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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for The Health Disparities and Health Equity Research Initiative

General FAQs for The Health Disparities and Health Equity Research Initiative
What is the Common Fund?

The NIH Common Fund supports bold scientific programs that catalyze discovery across the NIH mission. It is managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination within the Office of the NIH Director, in collaboration with the NIH Institutes and Centers. Common Fund programs accelerate emerging science, enhance the biomedical research workforce, remove research roadblocks, or support innovative, high impact science in ways that no other entity is likely or able to do. Read more about the NIH Common Fund.

What are the goals of the Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative?

The goals of this initiative are to:

  1. foster the development, testing, and dissemination of innovative interventions focused on elimination of health disparities broadly and in high priority areas, and
  2. increase the competitiveness of investigators and the research base dedicated to health disparities research at minority serving institutions.
How does this initiative fit in to other NIH efforts in health disparities and health equity research?

NIH is taking bold steps to end structural racism and racial inequities throughout the biomedical research enterprise. Through a new initiative called UNITE, NIH has begun to identify short-term and long-term actions to address these issues. Part of ending racial inequities in biomedical research will be to ensure NIH-supported research benefits the health of all populations, especially those whose health is negatively impacted by racism. For this reason, conducting new research into health disparities, minority health, and health equity is an important goal of UNITE. In coordination with UNITE, the NIH Common Fund and UNITE team members have developed the Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative. The Common Fund will also begin a separate effort in health disparities research planned to launch in fiscal year 2023.

Additionally, every NIH Institute and Center (IC) supports research into the causes of and potential interventions to address for health disparities within their mission. However, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) is the lead institute on research to improve minority health and reduce health disparities. NIH recognizes the need to increase the proportion of research on minority health and health disparities across the NIH ICs to address public health issues affecting all populations in the United States. Learn more about NIMHD’s efforts and learn more about UNITE’s efforts in Health Equity Research.
 

The Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) presentation of this initiative refers to it being part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program. Should clinically focused research be high risk? Does that mean there’s a risk to participants?

“High Risk” in this context does not refer to risks posed to research participants. Instead, the name of the High-Risk, High-Reward program refers to the type of science supported, which is often more innovative and paradigm-shifting than traditional research studies. In this initiative, novel interventions that could have a major impact in addressing health disparities and advancing health equity are sought. Preliminary data are not required. This is intended to foster innovative ideas from all applicants and to encourage investigators who have not necessarily had prior funding in this area to consider working on these critical issues. Each project will involve close involvement with NIH staff. As with all NIH-funded studies involving people, any risks to participants will be carefully evaluated by institutional or tribal review boards and explained to participants so that their consent is fully informed.

The Common Fund only supports programs for a maximum of 10 years. Why is the Common Fund the right approach to support this initiative that is addressing long-standing challenges?

The Common Fund is a short-term source of support to bolster innovation, solve challenges, and address emergent opportunities in areas of trans-NIH interest. This initiative is one component of a larger NIH strategy, called UNITE, that aims to end structural racism and racial inequities throughout the biomedical research enterprise. Across NIH, the Institutes and Centers are planning for long term, sustained health disparities research.

In addition to the current initiative, the Common Fund is also launching a strategic planning process for a separate UNITE program in health disparities research to begin in fiscal year 2023. The strategic planning process will include a careful assessment of the current landscape of health disparities research and engagement with stakeholder communities. This potential program likely will involve multiple initiatives through which awardees work together on collective goals that can be met within 10 years.
 

If I have additional questions about this initiative who should I contact?

You can submit all questions to the Common Fund’s Health Disparities Research Initiative mailbox at CFHealthDisparities@od.nih.gov. To receive updates about this initiative, sign up for our listserv: CFHealthDisparitiesResearch-List.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for RFA-RM-22-001

General Information about the Funding Opportunity Announcement
What types of research are encouraged for this funding opportunity? What types of research are required?

This funding opportunity seeks to support projects that would majorly impact in developing, implementing, or disseminating innovative and effective interventions to prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and advance health equity. Research addressing community-prioritized research questions, cross-cutting issues such as social determinants of health across sectors, multiple levels and systems that contribute to health disparities, and/or priority areas of multiple NIH Institutes and Centers are particularly encouraged. NIH has a special interest in developing, understanding, and deploying interventions that address social determinants of health disparities. Although a formative observational component may be necessary for some projects, each project is required to include an intervention component. Projects that include multilevel interventions are strongly encouraged.

Projects must clearly demonstrate a compelling potential to produce a major impact in addressing health disparities and advancing health based on the strength of the logic. To be considered transformative, projects should reflect ideas substantially different from mainstream concepts and have high potential to lead to major improvements in health through the development, implementation, or dissemination of highly innovative interventions to address health disparities and advance health equity. Innovative interventions could take many forms, including technology. Note that "innovation" can include development and testing of a novel intervention; new implementation and/or dissemination strategies for evidence-based interventions; and/or novel examination of program and policy interventions designed to address health disparities and advance health equity that provide innovative insight into their effectiveness.

What are the eligibility criteria for RFA-RM-22-001??

To be eligible for this FOA, the applicant institution must be a domestic institution located in the United States and its territories which:

  1. have received less than $25 million dollars per year (total costs) from NIH Research Project Grants (RPGs) in each of the preceding two fiscal years, calculated using NIH RePORTER; and
  2. award undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate degrees in biomedical sciences; and
  3. have a historical and current mission to educate students from any of the populations that have been identified as underrepresented in biomedical research as defined by the National Science Foundation NSF, see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/) (i.e., African Americans or Blacks, Hispanic or Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, U.S. Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities) or has a documented record of: (1) recruiting, training and/or educating, and graduating underrepresented students as defined by NSF (see above), which has resulted in increasing the institution's contribution to the national pool of graduates from underrepresented backgrounds who pursue biomedical research careers and, (2) for institutions that deliver health care services, providing clinical services to medically underserved communities.
For this funding opportunity, what does “transformative” mean?

To be considered transformative, projects should reflect ideas substantially different from mainstream concepts and have high potential to lead to major improvements in health through the development, implementation, or dissemination of a highly innovative interventions to address health disparities and advance health equity. Several key features of this funding opportunity are designed to emphasize to applicants and peer reviewers that these applications are very different from conventional, investigator-initiated research applications. These applications focus on the significance of the problem, the novelty of the hypothesis, the proposed methodology, and/or the magnitude of the potential impact rather than on preliminary data or experimental details. Reviewers will be instructed to emphasize the significance and innovation of the application in their evaluations.

­What is meant by the requirement that the project must be designed to have deliverables by the end of the project period that have the potential for transformative impact? ­

NIH expects these projects to show evidence of transformative impact within the project period. This does not mean that all impacts must occur within the project period, as some health outcomes might take many years to emerge. However, the project's transformative potential should occur within the project period. The project should not be framed as initiating a line of research that will have the potential for transformative impact only after subsequent periods of support.

Can someone at NIH provide input on my idea and let me know if it is a good fit for this award?

As a first step, potential applicants should read the Funding Opportunities carefully to ensure that their project meets all of the described requirements. For example, a project must include an intervention component, and the intervention must aim to prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and inequities. Projects may address any disease, condition, or health-related topic with demonstrated disparities or inequities. They must focus on one or more of the NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities in the US, as listed in the Funding Opportunities.

Applicants should also carefully consider the transformative and innovative nature of their proposal. Is the project innovative – does it reflect ideas different from mainstream concepts, is there a high degree of novelty in the hypothesis and/or methodology? Would the project, if successful, lead to a major improvement in health through the development, implementation, and/or dissemination of interventions to address health disparities and advance health equity? Applicants must demonstrate to reviewers why their project is transformative and innovative ,and ensure that the reviewers understand their vision and the project's potential impact of the project.

NIH staff can provide information on the scope and intent of the Funding Opportunity. Ultimately, it is up to the applicants to decide whether their project is a good fit based on the scope and intent. The external review will evaluate the merit of the applications. Questions about the scope and intent of this funding opportunity announcement may be submitted to CFHealthDisparities@nih.gov.

What is the U01 mechanism?

The U01 mechanism is a cooperative agreement mechanism. A cooperative agreement mechanism is used when there will be substantial Federal scientific or programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that, after award, NIH scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate, or participate in project activities. See Section VI.2 of the funding opportunity announcement for additional information about the substantial involvement for this opportunity.

How should I coordinate with NIH staff to prepare my U01 application?

There is no need to coordinate with NIH staff when preparing your application. NIH staff involvement in a cooperative agreement will happen post-award. However, all applicants should carefully read the Terms and Conditions of Award in Section VI.2 of the Funding Opportunity to be sure they understand and are willing to accept these Terms and Conditions in the event they receive an award.

What are the roles of the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PI(s)/PD(s)), NIH Program Officer (PO), and NIH Project Scientist (PS)?

The roles of the PI(s)/PD(s), PO, and PS are described in the Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award, in Section VI.2 of the funding opportunity. Please read these Terms and Conditions carefully to fully understand these roles. Under the cooperative agreement, the NIH aim to support and stimulate the recipients' activities by involvement in and otherwise working jointly with the award recipients in a partnership role; it is not to assume direction, prime responsibility, or adopt a dominant role in the activities. Consistent with this concept, the dominant role and prime responsibility resides with the recipients for the project as a whole, however specific tasks and activities may be shared among the recipients and the NIH.

How will the NIH Program Officer (PO) and Project Scientist (PS) be assigned?

The PO will be from the NIH Common Fund, which is provides for this initiative. The PS will be from the most scientifically relevant NIH Institute or Center.

I am interested in proposing a project that includes an intervention for one of the health disparities populations listed in the Funding Opportunity. Is it acceptable for the project to focus on a specific population for which the intervention would have significant impact or do these Funding Opportunity require a broad impact across populations?

The Funding Opportunity require a focus on one or more of the designated health disparities populations. Focusing on one population with the potential for significant impact is within scope.

How many awards will be made?

Approximately 3-5 awards are anticipated, contingent upon availability of funds and a sufficient number of meritorious application

Who should I contact if I have further questions?

If, after reviewing the funding opportunities, website information, and frequently asked questions, potential applicants still have questions, please reach out to NIH staff. Scientific/research questions can be sent to Cheryl Anne Boyce (CFHealthDisparities@nih.gov), peer review questions can be sent to Aruna Behera (beheraak@mail.nih.gov), and financial/grants management questions can be sent to Dede Rutberg (rutbergd@mail.nih.gov).

Eligibility
Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for this FOA, the applicant institution must be a domestic institution located in the United States and its territories which:

  1. have received less than $25 million dollars per year (total costs) from NIH Research Project Grants (RPGs) in each of the preceding two fiscal years, calculated using NIH RePORTER; and
  2.  award undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate degrees in biomedical sciences; and
  3. have a historical and current mission to educate students from any of the populations that have been identified as underrepresented in biomedical research as defined by the National Science Foundation NSF, see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/) (i.e., African Americans or Blacks, Hispanic or Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, U.S. Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities) or has a documented record of: (1) recruiting, training and/or educating, and graduating underrepresented students as defined by NSF (see above), which has resulted in increasing the institution's contribution to the national pool of graduates from underrepresented backgrounds who pursue biomedical research careers and, (2) for institutions that deliver health care services, providing clinical services to medically underserved communities.
Can teams of researchers apply?

Yes, multi-PI applications and applications from multi- or inter-disciplinary teams of investigators are eligible to apply.

My colleagues and I are interested in submitting a multi-PI application for RFA-RM-22-001. Must all PIs be from eligible institutions?

Yes, all PIs on a multi-PI application for RFA-RM-22-001 must be from institutions that meet the eligibility criteria stated in the funding opportunity.

In RFA-RM-22-001, one of the eligibility criteria is a limit on the amount of NIH Research Project Grant (RPG) funding received by an institution in each of the two preceding fiscal years. How is “institution” defined? Is it the entire academic institution, a school/department/center within the institution, or an individual researcher?

It depends on how the organization is structured. If there is a single Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, single Institutional Profile File (IPF) number, and single Entity Identification Number (EIN) that is used for all components of the organization, then they are the same institution and the funding cap would be calculated based on the organization as a whole. However, if the school/department/center has its own DUNS, IPF, and EIN, then they are separate organizations and funding can be calculated for individual components with their own unique numbers. The funding cap should not be calculated at the level of the researcher, as this is an institution-level criterion.

Can Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) apply for this Funding Opportunity?

Researchers from all career stages are invited to apply. Applications from ESIs will be reviewed along with all other applications; however, reviewers will be informed of ESI status. As the Funding Opportunity do not require preliminary data and publication history is not the only acceptable measure of researcher productivity, there are no special review criteria for ESIs.

Are foreign institutions eligible to apply?

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are not eligible to apply.

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are not eligible to apply.

Foreign components, defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are allowed.

Budget
What budget and project period should I request?

Budgets should be well justified and commensurate with project needs over the project period. Well-justified requests for support of larger research projects may be proposed (up to the amount made available for the entire initiative). Additionally, requests in excess of $250,000 in direct costs in any year require detailed (non-modular) budgets in addition to compelling justification.

Do I need NIH approval before submitting a budget exceeding $500,000 in annual direct costs?

No, because the funding opportunity specify that large budgets may be requested, prior NIH approval will NOT be required for submission of proposals with budgets exceeding $500,000 in direct costs.

Application
Where can I find resources on developing a competitive application?

Helpful information on applying for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be found here. These resources provide general information about applying for NIH funding. Always read the funding opportunity announcement carefully for program-specific requirements. Please note that RFA-RM-22-001 have specific requirements in order for applications to be responsive.

Is preliminary data required?

No, but if provided, they will be evaluated. Reviewers will focus on the challenge and approach to judge innovation, novelty, impact, and technical merit. Preliminary data may help convince reviewers that the approach is logical and potentially worthwhile. However, be aware that there is no Preliminary Studies section in applications for this funding opportunity. If you have preliminary data, they should be briefly summarized in the Research Strategy section of the application. Also keep in mind that if the preliminary data suggests that success is certain, this may be an indication that the project is not new, exceptionally innovative, or high-risk and therefore not well suited for this initiative.

Do I need to submit a Specific Aims page?

Yes. However, as indicated in the funding opportunities, this should be used to address the Challenge/Innovation/Impact and Insight/Rationale topics and not primarily to list specific objectives of the research.

Proposals aren’t required to have preliminary data, and the transformative/innovative nature of the project may mean that the research doesn’t work out the way we originally planned. What happens if that is the case? Should we have contingency plans?

Note that the special instructions for the Research Strategy plan request that applicants summarize what they believe to be the major challenges or risks in the project, and alternate approaches that may need to be pursued. The Funding Opportunity also state that possible alternative paths that may be followed at critical junctures in the project plan should be indicated on the timeline.

Should the research plan for the first two years of the proposed project be different than the remaining years? Are the first two years a pilot phase?

There is no requirement that the first two years of the award be different than the remaining years. There is no required planning/pilot phase. However, if a pilot phase is necessary for a particular research project, that would be allowable if scientifically justified.

Do interventions need to be well-defined, or can they be developed in the early stages of the project through a process designed to gather input from relevant stakeholders?

Interventions can be developed during the early stage of the project. Applicants should clearly describe the goal and potential impact of the intervention, as well as the process to gather, integrate, and leverage community input. There should be a strong rationale for how the intervention will be developed. This will help reviewers to understand that the applicants have thought deeply about the project and have a plan in place to ensure development of a robust intervention. Awardees will need to obtain written approval from NIH for changes in any substantive changes to the project.

Can funding be requested for partnerships that are not defined yet, but which will be determined based on information gathered in the initial stages of the project?

Yes, partnerships that are to be determined can be proposed. However, please keep in mind that since reviewers will not be able to judge the strengths or robustness of these partnerships, applicants should provide strong rationale for how the partnerships will be determined and the purpose of the partnerships. This will help reviewers to understand that the applicants have thought deeply about the project and have a plan in place to ensure robust partnerships. Awardees will need to obtain written approval from NIH for changes in any substantive changes to the project or changes to the key personnel identified in the Notice of Grant Award.

Projects must include a focus on one or more of the NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities. Could a proposed intervention aim to change the behavior or actions of a non-designated population, if the health-related impacts of the intervention would be on one or more designated health disparities populations?

An intervention that targets a non-designated population, but which is expected to address health disparities and advance health equity in a designated health disparities population may be considered responsive if the project assesses relevant health outcomes in the health disparities populations. Applicants should ensure they assess the impact of the intervention on one or more of the NIH-designated populations experiencing health disparities, and provide the underlying rationale and logic for their approach.

­Would a project focused on interventions for disabled individuals be eligible for this Funding Opportunity?­

This Funding Opportunity require that intervention projects and implementation or dissemination strategies must include a focus on one or more NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities in the US, which include Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, underserved rural populations, and sexual and gender minorities (SGM). At this time, individuals with disabilities are not included in this definition. A project focused on individuals with disabilities may be considered responsive if this population also includes significant numbers of individuals from one or more of the NIH-designated health disparities populations.

Additional information on NIH definitions of health disparities populations can be found on the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities website at: https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/about/strategic-plan/nih-strategic-plan-definitions-and-parameters.html

Will late applications be accepted?

No, as stated in the Funding Opportunity, late applications will not be accepted.

Are resubmissions allowed?

No, as stated in the Funding Opportunity, resubmissions are not allowed.

Is a letter of intent (LOI) required to apply for this award?

LOIs are not required, are not binding, and do not enter into the review of a subsequent application. However, the information that it contains allows NIH staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review. Please RFA-RM-22-001  see for information on submitting LOIs.

Do key personnel from community organizations need to submit an NIH biosketch?

As per the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, biosketches are required for all key personnel.

What must be done before I submit an application to Grants.gov?

It is important that you immediately check with your sponsored research office to determine whether your institution is registered with Grants.gov. Please note that the registration process could take up to six weeks. The institution’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) is responsible for completing the registration process. If your institution is not already registered, it must first register with the System for Award Management and then with Grants.gov. Both the institution and the investigator must also complete a one-time registration in the NIH eRA Commons in order to submit applications to NIH. Institutional officials are responsible for registering investigators in the eRA Commons. You should work with your AOR (also known as the Signing Official in the eRA Commons) to determine your own institution’s process for registration.

Where can I find help registering for Grants.gov?

For help with the Grants.gov registration process, contact Grants.gov customer support at 1-800-518-4726 (Toll Free) or at support@grants.gov. Where can I find help in submitting my application to Grants.gov? For help with the technical aspects of submitting to Grants.gov, check the resources available at Grants.gov. If you need assistance, contact Grants.gov customer support at 1-800-518-4726 (Toll Free) or at support@grants.gov.

Where can I find help in registering for the eRA Commons?

For questions regarding the eRA Commons registration process, contact the eRA Service Desk at 1-866-504-9552 (Toll Free) or 301-402-7469 from Monday–Friday, 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Eastern Time).

How should documents be formatted?

All documents must be in PDF format and cannot exceed page limits (if documents exceed page limits, the application will be considered non-responsive and will not be evaluated). Specific formatting instructions for each document are in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Review
How will applications be reviewed?

Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness and compliance with application instructions by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by relevant NIH program staff. Applications that are incomplete, non-compliant, and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed. Applications will be peer reviewed in a Special Emphasis Panel consisting of reviewers with relevant expertise. The review criteria are described in Section V.1 of the funding opportunity. Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to each FOA.

Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the Council of Councils. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
    • Despite inherent scientific and technical risk, the potential for the research to result in scientific breakthroughs of high significance to one or more health disparity populations o Unusually cross-cutting science
    • Scientific balance in the portfolio of research supported
Are there specialized review criteria for Investigators for this Funding Opportunity?

Yes. Section V of the Funding Opportunity outline the review criteria for investigators, which includes the following tailored criteria:

Because of the unique nature of conducting research in populations experiencing health disparities and inequities, research productivity may not be reflected by research publications but can include contributions to public health such as dissemination of findings to community partners, community outcomes of previous research, and efforts to build relationships and trust with community leaders.

Can the decision of the review panel be appealed?

No, appeals of initial peer review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to the funding opportunity.

How will awards be selected for funding?

The Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Director, NIH, will make the final funding decisions based the results of initial peer review, the recommendations of the Council level of review, programmatic considerations, availability of funds, and consultations with IC Directors.

This page last reviewed on January 25, 2024