NORDP Liaison Report: Society for Neuroscience

Annual Meeting Report: Special News Related to NIH Early Stage Investigators

Inês Tomás Pereira, Research Development and Support Specialist at Brown University’s Carney Institute for Brain Science, serves as a NORDP liaison to the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), where she has been a member for 15 years.  She recently attended the SfN Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, and offers the following summary.

The SfN annual meeting typically gathers almost 30,000 people for a five-day conference covering all aspects of neuroscience, with hundreds of concurrent lectures, symposia, minisymposia, nanosymposia, posters sessions, and professional development workshops. This year’s conference was special because the Director of Pereira’s institute, Diane Lipscombe, was also the President of SfN.

The session most relevant for NORDP members was entitled “Optimize Your Grant Application: News You Can Use From the NIH.” This session was targeted at Early Stage Investigators (ESI) and included information that was useful broadly to all grant applicants and research development professionals. The first presentation included advice from a representative from the NIH Center for Scientific Review, explaining the review process at NIH generally.

A senior member of NIMH provided statistics for NIMH funding for FY19 ($1.87B for FY19) and stated that the institute expects a relative increase in appropriations for next year. The R61/R33 program was highlighted as a mechanism that is being used to fund novel interventions. In regard to funding priorities for the NIMH, suicide prevention continues to be a topic of interest. In addition, RD professionals can find upcoming concept clearances from NIMH Council meetings for RFAs, Pas, and RFPs here. Specifically for ESI, the institute highlighted their NIMH BRAINS initiative, which is similar to the NIH DP2 and DP5 awards.

NINDS staff presented next. This is the largest of the neuroscience-related NIH institutes, with a budget of $2.27B in FY19 (~60% R01, ~10% BRAIN Initiative). The institute has reported a decrease in funding of basic research, and their analysis indicates that there is a comparable decrease in applications in that area. They would like to see those numbers increase and strongly stated that NINDS research does not need to be disease related. The main special initiatives at the Institute continue to be the BRAIN Initiative, efforts in Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias research (partnering with NIA), and the new HEAL Initiative (with NIDA) to enhance pain management and improve treatments for opioid misuse and addiction. The strongest message to ESI was that the institute has a payline boost for ESI only for R01 mechanisms, not R21, R03 or U01 (or multi-PI proposals with a non-ESI PI). NINDS encourages early career researchers to apply through R01 mechanisms, highlighting that alignment with large initiatives may further help their funding chances.

The session continued with a presentation from the NIA. Their main focus in the neurosciences space is predictably in Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias. The NIA general payline is 20%-23% depending on funding mechanism, but it is 28%-31% for AD/ADRD topics. These have temporarily been reduced due to the continuing resolution that the NIH is operating under. The NIA then highlighted three new R03 small research grant calls in AD/ADRD: PAS-19-391, PAS-19-392, and PAS-19-393. Their strong message to ESI was to utilize all resources available. The NIH generally encourages researchers to contact institute personnel to ask questions about funding mechanisms and the fit of their research to the different Institutes.

The session closed with a presentation from a NIDA senior staff member. NIDA currently has a $1.4B budget, of which ~$264M is dedicated to AIDS research and ~$250M to opioid-related research. New institute interests focus on the effect of cannabis on the most vulnerable populations: prenatal, adolescents, and older adults. NIDA highlighted that different NIH institutes may fund different aspects of cannabis studies, so it is crucial to check with each agency to ensure that the proposal fits their mandates. Their opioid funding efforts are aggregated under the HEAL Initiative. Finally, NIDA highlighted the ABCD Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development program and emphasized that this is an open science effort, so data is available for further studies.

If anyone has any questions regarding SfN, the recent annual meeting, or if you are also a member of SfN and would like to connect Ines, send an email to ines_tomas_pereira@brown.edu.