Thursday, June 13, 2013

Unfunded? Repurpose Your Application

In the event your application doesn't fare well, e.g., scores outside the payline, keep this in mind: just because it was not funded doesn't necessarily mean it's not useable.

Before discarding it, consider repurposing it since you can sometimes breathe new life into an unfunded application.

Here we give you some basics on how to do that along with some advice on whether going the repurposing route is right for you.

Note: repurposing is just one of three basic options you have when your application is unfunded. For the other two, see Options if Your Application Isn't Funded, linked below.

Repurpose or Start Fresh?

Before we talk about how to repurpose, let's address whether you should. Sometimes an application may be so flawed or unfixable that repurposing wouldn't be worth it.

To decide whether that's the case, look dispassionately at your summary statement and assess what reviewers thought were defects in your application.

For instance, was it criticized for a lack of significance, critical preliminary data, or expert collaborators? Was it because of a weak central hypothesis? Or perhaps you applied to a request for applications (RFA) or program announcement (PA) and your application was deemed to be nonresponsive.

Talk with your program officer to get the answers and see if he or she has further insights. Together, determine whether the better approach is repurposing or starting from scratch. We advise you not to make this decision on your own.

Weigh Your Repurposing Options

If you opt to repurpose your unfunded application, you have a few ways in which to do that.

1. Submit an investigator-initiated application after responding unsuccessfully to an RFA.

In this case, you may not need to modify your application much other than to address weaknesses that reviewers identified. Also, be sure to remove references to the RFA and comments that changes were made in response to a previous review. Make sure to follow the directions in the investigator-initiated application funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for page limits, etc.

2. Respond to an RFA after unsuccessfully submitting an investigator-initiated application.

You'll likely need to make additional changes to align your application as closely as possible to the science being sought in the RFA. Read the FOA carefully to ensure that your application is responsive to the initiative.

In case you can't find an appropriate RFA, you may want to keep an eye out for contract solicitations, especially broad agency announcements in the area of science covered in your first application.

3. Apply for a different activity code, e.g., repurpose an R01 as an exploratory/developmental research grant (R21).

It goes without saying that not all activity codes are alike. Still, should you choose this route, make sure you check the objectives and characteristics (such as those listed below) of the new activity code you've selected. This way, you'll know how to make your unfunded application fit a different activity code.

If you decide to go from an R01 to an R21, for instance, be aware that the two have significant differences, such as, project period, budget limits, review criteria, and page limits.

To help mold your R01 into an R21, select a Specific Aim from your original application that is the most likely to be doable within the R21's allowed time and budget. Also, we recommend having strong preliminary data to support the R21's research objectives, which tend to be more risky than an R01's.

For more R21 information, see the relevant links below.

Applying: What to Do

When repurposing, create a new application (not a resubmission) as follows:

  • Find a new funding opportunity that fits with the any of the three situations described above.
  • Transfer any information you can retain into the new Grant Application Package—revise only to meet the requirements of the new announcement, e.g., page and funding limits.
  • Submit a new application:
    • Check the "New" box on the face page.
    • Do not:
      • Include a progress report or introduction.
      • Highlight reviewer comments in the Research Plan.
      • Refer to the application as a resubmission anywhere.
  • Use the receipt date for a new application—for an investigator-initiated application, go to NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

If at any point you need help or have questions, contact your program officer.

Related Links
Strategy for NIH Funding

Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP