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NCI Plans Policy Changes on Percent of Effort Required on Grants

, by NCI Deputy Director, Dinah S. Singer, Ph.D.

Dr. Dinah S. Singer, NCI Deputy Director

Credit: National Cancer Institute

On April 8, 2020, NCI issued a notice clarifying the institute’s policy on the minimum level of effort described in the article below. The policy takes effect immediately.

In response to questions from members of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), NCI recently conducted a detailed analysis of current awards by grant mechanism. We found that some funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) specify a minimum level of effort on grant applications, while others, such as the parent announcements for R01, P01, and R21 applications, do not. As a result, the effort proposed in grant applications varies significantly.

The NCAB is responsible for, among other things, the review of policies related to grants and cooperative agreements for NCI research and training. In consultation with the NCAB, NCI leadership determined that a minimum level of effort is necessary to ensure that the Principal Investigator(s) of a proposed study are engaged. At the February 11 NCAB meeting, board members discussed the proposed policy on percent effort, what policies currently apply, and optimum policies for the future.

The consensus among NCAB members was to recommend that NCI issue a policy requiring a minimum level of effort for certain types of grants (see full table below). Therefore, NCI leadership has decided to implement minimal effort requirements as part of the funding consideration for grants. Unless otherwise stated in an FOA, the minimum effort policy would apply to the following types of grants:

  • U01
  • R01 (including multi-PI)
  • R21
  • P01

The policy will ensure that PIs devote the appropriate effort and attention to project leadership, and it will ensure that the same level of leadership is maintained for the duration of the grant award.

NCI will publish a plan for implementing the minimum level of effort requirements in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.

Mechanism Role Minimum Level of Effort in person months/year (%)
R01/U01 Single PI 1.8 months (15%)
Multi-PI 1.2 months (10%) each
P011 Single PI 1.2 months (10%)2
Multi-PI 0.96 months (8%) each
Project PI 1.8 months (15%)
Core Leader 0.6 months (5%)3
R21 Single or Multi-PI 0.6 months (5%) each

If applicants lead multiple project components, the minimum level of effort is additive. For example, the minimum level of effort for an applicant serving as the PI (1.2 months) and Project PI (1.8 months) is 3 months.

2 Includes effort as administrative Core Director

3 Applicants should justify minimum effort, based on the proposed activities of the Core

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