How to get your hands on some stimulus

Photo by sgw on Flickr

Photo by sgw on Flickr

If you weren’t stimulated enough by my recent post about Stimulomics, I’ve got some more goodies to get you going. My advisor took the first half hour of our last group meeting to give us a giddy “civics” lesson. The reason for his exuberance soon became clear: thanks to the stimulus package, the NIH needs to spend a LOT of money, and spend it FAST.

How much money, you ask? Less than 2% of the entire stimulus but that still translates to a hefty sum. With the stimulus upwards of $800B, NIH is getting a little over $10B that it must spend by the end of two years – with the aim of creating jobs alongside accelerating research. (The NSF is getting some, too, but was ignored for the purposes of this discussion, probably because of the interests of the audience.) Apparently, there are those who doubt that the NIH is capable of spending that much money, and so the grant fruit, which usually clings tightly to the funding tree, is now weighed down on its branches, ripe for the picking.

A fair amount of the NIH stimulus is going towards renovating the NIH campus in Bethesda and updating its infrastructure, but the majority is going towards 4 major classes of grants (meaning there’s something – and maybe multiple somethings – for everyone). Update (thanks Andrew for the heads up): Except for the first type, all grants have funding allotments and due dates specific to their funding agency (of which there are dozens), so check this list for all the details. The amounts below – except for the Challenge grants – are quoted for the NLM.

  1. Challenge grants – $500K x 2 yrs, total award $200M
    Due 4/27/09
    I mentioned these in the Stimulomics post, but to recap briefly, these are peer-reviewed grants for new projects, of which the NIH wants to fund at least 200. There are something like 800 acceptable topics (PDF), so I wasn’t kidding when I said there was something for everyone. The research portion of these grants isn’t supposed to exceed 12 pages, so you’re almost crazy NOT to write one.
  2. Competitive revisions – ~$500K x 2yrs, total award $7M
    Due 4/21/09
    These are grants that significantly expand the scope or research protocol of currently funded projects. Itching to apply your method in a new area? Go one step further with your research aims? Want to fund more students or add another group as a collaborator to explore a related direction? This grant is for you. These are peer-reviewed, and I’m not sure what the page limit is, but it can’t be more than for Challenge grants.

  3. Administrative supplements – $100K x 2 yrs, total award $15M
    Due 5/10/10 5/15/10 (rolling basis)
    These are smaller grants to accelerate existing aims of currently funded research. So if you need to buy hardware, or to hire new people (or contractors like Stimulomics), this grant is yours for the taking. About half of the total award is going towards career and training, so NLM training grants can apply for slots that were previously withheld and terminal phase K99s can apply for 1 year extensions or $50K supplements. The key here is that there is no peer review; instead, the application is reviewed by the program officer for your existing grant. And they really want you to apply for one, wink wink. Best of all, the grant is limited to 2-5 pages.

  4. Summer research supplements – total award $1M
    Due 5/10/10 5/01/10 (rolling basis)
    These are grants that supplement existing funded projects for the purposes of providing summer research opportunities for students (high school and undergraduate) and science educators. Interestingly, the topic of priority is… *drumroll*… informatics! And of course, we all love science education. :)

To give one last plug for Stimulomics, the thing that’s attractive about hiring contractors is that it’s a deliberately temporary relationship, which is perfect for these two year grants. Who wants to hire people full time only to have to lay them off after two years? Awk.ward.

At any rate, you have to admit all these options are tempting. It almost – almost! – makes me want to stay in academia. So all you folks who are, go get yourself some stimulus!


8 Responses to How to get your hands on some stimulus

  1. Jim H says:

    The Challenge grants are also open to Industry. It helps if you have an academic collaborator, almost necessary. One of the key elements of the grants is the PI must demonstrate “expertise in the field”. Kinda hard to do when you’ve been in industry for 20 years and never published a paper, except through your own trade journals & marketing literature.

    So no worries, you can still go after some of the money even if you’re not in the hallowed halls of Stanford.

  2. Deadline corrections:

    Administrative supplements: 5/15/2009
    Summer education supplements: 5/1/2009

  3. shwu says:

    Thanks, Iddo – should be fixed now. All those 5s, 1s, and 10s…

    @Jim, you’re right, but the motivation is much lower once I leave academia ;) …

  4. Andrew says:

    I think each NIH institute has a different policy on the administrative supplements. For example, NIGMS has no official deadline and will consider any applications on a rolling basis ( Also, I think the amounts for #2, #3, and #4 above must be larger (right?). At the top of the corresponding RFAs (for example,, it says that $1 billion will be devoted to these three mechanisms. Great post!

  5. shwu says:

    @Andrew, thanks, and yes that does appear to be the case. So many institutes! So much money! So much confusion! The numbers I quoted are actually specific just to the NLM (I think).

    A list of the different funding agencies and their own allotments for grant types 2-4 are here:

    The $200M total for Challenge Grants appears to be cross-agency (I think).

  6. tyler says:

    Are international students on temporary work visas (who just graduated) eligible to receive Administrative supplements? Anything in the guidelines that mentions non-US citizens?

    Thanks for the info!

  7. shwu says:

    @tyler, as far as I know, Administrative supplements and Competitive revisions are relevant only for grants that are already funded, so that’s the first hurdle. For Challenge grants, I’m not sure if non-US citizens are eligible but I didn’t see anything that says you can’t – just that the institution you’re affiliated with must be in the US. But I would contact someone overseeing these grants to get accurate information:

  8. tyler says:

    Thanks for your input and insight shwu!! It is much appreciated!!

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