NIAMS Guidance for New COVID-19 Research and Supplemental Funding

NIAMS is taking several approaches noted below to support new research and ensure the continuity of our research efforts in response to COVID-19.

New Research Funding for COVID-19: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, NIAMS has announced a Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) promoting research on COVID-19 and rheumatic, musculoskeletal and skin diseases.

In addition, NIAMS participates in several NIH wide programs that highlight the urgent need for research on SARS-CoV-2. This includes the RADx-UP Program and the INCLUDE Project.

These programs are described in greater detail below.

Supplemental Funding COVID-19: NIAMS understands that many of its grantees may require supplemental funding to help mitigate the disruptions and negative impacts they have experienced during this public health emergency. Here are some of the options available:

Administrative Supplements

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated closing of labs and clinics and curtailing of some support services, such as animal facilities. However, during this time, expenditures for certain budgeted items, primarily personnel costs, continued. As a result, some investigators will be unable to complete certain Aims that were funded in their current NIH award. In addition, investigators fear that the loss of productivity will make it more difficult to obtain a competitive renewal of their award. 

NIH is deeply concerned with the impact of COVID-19 on the investigator community and has taken steps to mitigate the lost productivity (summarized here). For example, taking advantage of regulations related to emergencies and disasters, NIH has altered rules for applications and extended eligibility for certain investigators. In addition, in new or competing renewal applications, NIH allows applicants to address effects due to the pandemic on productivity or other scoreable issues in their Personal Statement in the NIH Biosketch. Furthermore, reviewers are instructed to take pandemic-related circumstances into account when assessing applicants' productivity and other score-driving factors (see guidance, active at the time of this writing, here).

NIH allows awardees to request administrative supplements when natural disasters result in lost productivity, and that includes the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the current situation is different in that virtually all investigators who work in wet labs or clinics were impacted, across the country. The magnitude is such that providing supplements to “make investigators whole” to cover all such losses would sharply reduce the ability to make new awards. Therefore, Institutes and Centers such as NIAMS must make decisions and prioritize only certain circumstances where supplements will be made for lost productivity due to COVID-19. 

NIAMS will consider supporting administrative supplements to R01 or R01-equivalent awards* (within scope of parent award) to cover unanticipated costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or related mitigation efforts that could not be covered by rebudgeting existing funds. Unfortunately, available resources for such supplements are significantly limited in FY2022, and the NIAMS acknowledges that we will not be able to fund all requests. To stretch these resources, the NIAMS asks that non-monetary solutions be considered and exhausted before requesting additional funds and that investigators apply only in cases of extraordinary need (e.g. impending loss of a lab without additional funding). Due to limited funds, we will need to prioritize requests based on the list below.

NIAMS’ areas of priority for COVID administrative supplement funding are:

  • Clinical Trials
  • Studies with Human Subjects where the entirety of the project would be jeopardized in the absence of additional funds
  • Early Stage Investigators (ESI)
  • Situations where the loss of productivity would have catastrophic consequences, such as closure of a lab

Grant recipients can submit these requests at any time utilizing the parent announcement, PA-20-272. Investigators planning to submit supplement applications are strongly encouraged to discuss the proposed project with the relevant NIAMS scientific/programmatic contacts before applying to determine eligibility and alignment with these NIAMS priorities. Submitted applications will need to include the following:

  • Statement of need (outlined in the research strategy section)
    • Explain how research activities significantly suffered over and above lost research. productivity that most individuals experienced because of COVID-19 related shutdowns
    • Detail time lost and lack of access to essential institutional facilities and/or resources and dates when those resources were unavailable. 
    • Describe the research activities that will be performed during the extension period, how those activities relate to the originally proposed research, and how the supplemental funds will be used to increase or preserve the likelihood for the project to succeed
    • Grantee must be unable to pay for request even after re-budgeting available funds. 
    • Must be in final year of an active project period or have recently (within the last six months) entered a No Cost Extension.
  • Budget Justification
    • Budget requests should be detailed and well justified and are limited to no more than the amount of the current parent award. Requests must reflect the actual needs of the project to mitigate the Covid-19 impacts.
    • Description of additional funds available including any carryforward funds from prior years.
    • NIAMS is only supporting unanticipated costs caused by the pandemic. Research activities should have been significantly hindered over and above the lost research productivity that most research has experienced because of COVID shutdowns. (e.g., hurdles such as diminished access to clinics and/or halted recruitment of subjects or loss of animal colonies that are hard to recover or reproduce [i.e. you can’t just order them], or challenging cell lines).

*R01-equivalent grants are defined as activity codes DP1, DP2, DP5, R01, R37, R56, RF1, RL1, U01 and R35.

A complete and up-to-date list of Covid-19 flexibilities for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding can be found here.

New Programs for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-2019 Response 

In addition to administrative supplements, NIAMS offers funding opportunities through its own NOSI as well as NIH wide programs. These include:

NIAMS Guidance Regarding COVID-19 Flexibilities for Trainees and Other Early-Career Researchers

Regarding the impact on early career investigators, fellows, junior faculty, and trainees, NIAMS agrees that the pandemic and shutdown of labs has posed several unique challenges to these investigators whose research career is essentially on hold. In addressing these concerns, NIH and NIAMS have made a concerted effort to make sure that faculty members in their early careers have maximum flexibility to continue their research on NIH grants.

Some of these flexibilities include:

Continuation of Temporary Extension of Eligibility for the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Anyone in post-doctoral training during the COVID public health emergency can ask for a 2-cycle eligibility extension. Applicants can combine eligibility extensions up to a total of 1 year of extended time.

No Cost Extensions: For Phased awards (e.g. K99) and other training, fellowship and career development awards where extensions are usually limited, NIH will consider extensions that are made by request from the Principal Investigator and the Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). Recipients may also submit prior approval requests for second no-cost extensions. These requests must include a justification outlining the impact of COVID-19 on the recipient’s training and career development activities and will be considered by the funding IC(s) on a case-by-case basis.

This also applies to circumstances when NIAMS K99 recipients are not able to transition to an R00 award due to COVID-19. NIAMS will consider extensions for obtaining faculty positions. Requests should be made for up to 12 months with each increment.

Funded Extensions: F and K award recipients in their final year or in a first no cost extension (NCE), may request a funded extension via the AOR. 

To facilitate consistency and a simpler administrative review, NIAMS funded extension requests can be submitted electronically through Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements Parent Announcement, PA-20-272. Funded extension supplement applications should reference NOT-OD-21-052 in Section 4b of their SF 424 forms.

These requests will be considered by NIAMS on a case-by-case basis using the following considerations and eligibility criteria:

  • Awards must be in their final year or in the first No Cost Extension (NCE). Applicants must apply in the fiscal year their grant ends. 
  • Budget requests should be limited to support provided up to 6 months or the amount of time that the awardee was prevented from working on the aims of the project, whichever is shorter. Extensions typically will not exceed the time that the training or career development activities were suspended unless there were significant additional hardships.
  • Justifications should explain how training or career development activities have been significantly hindered over and above lost research productivity that most individuals experienced because of COVID-19 related shutdowns.
  • Requests that will cause individuals to exceed their current limit for NRSA support require a strong justification that highlights the hardships caused by COVID-19.
  • Applications must be received by July 1, 2022 to be considered for FY2022 funding.
  • Requests are considered pending the availability of funds.

In accordance with NOT-OD-21-052, PA-20-272 instructions and NIAMS guidance, funded extension requests must include the following information:

  • Applications will require a statement of need included with the Research Plan that will:
    • Explain how research training or career development significantly suffered above and beyond lost research productivity that most individuals experienced because of COVID-19 related shutdowns. This may include loss of job opportunities.
    • Detail time lost and lack of access to essential institutional facilities and/or resources and dates when those resources were unavailable.
    • Describe the research and career development activities that will be performed during the extension period, how those activities relate to the originally proposed research and career development plans, and how the supplemental funds will be used to increase or preserve the likelihood for the project to succeed.
    • Institutional commitment letter
  • Budget requests are limited to no more than the amount of the current parent award, prorated, and must reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. Funds for salary, fringe, and research support can be requested.
  • The budget justification should include a description of any additional funds available to ensure sustained research, the availability of carryover funds from previous years, and any local assistance, including matching funds or specified 'in kind' support should be described.
  • For predoctoral or postdoctoral fellowships, indicate whether tuition funds are being requested.
  • Provide the training stage (e.g., fourth year postdoctoral fellow) and the amount of time requested (e.g., 3 months).

Interruptions to Research Activities

Please contact NIAMS staff to discuss your options if you need to stop or reduce research activities on a K award to provide clinical care to COVID-19 patients. You may be able to reduce effort, request an extension or take a leave of absence.

For T32 awards, please consult with NIAMS staff if you have difficulty filling spots, unused funds or need to cancel a program. Since needs and circumstances vary, NIAMS will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.


More Information

NIH routinely updates Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that specifically address Training, Fellowship and Career Development Awards which can be found on our NIH’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding Page.

For more information on Extensions for Early Career Scientists whose career trajectories have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, please refer to NOT-OD-21-052.

Visit combatCOVID.hhs.gov for more information to help you make decisions about your health and what you can do to join the fight against COVID-19.

Contact

For questions on COVID-19 funding, please email NIAMS_COVID-19@nih.gov.

Last Updated: February 2022