Spreading those grant aps around

Jan 08 2015 Published by under [Education&Careers]

It's always the simple questions, right?

This is an important question and, with funding rates set to "career-wrecker" levels, you need to know how to maximize your chances. The responses were varied on this question, so here's my take:

1) You can absolutely send similar proposals to different agencies. In fact, NSF specifically asks you whether the proposal you are submitting has also been submitted elsewhere. This can actually bring up co-funding opportunities with other agencies.

However, you need to realize that if two agencies fund the same project independently, you can only accept one award. Period. Doing otherwise is called fraud and gets you in a world of shit.

2) When it comes to submitting for institutional pots of money, pretty much anything goes. In the overwhelming number of cases an institution will not have money available to complete an entire project that you are shopping to a major federal funding agency. However, it will provide money to generate preliminary data towards that project. And if the federal award is granted and the projects overlap too much, your institution will be more than happy to stop payment on the internal award and accept the federal money. That can be worked out.

Most labs in basic sciences will have 2-4 projects, with varying levels of overlap. Spreading grant proposals for those projects around as widely as possible is just good business. The chances of having a project simultaneously funded right now by multiple agencies are so low as to be unconcerning. If you are worried about it, then make the two proposals different enough that both could be defensibly accepted. But one cannot afford to write a new proposal for every deadline.

4 responses so far

  • Steve Heard says:

    Well said - our initial disagreement on Twitter turns out to reflect the 140-char limitation! Note that even in the case of two agencies funding the same proposal, you can accept both IF both agencies are aware and approve, and IF both are funding less that the full project cost. This is actually quite common.

    - Steve Heard

  • Yes, approval is possible. I think it's less common in the US system. Usually the cost will be split but the funding will flow through one agency or the other.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Spending two pots of money on the same work is fraud. But it is possible to negotiate around overlap issues at the NIH, anyway.

  • Late to this, but I recently helped a PI negotiate an overlap after getting two very similar grants funded.

    He'd submitted two grants that had three aims each, the first two aims being common between the two grants. The two versions of the grant had distinct third aims. The CIHR version was funded first, with a 30% budget cut (which is normal for CIHR). A month into the award, the NIH version was funded, with about a 25% budget cut. The PI successfully negotiated with NIH to cut Aim 1 from the NIH grant and Aim 2 from the CIHR grant, hence removing the overlap.

    CIHR don't care what you do, as long as you don't have any overlapping Canadian federal funding and as long as you tell them about any other overlaps. So we sent them an overlap declaration form, attaching the approved revised scope from NIH, and CIHR sent us an official "carry on then, eh?" letter back.

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