NIAAA and NIDA to have Institutional NRSA Applications Reviewed by a Common Panel of Experts beginning in 2016

In order to increase efficiency, broaden expertise, and enable functional integration of relevant Institutional NRSA Research Training at NIAAA and NIDA, a single Special Emphasis Panel will be set up each year to review all T32 and T35 applications received by the two Institutes. The panel will be jointly managed by staff from NIAAA and NIDA who will ensure that appropriate expertise is included to review the full breadth of research training proposed in all applications, including those applicable to each institute as well as those responsive to multi-substance priority areas. The Special Emphasis Panel will be effective beginning with applications submitted for the May 25, 2016 (non-AIDS) and September 7, 2016 (AIDS) application due dates for January 2017 Councils.

To provide applicants and study section reviewers with a common set of expectations, the following description of the anticipated implementation of the jointly managed Special Emphasis Panel is provided in the form of anticipated questions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.   Will Institute mission-specific training programs (e.g., in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or alcohol related liver disease) be expected to include training for other substances of abuse?

A.   No. There is no mandate to expand a training program to incorporate other substances of abuse. The review will evaluate the significance and quality of the research training based on the stated scientific goals of the training program. 


Q.  Is it appropriate for an already funded training program to incorporate faculty who study other substances of abuse in the renewal application?

A.   Yes, where appropriate to the scientific training goals of the program. When the training addresses compatible scientific areas it could be beneficial to add faculty with expertise in other substances and/or polysubstance use.  In contrast, if the scientific areas are widely divergent (e.g., mechanisms of alcohol-induced liver disease and reward mechanisms of abused drugs) this may not be advisable, unless a strong scientific rationale is provided.


Q.   Are there examples of research areas that could benefit from training in multiple substances/polysubstance use? 

A.    Yes, they span basic to applied research areas, including neuroscience and cellular/molecular biology, medicinal chemistry and medications development, behavioral treatments and treatment targets, clinical trials research, epidemiology, services and implementation research. 


Q.   Will CRAN-related programs or programs that are relevant to both ICs be prioritized over programs that focus on a single IC’s mission?

A.   No.  Programs that are applicable to a single IC remain a priority, as do those with a broader focus on multiple substances and polysubstance use. The intent of a common review panel is to enable fair review of applications from programs that train in multi-substance priority areas, and not to exclude those with a narrower focus.  


Q.   To which Institute should applicants request assignment?

A.   Applicants should request primary assignment based on the focus of their training program.


Q.   If both alcohol and other substance abuse researchers are already part of a training program, which IC assignment should be requested as primary?

A.   The primary assignment will depend on the balance of the expertise of the training investigators and on the relevance of the training areas to the individual Institute.  It would be anticipated that a training program with a majority of alcohol researchers and a record of training alcohol focused trainees would be assigned to NIAAA. Similarly, a training program with a stronger focus and trainee outcomes related to other substances of abuse would be assigned to NIDA. When investigators with expertise in both research areas are involved, the previous support history may also be considered. Applicants should request primary assignment to the appropriate IC and secondary assignment to the other IC (i.e., if NIAAA is the primary IC, NIDA would be the secondary IC, and vice versa). It may be helpful to discuss assignment with program officials in both ICs prior to application submission.


Q.   Is it permissible to submit more than one T32 application in the same review cycle?

A.   Per FOA instructions, applicants should explain what distinguishes the proposed program from other training programs at the same institution. Programs that appear very similar to each other (e.g., high overlap between faculty mentors on each program) should clearly identify the differences in the two training programs and the need for two separate applications; in cases where programs have substantial overlap, it may be beneficial to combine and integrate programs to submit a single application.


Q.   If an institution has both a NIAAA and a NIDA funded T32 program, will these be combined into a single T32?       

A.     There is no plan to combine NIAAA and NIDA funded T32 programs. Separate funding by NIDA and NIAAA of their respective Institutional training grants allows for greater flexibility and targeted training opportunities. If the training areas are distinct, separate programs are appropriate. Where the areas of training are similar, training programs may still submit separate applications, but are encouraged to collaborate and enhance the multi-substance research development of the trainees, through, e.g., common course work, seminar series, etc. 


Q.   Who will review my application?

A.    The reviewer pool will be selected based on scientific expertise and experience with research training. Representatives from both NIAAA and NIDA training programs and review panels will be included. The review will be comanaged by SROs from NIDA and NIAAA.


Q.   Does NIDA now accept T35 applications?

A.     NIDA does not participate in the parent T35 FOA, and thus will not support T35 programs in whole or in part.


Q.   Will any other aspects of application preparation guidance change?

A.   Minor changes to the NIAAA institutional training guidance can be found here. NIDA’s guidance does not deviate from the instructions found in the parent T32 FOA, so there are no changes in NIDA’s guidance for T32 application preparation.