Frequently Asked Questions for NIH Funding
Updated March 14, 2022
Following are questions that have been submitted from faculty. Answers below specifically address NIH funding. If you receive NSF funding, please see the FAQs for NSF Funding. If you have other questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Based on NIH policy statements, and foreign component FAQs, researchers that perform experiments that benefit any of the PI's research (regardless of location) are considered collaborators and must be reported as Other Support.
- If the collaborator provides support for an NIH award and the work is being performed outside the US, the collaboration may be considered a "Foreign Component." Foreign Components exist if a significant scientific element or segment of the project (including any experiments) are being performed for the project outside the US, whether or not NIH funds are used to support that work. Foreign Components require prior NIH approval.
- If you believe you may have a Foreign Component, please contact the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR).
- If you believe you need to disclose Other Support or a Foreign Component retroactively, please contact the Office of General Counsel (OGC). If you and OGC determine that there is something to report, you will work with OSR to submit the retroactive disclosure to NIH.
- How do reporting requirements vary between collaborations from different countries?
Report research collaborations, both foreign and domestic, that benefit your research endeavors as in-kind support.
If the collaborator is providing research support for a specific NIH award and the work is being performed outside the US, the collaboration may be considered a "Foreign Component" (as defined above) for that project, whether or not NIH funds are used to support that work. Foreign Components require prior NIH approval. If you believe you may have a Foreign Component, please contact the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR).
If you believe you need to disclose Other Support or a Foreign Component retroactively, please contact the OGC. If you and OGC determine that there is something to report, you will work with OSR to submit the retroactive disclosure to NIH.
- What if I get an invitation to be a visiting (compensated) research collaborator at a Chinese university?
If you wish to accept the invitation, you should talk with your Division Chair or supervisor to decide whether it would be acceptable. If you proceed with the engagement, several disclosures may be required to both Caltech and NIH.
- What issues are particular to the sort of global science collaborations many of us belong to?
a. Conflict of Commitment (Caltech Disclosure)
b. Financial Interest (Caltech Disclosure)
c. Other Support & Biosketch (Sponsor Disclosure)
d. For NIH, this may be considered a Foreign Component if experiments are being performed outside of the US
e. Export Control issues, IP issues, possible foreign engagement issues
- What person or office on campus can we go to for authoritative guidance regarding a current or planned foreign collaboration?
Contact the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) regarding collaboration agreements. OSR will coordinate with other offices at Caltech, as necessary.
- I have been and will continue to be a co-author on publications that involve many people, including those that I do not interact with. Do I need to report the collaborator of my collaborator?
If there was scientific engagement with a co-author, meaning you worked directly with that co-author to perform experiments related to the publication, provided scientific input to the design or conduct or analysis of the research, and/or provided key data or reagents for the publication, you should disclose the co-author as Other Support whether the collaborator is foreign or domestic. Where many authors are listed on a publication with whom you never directly interact, where there was no scientific exchange, or where their research did not directly benefit you, you need not report these co-authors as collaborators or in-kind support.
Note that if a collaborator is performing experiments outside the US, this may be a Foreign Component, which requires NIH approval.
See Caltech guidance on when to report collaborators to the NIH for more examples.
- What is the time frame for reporting a foreign collaboration? In the case of previous foreign collaborations that are not going on anymore but which generated research results now included in current manuscripts, is that reportable or not?
Collaborations, whether foreign or domestic, that result in the availability of resources for your research, as evidenced by the generation of a manuscript, are reportable as Other or In-Kind support. Updates to expired awards are not required. For active NIH awards, if this collaboration was anticipated at the time of proposal, the In-Kind support should have been disclosed during Just in Time, before funding. If the collaboration arose after the start of the award, you should report foreign and domestic collaborators at the next opportunity to report (usually the next annual progress report, RPPR). Starting January 25, 2022, you must disclose foreign and domestic collaborators immediately after discovery if something wasn't reported at the first opportunity to report it (e.g., proposal, JIT, progress report).
Contact the Office of General Counsel for assistance in reporting items that you believe should have been reported earlier.
- For NIH, we provide a just-in-time Other Support and Other Support updates each year that the grant is in force. But say the grant that supported the work ran out before the decision was made to include the foreign data in a manuscript. How does one go about reporting "previously unreported" other support or collaborations?
Updates to expired awards are not required. For NIH-funded projects, report active and ongoing collaborators in grant applications, JIT for new awards, and annually in your progress reports to federal sponsors (RPPRs). Currently, there is no NIH portal by which one can report previously unreported collaborations, In-Kind support, or Foreign Components. NIH's current instructions state that retroactive disclosures are to be submitted to the Grants Management Specialist (GMS) named in the Notice of Award. NIH generally requires formal updates to proposals, awards, and other documents submitted by an institutionally authorized official (e.g., OSR). Therefore, the recommended course of action is to contact the Office of General Counsel for assistance in reporting items that you believe should have been reported earlier. Otherwise, report the relevant details in the next RPPR.
- I have dozens of colleagues in foreign countries and more colleagues who are foreign nationals living in the US. How do I decide who to list in the Disclosure System? Can you provide any guidance as to what activities, if any, are defined as "collaboration" if there is no compensation or other support involved?
These questions have been addressed above. However, as a rule of thumb regarding disclosure of collaborations, look toward publication. If a foreign or domestic collaboration results in a publication where you might acknowledge or confer authorship to your collaborator, it is likely a relationship that rises to the level of other or in-kind support for your research and must be reported to NIH. Foreign collaborators performing experiments in a foreign country on an NIH-funded award may be a Foreign Component that requires prior approval from NIH.
See Caltech guidance on when to report collaborators to the NIH for more examples.
- A more likely scenario for collaboration: I have a former postdoc who went back to China. We continue to work together on projects unrelated to my sponsored projects here. What are the requirements for reporting to Caltech and NIH?
If you have an appointment with the collaborator's institution or spend more than 13 days per quarter collaborating on research outside of Caltech, you should report that appointment or those activities exceeding 13 days to Caltech as a commitment. If you are paid or receive any type of compensation or equity >$4,999 for this collaboration, you should report this financial interest to Caltech. This collaboration should be reported as a foreign collaboration and In-Kind support. If this collaborator contributes directly to an NIH-funded project, it would likely be considered a Foreign Component, which requires prior NIH approval.
- Regarding foreign collaborations: my former students (now on the faculty in China) gave me co-authorship credit for ideas I contributed 10 years ago while they were in my lab. Is this a foreign collaboration?
There are a couple of options in this case. Option 1: Agree to be listed as a co-author based on ideas you've offered in the past, and if the NIH grant that supported the project 10 years ago is still active (unlikely), list the collaboration in your next annual report. Do not list any award as the source of support for a publication that did not directly relate to or support the publication. Option 2: You could decline co-authorship on the paper if your contribution does not rise to the level of true authorship on the paper, which sounds more likely in this case. The authors should include your contributions in the acknowledgments.
NIH Other Support includes all planned, pending, and current project support and in-kind support that is either provided directly to the individual, or through an organization in support of that individual's research endeavors, from whatever source, including but not limited to all sponsored agreements for research or educational activities that take place at Caltech or elsewhere, and outside consulting activities that involve performing research for other entities. See the Caltech NIH Guidance page for more details.
- If you receive personal compensation for your role as a journal editor, do you need to report this as Personal Other Support?
Unless you plan to use the compensation to support research, it is not Other Support and need not be reported to NIH. If you are being appointed as an editor, you must include the position on your Biosketch. In any case, you must disclose your time commitment and the income in your Caltech disclosure.
- Do reported activities affect the chance of the proposal getting funded?
NIH states that its scientific program and grants management staff review Other Support information to ensure that:
a. All resources, domestic or foreign, directly supporting the individual's research endeavors have been reported
b. Sufficient levels of effort are committed to the project
c. There is no scientific, budgetary, or commitment overlap
d. Only funds necessary to the approved project are included in the award
e. Any foreign resources that meet the definition of a Foreign Component have received appropriate prior approval.
The NIH policy states that – Gifts are resources provided where there is no expectation of anything (e.g., time, services, specific research activities, etc.) in return. An item or service given with the expectation of an associated time commitment is not a gift and is instead an in-kind contribution and must be reported as such.
- What about unrestricted gifts?
True unrestricted gifts are not included in Other Support. However, Caltech has determined that funds designated for a specific research area/activity do not meet the NIH definition of a "gift" and must be included as Other Support.
- I did not previously disclose gift funds that now appear to require disclosure. Should I submit an updated Other Support report? If so, how should this be done?
If you have an existing NIH grant, and a gift was provided after JIT or your last RPPR, you can disclose such Other Support in your next RPPR. If you are submitting a proposal, you can disclose the gift as Other Support during the JIT process.
As of January 25, 2022, you will need to report Other Support that had not been previously reported, immediately.
If you believe you need to disclose Other Support retroactively, please contact OGC. If you and OGC determine that there is something to report, you will work with OSR to submit the retroactive disclosure to NIH.
NIH policy states that - Consulting activities that include performing research for an outside entity must be reported. The NIH Grants Policy Statement defines "Research" as a systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied." And, "[t]he term research also includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities and where such activities are not included in the instruction function." See the Glossary – I-35 https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps/nihgps.pdf
Note that NIH's definition of research includes training individuals in research when it's unrelated to an instruction activity. If your outside activities include these types of training activities, these must be included in Other Support.
- I am confused by the NIH requirement to report consulting agreements. What does it mean that a consulting agreement involves (or doesn't involve) a research activity?
The issue is: the consultant can be "officially" working on R&D for the company, but as we know, commercial R&D is often very different from our research here, e.g., it develops an algorithm using standard public research results that can be used commercially, so it's not publishable research, even though officially it contributes to company R&D.
Review the NIH definition of research to help you decide if a consulting relationship must be reported. For example, consulting that includes acting as an expert witness or being on a science advisory board typically involved performing research. On the other hand, helping a company with their SBIR/STTR proposal/award, designing/conducting experiments, or providing training in research techniques as part of an outside activity is likely to be considered research.
We recognize that this is new, and therefore, not a straightforward area. When the matter is unclear, it protects both the researcher and Caltech for the researcher to be transparent and disclose the activity.
NIH states that In-Kind support includes all resources made available to a researcher in support of and/or related to all of their research endeavors, regardless of whether they have monetary value and whether they are based at the institution the researcher identifies for the current grant. See the NIH page for more information.
- How do we deal with postdocs supported by funding from their country of origin (i.e., EMBO, DFG, Wellcome, Marie Curie)?
NIH requires disclosure of personnel funded outside Caltech as Other Support. See the NIH pages for reporting details.
- Is a visit by a non-degree graduate student researcher funded by China Scholarship Council reportable under any circumstances?
Yes, this person would be considered In-Kind support and would need to be reported at the time of the award. If the student arrives during a grant period, report the person at the next annual report period.
- What if I serve on a Ph.D. or master's thesis committee for a student at another university (foreign or domestic)?
If that student is not part of your group or contributing work to your research at Caltech, then this would not be considered In-Kind support on your NIH award. However, if you receive an appointment at the other university, this activity should be disclosed on your NIH Biosketch.
- Caltech often accepts visiting Chinese graduate students who are paid through Chinese fellowships. What needs to be disclosed in these cases? What if the visitor helps on a project related to an NIH-funded project's objectives, but they are not paid from the project?
Report the visiting student as In-Kind support on your Other Support. If the student arrives during a grant period, report the person at the next annual report period.
- Do we report our past foreign visitors, for example, from China one year ago? If so, where do we report it?
If your NIH award was active when the visitor was here, you might need to report retrospectively. Contact the Office of General Counsel to discuss details.
NIH has revised the Biosketch on the most recent forms. The NIH policy states that investigators must report all positions, domestic and foreign, including titled academic, professional, or institutional and regardless of whether full-time, part-time, voluntary, adjunct, visiting, honorary, or if remuneration is received. Any in-kind or other support received in association with these positions must be reported as Other Support. For positions or appointments with foreign entities, researchers will need to provide an English translation of any agreement along with the foreign-language version. Caltech must give a copy to the NIH.
Regarding NIH Biosketch requirements to list ALL appointments: What about serving on a board of a non-profit organization or a for-profit company? What about serving on a scientific advisory board of a foundation? Which of these are required to be included?
You must disclose all positions, domestic and foreign, including titled academic, professional, or institutional, regardless of whether full-time, part-time, voluntary, adjunct, visiting, honorary, or if remuneration is received.
These appointments need to be disclosed on Biosketch. If appointments include any support (financial or in-kind) for research activity, you also need to report the appointment and support as Other Support. The appointment also needs to be disclosed to Caltech.
Is this reporting only for new grant proposals, or do we need to update current grants or past grants that have ended?
Submit all newly required information at the time of proposal, and just in time, for new projects that will be funded. After award, update your Biosketch and Other Support information per the NIH RPPR instructions. See the post-award guidance page for more details.
There is no need to update awards that have ended. If you discover that you did not report something from a period year, contact OGC to determine whether a retroactive disclosure will need to be made. If so, OSR will submit the disclosure to the agency.
NIH FAQ Pages
Thank you to Michelle Christy for assistance with this site.