (indirect) costs excluded from the direct cost cap?
Q: - Do the direct cost caps stated in the RFA include F&A costs for subawards?
A: - NIH has a longstanding policy to exclude consortium Faculties and Administrative (F&A) costs when determining whether an application falls within specified direct cost limits (see NOT-OD-05-004). Consortium F&A costs will not be counted as a direct cost when determining if an applicant is in compliance with a direct cost limitation on a solicited application.
Please note that this policy only applies to consortia that can be specified and fully described in the competing application, and provide consortia detailed budget pages. For subawards that cannot be specified at the time of the competing application, such as outreach awards, all costs would be included in the direct cost limit. Costs requested for unspecified future awards would be included as a line item on the parent detailed budget pages.
Q. Must the budget justification address all five budget periods, or is it for the first year only?
A: - The budget justification should cover all five budget periods. For years beyond the first year, you should justify and explain any significant increases or decreases from the initial budget period.
Q: - Given that these are cooperative agreements, will there be opportunity for subawards or competitive subawards to continue for subsequent years, or will extensions be allowed for such subawards?
A: - The simplest and most common strategy for continuing subawards across project years is to include funding for the subaward in the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR). The RPPR is the formal request for funding for the next project year. A common strategy institutions use when negotiating subawards that are likely to span multiple years is to include wording in the subaward agreement that based on successful performance and availability of funds the subaward will be reissued or continued throughout the next year. Most institutions have established procedures for managing such subawards/consortia.

Q: - Are there any expected travel requirements for participation in the UG4 (for example, to the MLA  Annual Meeting or an NNLM planning meeting)?
A: - In order to maintain relationships, develop new partnerships, and collaboratively develop and implement a national program, travel will be important. The RMLs, Offices, and Center will determine what travel is necessary for the region and program. The NNLM Steering Committee  will determine when and where the national program will meet, and who will be involved. As a guide, in the current five year cycle, the Steering Committee met three times at the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting, and all NLM staff were invited to two NNLM All Hands summits.