FAQs ABOUT SURE
Have additional questions? Reach out to your Regional Coordinator, who can assess your institutional and Principal Investigator (PI) eligibility and direct more nuanced questions to the correct NIGMS personnel, who ultimately have the final decision.
Are the institutional requirements for SuRE the same as they were for SCORE grants?
No, the requirements for these two funding mechanisms are different. To be eligible for the SuRE program, institutions must have less than $6 million in NIH RGP funding and greater than 25% of Pell-eligible students in the previous two years; professional schools with a historical mission of serving minority students are also eligible. The institutional information for the SuRE program is also different, requiring two letters of support — one from the Provost or President and one from the Department Chair or Dean. A demographic table showing % of underrepresented students is not needed, as was the case with the old SCORE mechanism.
Do all grant types count toward calculating the annual NIH funding eligibility requirement of less than $6M?
No, awards that count toward the $6M threshold are Research Project Grants (RPGs) such as R01, R15, R16, R21, R35, R56, U01, DP1, DP2, but not Training (T32, T34), Infrastructure (S10), Research Center (P20, P30, P50) or Specialized Center (U54) type grants.
Are the SuRE R16 mechanisms only for tenure-track faculty?
When applying for an R16 grant, the Principal Investigator (PI) must have a full-time tenured or tenure-track (or equivalent) faculty appointment at the applicant institution and be eligible to apply for NIH research project grants.
Is a Principal Investigator (PI) eligible to apply for a SuRE grant if they were a PI on an NIH-funded R21 proposal five years ago?
If the grant is no longer active, you would be eligible to apply for a SuRE grant, but you would no longer be eligible to apply for a SuRE-First grant.
Who can be a mentor for a SuRE-First application?
An established investigator at a domestic institution who is an expert in the applicant’s area of research can be a mentor for a SuRE-First application. Ideally, the mentor should have a strong publication record and a track record of funding (preferably NIH) for their research. A history of trainees in their own lab is also desirable. The mentor may or may not be at the applicant’s institution but cannot be at a foreign institution. More than one mentor is allowed. In addition, the mentor should demonstrate a strong interest in the SuRE-First applicants’ professional development toward an independent research career.
Is a pharmacy school faculty member eligible for a SuRE grant?
Yes, a faculty member in an accredited medical or health professional school with a historical mission statement to educate Underrepresented Minority (URM) students may apply for a SuRE R16 grant as long as other eligibility criteria are met.
Collaborators & Students
Collaborators & Students
Do co-Investigators have to be at SuRE-eligible institutions as well?
No, co-Investigators (co-I) may be at other domestic institutions, including those that are not SuRE-eligible.
Can a co-Investigator have NIH funding of their own and still participate in a SuRE grant?
Yes, this is allowable, but since R16 grants have limited funding, co-Investigator’s should have minimum effort covered by the grant (<5%).
Typically, what should be the percentage effort for a co-Investigator on a SuRE application?
The effort and compensation for a co-Investigator (co-I) should be appropriate for their role in the project. However, since R16 grants have limited funding, the effort for co-I's covered by the grant should be minimal (<5%).
Can a mentor be included as a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) on a SuRE-First application?
Please note that NIH does not use the term, co-PI. If several investigators share PI responsibilities, NIH uses the term multi-PI (MPI). For example, if the grant has one PI but other faculty with actual effort, those other faculty are called co-Investigators (co-I). The MPI format is not allowed on R16 applications. However, co-I's are permitted, and the mentor can be included as a co-I.
Can international students be included?
Yes. The notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) notes that foreign institution/entity involvement is not allowed except as fee-for-service. However, the NOFO does not prohibit international students enrolled at the applicant institution in the US from participating. Keep in mind, SuRE emphasizes the inclusion of students from underrepresented groups.
How many paragraphs or pages are recommended for the Student Recruitment section?
The entire Student Involvement Plan should be about ¼ to ½ page. It is a part of the Research Strategy, which is limited to six pages with strategies to recruit students, including Underrepresented Minority (URM) students.
Should you utilize bullet points or paragraph formatting when addressing Innovation in your proposal?
Either approach can work, with bullet points providing a quicker read for the reviewer to see different innovative aspects. Regardless of the format, only include a few. Three to five is generally reasonable. Minor innovations could dilute the impact of major innovations. One approach to consider is using bullet points with two to three "intellectual" innovations and two to three "technical" innovations.
What constitutes a "descriptive" vs. a "mechanistic" grant?
Descriptive focuses on observations, whereas mechanistic focuses on processes. NIH generally favors a mechanistic approach because those grants tend to understand the underlying basis of biological processes, including disease processes. This knowledge can lead to ways to understand and treat human disease, which is the ultimate goal of NIH research. This is not to say that descriptive studies have no value, but grants based solely on descriptive studies tend to do poorly in NIH study sections. In contrast, exclusively or mainly mechanistic grants tend to do well.
Can we apply with secondary analysis of data, or is primary data required?
Reanalysis of data, such as GEO datasets, is allowable and can support the hypothesis and/or proposed experiments. However, for SuRE grants, preliminary data is required. Although preliminary data is not officially required for SuRE-First grants, review panel members like to see data and increased enthusiasm that the PI has the expertise to carry out the proposed studies. These data are often called feasibility data. Note that any data you include should be of sufficient quality and rigor.
Are there page limits for institutional letters?
Institutional letters have no page limits, but one to two pages is generally reasonable.
Other than in the Budget, how is time commitment justified?
The level of personnel effort on a project is determined by the individual's role and the amount of work they perform. The Budget and Budget Justification are the only places in the application where an individual's level of effort is listed, and their work described. Therefore, the information provided in the Budget justifies the amount of effort being requested.
Can we ask for student stipends? If so, what is a typical stipend for an undergraduate student?
Including financial support for students on SuRE applications is acceptable, with the institution determining the amount. The NIH considers those costs essential to conduct the research project. Stipends are only allowed on NIH training grants.
In the Budget, do I have to include evidence of equipment cost?
It is not required to document equipment costs for a SuRE proposal. However, it is in the Principal Investigator's (PI) and the institution's best interests to ensure that costs in their proposal Budget are as accurate as possible.
Does current support include training grants that someone is involved in and receives effort?
Yes, all funding should be included in current support.
Can you use SuRE funds to travel abroad to perform research at a collaborator's lab?
No, travel abroad to perform research at a collaborator’s lab is not allowed. In addition, SuRE funds may not support any foreign institutions, research services, collaborators, consultants, or components, except fee-for-service.
Are R16 grants reviewed by Special Emphasis Panels at NIGMS like the SCORE grants, or do we submit to a specific institute?
Per the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO), SuRE and SuRE-First applications are evaluated for scientific and technical merit by the appropriate Scientific Review Group convened by NIGMS and are assigned to Special Emphasis Panels that are clustered into appropriate research areas.
Can SuRE grants be funded by NIGMS directly, rather than going to NCI, for example?
R16 SuRE applications in research areas of NIAID will be reviewed and considered for funding by NIAID. All other R16 SuRE applications will be assigned to NIGMS and reviewed by NIGMS Special Emphasis Panels. After the review, all NIH ICs that signed on SuRE NOFO may select meritorious R16 SuRE applications in their supported research areas for funding. If they do so, NIGMS will transfer selected applications to those NIH ICs. NIGMS will fund all other meritorious applications.
What range of impact scores are expected to be in the fundable range?
Different study sections have different ranges, so it varies. Some NIH funding mechanisms, such as R01 and R21 grants, provide percentile rankings (along with impact scores), which can help determine the likelihood of funding. However, R16 grants do not receive percentile rankings.
How competitive are the SuRE grants (percent of applicants funded) compared to other NIH grant opportunities such as SCORE?
You may find NIH success rates at this link. In the program’s first year (FY 2022) success rates were 44% and 48% for SuRE and SuRE-First grants, respectively. It is not known whether this success rate will change in future years.
Is it correct that the funding amounts the NIH disburses per year are different for R16 and R15 mechanisms?
Success rates for R15 vary between institutes and are likely to change from year to year. SuRE grants’ success rates in the program’s first year (FY 2022) were 44% and 48% for SuRE and SuRE-First grants, respectively.
What are the differences and similarities between R16 (SuRE, SuRE-First) and the R15 (AREA and REAP) grants, and what are the success rates?
R15 grants (AREA and REAP) are for accredited public or non-profit private schools that grant baccalaureate or advanced degrees in health professions or advanced degrees in biomedical and behavioral sciences. R16 SuRE grants require that institutions must have at least 25% of undergrads supported by Pell grants and less than $6 million in NIH RPG funding for the previous two years or be an accredited medical/health professional school with a historical mission statement that explicitly states that it was founded to educate Underrepresented Minority (URM) students.
There is no limit on how many R15 grants an institution can hold, and there are three deadlines a year. An institution can have up to 20 active SuRE grants (including SC1 and SC2), which has one deadline a year. There is no limit on the number of SuRE-First grants an institution can have.
There are limits on how much NIH funding may be received by an institution ($6 million/year), but how this is determined is slightly different and can be found on the NIH website.
Success for REAP grants varies between NIH institutes. SuRE grants' success rates in the program's first year (2022-2023) were 44% and 48% for SuRE and SuRE-First grants, respectively. It is not known whether this success rate will change in future years.
A primary Aim of the SuRE program is to reinforce research infrastructure at institutions with limited NIH funding serving underrepresented students, including Minority Serving Institutions. How would you suggest addressing this in a SuRE application?
While building infrastructure is one Aim of the SuRE program, that initiative is managed exclusively through the SuRE Resource Center, not the R16 application process. The R16, like all R-series programs, should focus on the research proposal.
The only information regarding infrastructure required by the R16 grant is the Strategic Plan for Building Research Capacity and Research Excellence Letter. This letter should come from the Provost, the President, the Vice-President for Research, or an equivalent senior institutional official and describe the strategic plan for developing research capacity and research excellence. The letter should address the vision and commitment to building and sustaining an environment that enables and rewards research and how this research will support the institution's educational mission.
Is a PrePrint an allowable publication?
Preprints are allowed in the NIH grant application's References and Biosketch sections. See details at this NIH link. These should include the DOI number; one preprint server that is commonly used is bioRxiv. Example: Bar DZ, Atkatsh K, Tavarez U, Erdos MR, Gruenbaum Y, Collins FS. Biotinylation by antibody recognition ¬– A novel method for proximity labeling. BioRxiv 069187 [Preprint]. August 11, 2016 [cited 2017 January 12]. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1101/069187.
Resubmit as an A1 application vs. submit as a new application. How much change should one consider for submitting as a new proposal? For instance, is changing the title or Specific Aims regarded as a new proposal?
The nuances of reviewer comments on the Summary Statement of the initial application will be an important factor in making the decision. The PI should contact the Program Officer to discuss their options. The SuRE Resource Center staff can also offer advice.
Altering the title would not be a sufficient change. Instead, reworking the Aims may be needed for a new submission. Suppose a grant is not funded after a first submission and a resubmission. In that case, you'll likely need to develop a new research direction or make substantive changes to be competitive for funding.
Is there a strategic benefit to applying for any amount of time other than four years of funding?
You should request the amount of time to do the proposed work, and we strongly recommend requesting the maximum number of years unless there is a compelling reason to ask for less. Requesting fewer years is not going to increase the likelihood of funding.
Are there formal or informal guidelines about the percentage of effort a Principal Investigator (PI) can or should request?
SuRE-first requires that faculty commit six person months per year, some of which can be summer salary. For other grants, such as SuRE or R15, the PI may decide how much effort to put on the grant. This effort should align with how much time is required to complete the project. However, certain grants have limited funding (especially R16 and R15), so you don't want salary support to consume too much of the Budget. Generally, 10-25% is reasonable for an R15, R16, or R21.