It’s no secret that NIH proposal acceptance rates have declined significantly since the turn of the century, -14% from 2001 to 2016 to be exact. (NIH Databook) Additionally, NIH budgets have remained fairly constant, averaging $30.18 Billion from 2008-2015 with 2010 being the highest funding year ($31.036B) and 2013 being the lowest ($29.129B). (NIH Office of Budget)
The figure above from NIH shows the steadily increasing number of competitive applications against a fairly constant number of awards, making it easy to see how award success rates have declined.
So, what can be done to increase funding opportunities for your institution? For starters, enabling your Investigators to focus on the science is key. Automating many of the repetitive, mundane tasks within a proposal application frees up time for your Investigators and their staff to focus on the science. For example, having time to review and give feedback about the research proposal instead of manually entering information over and over. Submitting proposals with stronger science in an era of such high competition and relatively flat NIH research funding budgets is easier with a strong system to system solution. We’ve put together some tips to get you on the path to more funding opportunities through increased submission success.
Ditch Paper Processes
We’ve heard too many stories about laborious paper routing, literally running forms across campus or town at the last minute for review or an ink signature, and sometimes even resulting in missing a deadline so the proposal never gets submitted. Additionally, uploading paper proposals into slow systems and waiting days for confirmation can make watching paint dry seem exciting.
Preparing and submitting proposals the old fashioned way also invites an increased probability of errors or entry of invalid information, often resulting in immediate rejection. This means all of the time, energy and effort spent by administrators and Principal Investigators (PIs) was all for naught. Moving to a system to system (S2S) submission solution can easily solve many of these headaches, giving you more time to correct errors before submission and prepare an increased number of proposals.
Keep Your Budget Preparation Consistent
When caught by reviewers, budget inconsistencies can mean the difference between your award being accepted or denied. A major cause of budget inconsistencies, as you’ve probably experienced, is administrators and PIs working from separate budget spreadsheets with little to no communication. This can absolutely be avoided if you’re using the right electronic research administration solution. Collaboration between PIs and administrators, and working from the same budget can save a great deal of time and prevent costly errors that result in lost funding opportunities.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Ok, so maybe your institution is building, or thinking about building its own S2S submission tool to get away from the burdens of paper processes. This can be an extremely daunting task in both time and expenses. Not only do you have to build the solution, but you have to maintain it. Federal agencies including NIH and NSF update forms and requirements for submission at least once every three years, like the major FORMS-D update that took place in May 2016 and the October 2016 Grants.gov R&R budget forms update affecting near 20 different forms in total. Furthermore, unlike forms that may change every three years, validations from agencies for published forms see changes every year if not multiple times per year.
Keeping up with these changes, while maintaining and upgrading a homegrown system, can be a major challenge for both PIs and administrators when compounded with their already stressful jobs. Wouldn’t it make sense to let someone else stay on top of this and do the heavy lifting for you? More on this can be found in our other blogs: Have Your Cake and Submit It Too and Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Federal Funding.
Submit Successfully the First Time, Every Time
You’re probably thinking “In your dreams!”, but submitting successfully the first time on every proposal is actually feasible if you are armed with the right tools. Manual submissions have been the bane of research administrators’ and PIs’ existence for far too long. As mentioned in tip 1, manually uploading proposals can be time consuming and nerve wracking, and all too often need to be resubmitted with corrections due to errors. But error corrections can only occur if you can resubmit before the filing deadline.
Having up-to-date error checks and validations at hand while developing and reviewing a proposal have become even more important following NIH’s elimination of the error correction window in 2011. With a S2S submission tool that includes real time error checks and validations, research administrators and PIs can confidently submit proposals at a faster pace, increasing the number of funding opportunities for the institution.
Use the Best S2S Solution in the Business
If you couldn’t tell from the first four tips, utilizing a quality S2S submission solution will give your institution the best opportunity for increased proposal submissions and funding opportunities through Grants.gov. When it comes to ditching paper processes, increasing collaboration between administrators and PIs for consistent budget prep, not reinventing the wheel (S2S Solutions) and successful first time submissions on 99% of your proposals, Cayuse 424 is the industry standard. Cayuse 424 includes over 1500 real time error checks and validations with a 99% first time submission success rate. On top of Grants.gov opportunities, Cayuse 424 also covers 99.9% of all funding opportunities on Grants.gov and Research.gov, allowing your institution to take advantage of funding possibilities across the board.