How is COVID-19 affecting
NIH research?

Key takeaways from an ASBMB webinar
Sarina Neote
April 22, 2020

To help explain the impact of COVID-19-related interruptions to research at the National Institutes of Health, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology hosted a webinar with Michael Lauer, deputy director for Extramural Research at the NIH and Jodi Black, deputy director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research.

Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Lauer and Black both said that the NIH is doing everything it can to be an aid and resource to scientists during this pandemic. Below are the key takeaways from the webinar, which can be watched here.

Funding mechanisms and grant extensions

  • The NIH has no plans to extend the May 1 deadline for grant applications. However, the standard late application policy remains in place, which allows an investigator to request a two-week deadline extension by submitting a cover letter with their application.

  • If a grant recipient wants to rearrange the funds in their budget to cover unintended costs or shift resources, they need prior approval from their program official.

  • If a grant recipient’s lab instruments are damaged because they had to shut down their labs due to COVID-19, the recipient can request an administrative supplement. The recipient must contact their program official for advice on when to apply for such a supplement.

  • Training grant funding can be used to support predoctoral and postdoctoral candidates for a longer period than stipulated in the original grant. More information about this can be found in the NIH’s FAQ section.

Supporting early-stage and junior investigators

  • The NIH has implemented maximum telework for early-stage investigators/junior investigators who are affected by COVID-19, giving them more flexibility to work from home.

  • The NIH recommends that recipients of early-stage investigator awards apply for extensions if the grant time period is coming to an end in the near future to prevent any lapse in funding. Grant recipients should apply for an extension even if their institution remains closed.

Continuing to pay staff with NIH grant funds

  • NIH grant funds can be used to pay researchers' salaries if the grant recipient’s institution has policies allowing that.
  • If a staff person on an NIH grant is pulled away to work on COVID-related efforts that are not supported by NIH funding, a hold must be put on the research grant funding for that staff member.

NIH officials understand that the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic are hindering scientific research, Lauer said.

“Everybody is in the same boat,” he said. “All the federal funding agencies are doing their best to be accommodating and as flexible as possible. We all have, as our top priority, to support the next generation of researchers.”

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Sarina Neote

Sarina Neote is ASBMB's director of public affairs.

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