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OER Unveils NIH Reinventing
Government Agenda for FY 1998

By MaryJo Hoeksema

The "reinventing government" movement is alive and prospering at NIH. Proof of its vitality was evident at a recent meeting of the extramural program management committee (EPMC), where Dr. Wendy Baldwin, NIH deputy director for extramural research, and Geoffrey Grant, director, Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration, unveiled the NIH extramural reinvention priorities for fiscal year 1998. The presentation highlighted initiatives that the Office of Extramural Research, in partnership with other institutes and centers, has selected this year for development, testing and, in some cases, execution. The goal of each initiative is to reduce administrative burdens, enhance NIH interactions with the research community, and facilitate science.

"The NIH reinvention plan for fiscal year 1998 is exciting because it embodies a wide range of projects that are in various stages of development," said Baldwin. "Some of the initiatives are ready for implementation throughout the agency while others are still in the initial stages of design, awaiting input from NIH staff. That is why IC participation is so critical to the success of this year's priority reinvention initiatives."

NIH has been fully engaged in the reinventing government effort since 1994, when the Office of Extramural Research was designated a "reinvention laboratory" by the National Performance Review. Since that year, NIH has implemented a number of its priority reinvention initiatives including Streamlined Review, Simplified Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP), and "Just-in-Time" information submission. As part of its reinventing government agenda, NIH has also expanded its use of the World Wide Web to disseminate public information and to deploy services such as "Edison," a Web-based system grantee organizations can use to report, monitor, and track inventions derived from federally funded research. In this vein, NIH has successfully developed and begun pilot testing Electronic Research Administration (ERA) -- a series of initiatives that will eventually make electronic the entire grants administration life cycle of business processes. In 1998, NIH will expand its pilot testing of three ERA initiatives: electronic submission of the grant application shell, electronic notification of grant award, and electronic status of pending applications. In addition, later this spring, the NIH awards database, Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP), will be deployed to the Web and pilot-tested with NIH staff. Public deployment will follow later this summer.

As discussed before the EPMC, the cornerstone of the 1998 NIH reinvention agenda is an initiative to expand implementation of several pilot projects that shorten the time from receipt of application to award from 9 months to approximately 5 months for the most meritorious applications. The Expediting Receipt to Award initiative consists of several complementary components including expedited council review, preaward grants management review, and on-time information submission. At the EPMC meeting, Grant invited all institutes interested in testing these processes to sign onto this initiative. Those institutes volunteering to do so would be designated "model institutes" by OER and would become members of the NIH reinvention core working group.

At the meeting, institutes were informed about ongoing priority reinvention initiatives also contained in this year's agenda including progress reporting, scientific coding and modular research grants. This year, NIH will be collaborating on a project with the National Science Foundation so a pilot group of NIH grantees can submit electronic updates on their scientific progress and research accomplishments. With respect to scientific coding, OER will be working with interested ICs to post their indexing and coding system on CRISP. Finally, regarding the Modular Research Grant proposal, which would simplify the application and award process by requiring applicants to request total direct costs in modules of $25,000, a recommendation for implementation will be reviewed by NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus and the IC directors later this spring.

More information about NIH reinvention activities is available on the OER home page at:

Fully Implemented Extramural Reinvention Initiatives

Streamlined Review-Scientific review groups now use this process to identify the pool of applications that are most meritorious and warrant further discussion. Coincided with implementation of simplified summary statements directly incorporating reviewers' critiques.

Streamlined Requests for Grants Administration Information- Under certain grant mechanisms, (e.g., K awards and RFAs), applicants may submit certain information "just-in-time" for the award, when it is most accurate, timely, and useful to NIH.

Edison-Grantee organizations can now use this secure, interactive Web site for reporting, monitoring, and tracking inventions derived from federally funded research. More than 75 inventions are reported to Edison each week. Visit

Electronic NIH Guide-The extramural community can now find its premiere source of information regarding funding and policy announcements on the World Wide Web. In January 1998, the annual guide pages were accessed more than 100,000 times. Visit

SNAP-NIH has instituted this Simplified Noncompeting Award Process for the majority of noncompeting continuation awards. The electronic version (e-SNAP) is coming soon.

Accelerated Amendment Review-NCI and NIAID have implemented a process for expediting the submission of amended applications.

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