Welcome to the winter 2007 edition of Inside NIMH. Over the past few months, there have been notable changes with regard to NIH funding and fiscal operations that I want to bring to your attention.

Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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Inside NIMH: Funding News for Current and Future NIMH Awardees

I. Message from the NIMH Director

In February, the FY 2007 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes funding for NIH, was finalized by Congress and signed by the President. This allocation increases the overall NIH budget by $620 million to a total of $28.9 billion. A portion of this increase is designated for the NIH Common Fund, which will be used to support the NIH Roadmap, among other projects. As a result, approximately $16 million that NIMH initially contributed to Roadmap will now be available to fund new NIMH-specific research projects.

The FY 2007 increase in funding could not have come at a better time. Science discovery and advances in mental health are occurring at unprecedented levels. Recent press releases and science updates from the Institute herald advances including genetic links for autism, how stress sculpts brain circuitry, prevalence and treatment of eating disorders, benefits for employers when depression care is provided, and more.

Given these latest Congressional events, it is also noteworthy that the President recently released his budget proposal for FY2008, which is approximately 1.3% less than the FY 2007 levels just appropriated by Congress.

Within this budgetary climate, NIMH will continue strong support for innovative research by following a funding strategy that takes into account: 1) Institute and divisional priorities; 2) balance in the existing research portfolio; and 3) availability of funds. In addition, NIMH considers as priority areas, to the greatest extent possible, newly independent investigator status, first-time grantees applying for their first renewal, and established investigators with other support that is insufficient to avoid closure of laboratories.

To continue emphasizing our priorities, NIMH considers all grants up to the 20th percentile to be scientifically meritorious. NIMH funds have been able to support, at least through FY 2006, roughly three-fourths of these applications. Rather than paying this three-fourths in strict percentile order, program staff, in concert with the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), evaluate all applications up to the 20th percentile, identifying those most closely aligned with Institute and divisional research priorities and make recommendations for payment accordingly. As a result, a 19th percentile application from a new investigator with an innovative approach that is likely to advance scientific discovery in a high priority area may be paid before a 9th percentile application from an established investigator where the science is less in tune with NIMH priorities.

Additional information regarding the ways in which NIMH is managing its research and research training portfolio can be found in a Special Update from the NIMH Director (PDF File). We encourage all investigators to contact a program officer in their area of research to receive technical assistance with their application prior to submission.

II. New Announcements about Funding Opportunities

Each week, NIH electronically distributes the NIH GUIDE, a listing of all NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), which include requests for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs), and important notices for the scientific community. Below are samples of FOAs in which NIMH is participating. The Research and Funding page on the NIMH website has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources.

Note: You can subscribe to regular weekly e-mails of the NIH GUIDE.

NIMH-Administered Requests for Applications

Disaster Mental Health Research Center (DMHRC)

NIMH seeks to support a pre-positioned team of interdisciplinary researchers to plan epidemiological and pilot clinical research protocols in conjunction with public health authorities in advance of unforeseen emergencies. The overarching goal of the DMHRC is to create a ready response group to track key public health indicators and to lay the foundation for high impact clinical/services research projects.

Release Date: December 15, 2006; Expiration Date: April 24, 2007

Collaborative Requests for Applications

Integration of Food and Nutrition into Prevention, Care, and Treatment of HIV Infection and AIDS

NIMH and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) are soliciting applications that will examine the impact of new programs/guidance intended to fully integrate food and nutrition on prevention, care, and treatment of HIV infected and affected women, infants, and children. This RFA seeks to stimulate and strengthen a multidisciplinary approach to a complex, under-researched, and rapidly evolving area and to form a basis for future research and clinical care.

Release Date: December 22, 2006; Expiration Date: March 30, 2007

NIMH Program Announcements

Since the beginning of January 2007, NIMH has published more than 20 program announcements highlighting areas of research interest, which span topics in genetics, basic neuroscience, behavioral science, translational research, interventions, and mental health services research. The NIMH website has a full listing of these program announcements.

NIH Roadmap Initiatives

The NIH Roadmap is a set of progressive initiatives that seek to transform all of biomedical research and accelerate its discoveries. All NIH Institutes, including NIMH, participate in the Roadmap, and funding opportunities are open to all investigators.

2007 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program (DP2)

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, created this year, addresses two important goals: stimulating highly innovative research and supporting promising new investigators. New investigators may have exceptionally innovative research ideas, but not the required preliminary data to fare well in the traditional peer review system. As part of its commitment to increasing the success of new investigators, NIH has created the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative approaches that have the potential to produce an unusually high impact. The New Innovator Award program complements the more traditional R01 mechanism, which continues to be the primary source of funding for new investigators.

Release Date: March 9, 2007; Expiration Date: May 23, 2007

NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiatives

The Neuroscience Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 15 NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system. The Blueprint aims to develop research tools, resources, and training and to make them available to the neuroscience community.

III. Future Research Directions

National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives

This listing of potential future initiatives is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and of potential upcoming announcements to solicit that research. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing are not certain and depend on sufficient funding. The titles and brief descriptions are consistent with the information available at the time of concept clearance. The resultant FOAs may differ from the concepts in the final wording of their titles or other aspects.

To send questions about a specific concept, follow the “Submit Comments” link at the bottom of the description.

Related Information

Summaries of NIMH-Sponsored Scientific Meetings

Research workshops and scientific meetings are some of the best forums in which to identify research gaps and to stimulate new areas of mental health research. Below are brief descriptions of meetings that NIMH has sponsored over the past several months. You should send questions about a specific meeting to the program contact listed in the description.

IV. Update on Electronic Submission of Grant Applications

As of February 5, 2007, R01 applications must be submitted electronically through the NIH grants portal. The “Research Project Grant (Parent R01)” funding opportunity announcement for R01 applications has been published for applicants who are not responding to a specific initiative to obtain the SF424 forms for electronic submission. NIMH has also reissued many of its R01 announcements for specific research areas; the application packages for these announcements may be downloaded also. The NIH GUIDE to Grants and Contracts and the Electronic Submission website will post the latest news on this continuing process.

Several other notable changes accompanying the conversion to the electronic R01 include:

  1. As of January 2007, new competing R01s have the following new receipt dates: February 5, June 5, and October 5. Amended applications will be due on March 5, July 5, and November 5. Other grant mechanisms have differing submission dates.
  2. As of January 3, 2007, appendix materials have new limits. One major change is that publications that are publicly available may not be included in full in the appendix, but rather the URLs or NIH PubMed Central submission numbers should be included. See NIH GUIDE Notice NOT-OD-07-018.
  3. As of February 5, 2007, NIH will allow applicants and their institutions to identify more than one primary investigator (PI). This new policy has been referred to as the Multiple PI initiative.

V. Recent NIMH News Releases

Please help us spread the word about the results of NIMH funding by acknowledging our support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications. NIMH has two primary methods of getting the word out:

  • Press releases — promoted through distribution to major media; posted on the NIMH website
  • Science updates — highlight recently published findings; also posted on the NIMH website

These are all also distributed to the public through the NIMH Listserv, which now has more than 20,000 subscribers.

If you have a manuscript accepted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact your NIMH program director to discuss the possibility of a news release or other forms of dissemination.