Maternal and Child Health Research Program

Division of Research, Office of Epidemiology and Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Where do I find application materials for the R40 MCH Research Program?

All application materials are available through Grants.gov once a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) has been posted.

How can I download the complete application package for the R40 FOA?

How to download the application package and instructions from Grants.gov :

  1. Click on grants.gov and then click the search function here.
  2. Enter ‘R40’ into the keyword criteria and click on ‘Search’.
  3. Select SDAS or MCHR and click. Click on the 4th blue tab entitled “APPLICATION PACKAGE.”
  4. Scroll down and click on “Select Application Package to Download” which will take you to the download page.
  5. Type in your email address and confirm. Providing your email address will allow you to receive any changes or updates to the announcement (you can also decide not to provide your email address, although we strongly recommend against this).
  6. Click Submit to be taken to the final download page
  7. The final page has two blue links: 1) Download Application Instructions, and 2) Download Application Package. You need to download both of these. However, the 1st link (Download Application Instructions) contains the Funding Opportunity Announcement.
What is Grants.gov?

In brief, Grants.gov is the web site that the U.S. Government uses to inform citizens of grant opportunities and provide a portal for submitting applications to government agencies. More information can be found on the Grants.gov website.

Is there anything that we need to do immediately, to better prepare for our new grant application or our noncompeting continuation grant application?

Yes, make sure that the Authorized Organization Representative at your university or institution has registered the university/organization and himself/herself in Grants.gov. In order to submit your application (new or continuation), your university and your Authorized Organization Representative MUST be registered in Grants.gov. When your Authorized Organization Representative registers in Grants.gov, he/she will receive a Credential User Name and Password which will allow that individual to submit application forms in Grants.gov.

What are the top three key take-home messages about Grants.gov?

The most recent MCH Research guidance (HRSA-11-016) dictated:

  1. Make sure that the Authorized Organization Representative from your university/organization is registered in Grants.gov NOW. This process can take up to 1 month and it is better to complete it and have it out of the way before starting any grant application.
  2. Read the instructions on Grants.gov carefully and allow time for corrections. Enter information in fields even if it is 0 or the form will remain incomplete. Required fields are highlighted in yellow.
  3. There are resources available on the Grants.gov web site to help you navigate this new system. Please visit Grants.gov to access these resources.
  4. Some business practices will change with the introduction of the new SF-424 R and R Form.
    1. With the HRSA SF-424, you will be reporting faculty and staff time in calendar month equivalents.
    2. Budget details about subcontracts will now be described in a section of the SF-424 Form called sub-awards.
    3. New applications will now fill out detailed budgets for each of the years in the project period. For example, grants with 3-year project periods will submit detailed budgets for each of the 3 years.
Can I get a copy of the FOA from last year’s competition?

The past year FOA is not published to avoid confusion among potential applicants, a well-documented problem from our experience.

What types of institutions can apply?

As cited in 42 CFR Part 51a.3(b), only public or nonprofit institutions of higher learning and public or private nonprofit agencies engaged in research or in programs relating to maternal and child health and/or services for children with special health care needs are eligible.

We are a foreign organization interested in applying for the R40 MCH Research Program. Are foreign entities eligible to apply?

The R40 is a domestic grant program and open only to U.S. entities that meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the FOA.

How do I know whether to apply to the R40 Multiyear grant or the R40 Secondary Data Analysis Studies (SDAS) grant?

R40 MULTIYEAR GRANT: This 3-year grant typically involves the collection of original data relevant to the field of maternal and child health, whereas the SDAS grant does not collect original data. This data may involve such activities as: developing and testing the efficacy of specific interventions; developing and testing products such as measurement tools, screening instruments, or specific kinds of service delivery mechanisms; or examining factors that predict certain kinds of outcomes among particular populations. For example, a researcher might decide to see whether a particular kind of intervention is effective at producing certain outcomes, and so he/she plans an efficacy study that will allow causal inferences to be made regarding the program's impact.

R40 SDAS GRANT: The purpose of the one-year SDAS grant is to support the analysis of large, pre-existing national data sets on questions relevant to the field of maternal and child health (e.g., nationally representative databases such as the National Survey of Children's Health, the National Survey of Adoptive Parents, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, etc.). Alternatively, it might consist of state or local administrative records, which would typically represent universal participation within a program among a particular population (e.g., Medicaid records for the population of children within a state who receive Medicaid, etc.). A proposal to the SDAS program would typically identify such a large, pre-existing dataset, and then identify particular research questions that can be answered through analyzing the data, such as, What factors will predict which outcomes among X population?

The FOA notes that the grant supports “applied research”. What do you mean by “applied research”?

In general, we define applied research as bringing basic research models and theories to application in practice—e.g., efficacy trials of new interventions, implementation studies, etc.

We are interested in applying for the R40 MCH Research Program. We are wondering if our ideas would be a good fit for the program.

Applications must demonstrate alignment with: 1 or more MCHB strategic issues; 1 or more Healthy People 2020 objectives; and 1 or more Title V performance priority areas. The FOA has appendices that describe the MCHB strategic issues and the Title V performance priority areas. Information on Healthy People 2020 can be found at the healthypeople.gov website. Applicants should highlight how their proposal aligns with MCHB Strategic issues, Healthy people 2020, and the Title V performance priority areas. All funding decisions are based on scientific merit as determined by an external review committee, and on availability of funds.

Might the SDAS grant program support a secondary data analysis of substance use/abuse trajectories and patterns of substance/mental health service use among a particular population?

All proposals will be reviewed by an external review committee. To be responsive to the FOA, applications should propose to use national databases and/or administrative records. The application must show alignment with: 1 or more MCHB strategic issues; 1 or more Healthy People 2020 objectives; and 1 or more Title V performance priority areas. The FOA has appendices that describe the MCHB strategic issues and the Title V performance priority areas. Information on Healthy People 2020 can be found at the healthypeople.gov site. When you write your application, you would want to highlight how your application shows alignment with each of these. All funding decisions are based on scientific merit as determined by the external review committee, and on availability of funds.

How do we align our project research questions with the national performance priority areas and outcome measures? Do we need to, first, establish our state’s performance measures and community needs?

The MCHB Strategic Priorities, Healthy People 2020, and MCH National Performance Priority Areas are used as frameworks for demonstrating the extent to which the proposed project clearly describes the unmet health needs of a maternal and child population and the extent to which the proposed project demonstrates alignment with HRSA/MCHB Goals and Healthy People 2020

If I were to receive an R40 SDAS grant, what type of data would I receive from HRSA? Would it be data specific to the subject or would it be a large amount of MCH data that I would need to sift through?

Applicants are responsible for identifying the particular data sets that they will use in their proposal. HRSA does not make data available to applicants for the SDAS grant program. All applicants are also responsible for ensuring that they have or will have access to the national database and/or administrative records that they will use for their grant applications.

We are trying to apply for the announced grants, but our organization does not have an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement. What should we do?

According to the HRSA SF-424 R&R, “any non-federal entity that has never received a negotiated indirect cost rate, (except a governmental department or agency unit that receives more than $35 million in direct federal funding) may elect to charge a de minimis rate of 10% of modified total direct costs (MTDC) which may be used indefinitely. The HRSA SF-424 R&R also contains information on how to negotiate the indirect cost rate.

How do I know what my institution’s indirect cost rate is?

The applicant institution’s indirect cost rate is negotiated by the institution with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Your sponsored programs office will be able to provide further information about the indirect cost rate.

We are a university that would like to partner with the recipient of the Title V Block Grant which is our state’s department of health. Is the intended recipient of these awards the block grant administrator?

The recipient of the award is typically the PI’s institution, which should meet eligibility criteria as given in the FOA.

How do I know if the database I’m thinking of using is appropriate for the SDAS program?

The SDAS program supports research projects that exclusively utilize the analysis of existing national databases and/or administrative records. Applicants should highlight in their proposal how the dataset of choice will yield information that is of regional or national significance, since this is part of the criterion on Public Health Impact that the external review committee will be assessing all proposals on. See Criterion 4 in the FOA for further information about how your application will be assessed for public health impact.

The FOA states that “Longitudinal follow-up studies will not be considered for funding under this announcement.” Does this mean that studies that include follow-up within the 3 year project period are NOT eligible?

By this the MCH Research Program means that a PI who currently has or in the past has had an R40 is excluded from applying for a grant to follow longitudinally the population used in their just-ending or previous R40 grant. Not excluded are: Applications which include a longitudinal design within the proposed three-year project period; applications which involve analyzing pre-existing longitudinal data through the SDAS mechanism; and applications which involve collecting follow-up data on a population targeted in a grant funded by another agency.

If the data set we plan to use includes data from only 1 or several States, will this qualify as a national data set for the R40 MCH SDAS program?

The FOA states, “Recipients will conduct secondary data analyses using existing national databases and administrative records.” However, in cases where no existing national database adequately addresses a given MCH-related research question or specific MCH population, then the best available public data set can be used. In all cases, the FOA requires that “findings will be generalizable and of regional or national significance.” Therefore, you would want to highlight how findings from your proposed project will have regional or national significance. Funding decisions are based on scientific merit as determined by the external review committee, and on availability of funds.

Does the SDAS program allow the use of administrative records?

Yes, administrative records can be used for this grant. The SDAS program supports research projects that exclusively utilize existing national databases and/or administrative records. Applicants should highlight in their proposal how the administrative records of their choice will yield information that is of regional or national significance, since this is part of the criterion on Public Health Impact that the external review committee will be assessing all proposals on. Please review Criterion 4 in the FOA for additional information.

Do the R40 MCHR and R40 MCH SDAS competitions allow for multiple Principal Investigators (PIs), also known as Project Directors (PDs)?

HRSA allows one PI/PD to be named on the face page of the SF424 R&R application, who will serve as the key point of contact. The application can include Co-Investigators as key personnel on the project. An individual cannot be named as the PI/PD on multiple simultaneous applications for the R40 MCHR or the R40 SDAS competitions. An individual cannot be named as PI/PD on an R40 MCHR and an R40 SDAS application simultaneously.

Is there a requirement regarding minimum or maximum effort for the PI?

In general, the FOA does not specify any minimum or maximum time requirement for the PI, but we anticipate that applicant PIs should allocate and devote sufficient time to justify their commitments to the project. Under Review Criteria 5 and 6 of the FOA, it is stated that applications will be assessed regarding:

  • The capabilities of the applicant organization, and quality and availability of facilities and personnel to fulfill the needs and requirements of the proposed research project; and
  • The extent to which time allocated by key personnel is realistic and appropriate to achieve project objectives.

Given this, applicants must demonstrate in their proposal how the time devoted by the PI meets these review criteria and how the proposed PI’s allocated time would potentially be sufficient for the success of the project.

Is it possible for postdoctoral fellows to apply as PI for the R40 MCH Research Program if they are affiliated with a university?

The FOA does not contain language that excludes postdoctoral fellows from serving as PI on the R40 grants. Ultimately, the determination of who may or may not serve as PI depends on the rules of the institution.

Can someone who is currently a PI on another agency grant be a PI on an R40 grant?

The above exclusion criterion refers only to PIs of R40 grants within MCHB. It does not apply to being a PI on grants from other agencies. However, if selected for funding, the new awardee will need to verify that percent effort across all federally-funded grants does not exceed 100%.

We have more than one investigator in our institution planning to apply to this FOA. Is more than one application per institution allowable?

Yes, more than one application per institution is allowable under the R40, as long as other exclusionary criteria are met.

Which format should we follow for the biographical sketch?

In the HRSA SF424 R&R application guide, linked throughout the FOA, specific instructions are provided regarding the biographical sketch form. Applicants are advised to follow the instructions as provided.

Are there page limits for the submitted application?

Yes, the R40 MCH Research Program FOA specifies strict page limitations for the overall submission and for specific sections of the application. Applicants are required to comply with these page limitations, or the application will not be considered for funding.

What counts towards the page limits?

The total size of all uploaded files may not exceed the equivalent of 80 pages when printed by HRSA as indicated in the FOA. The page limit applies to the:

  • Abstract
  • Project and budget narratives
  • Attachments
  • Letters of commitment and support required in application guide and the FOA
  • Biographical sketches

The page limit does not apply to the following:

  • Standard OMB-approved forms that are included in the application package
  • Indirect Cost Agreement
  • Proof of Non-Profit Status
Are there any page limitations to the narrative?
  • The current R40 MCH Research FOA requires the following page limitations:
    • R40 Multiyear Grant: a 12-page limit for the research strategy section of the narrative.
    • R40 SDAS Grant: a 6-page limit for the research strategy section of the narrative.
  • The research strategy includes: Significance, Innovation, and Approach.
  • Preliminary studies can be included in the Approach section of the Research Strategy if applicable and would be included in the 12 or 6 page limit as described above.
  • The other parts of the program narrative, which includes Sections A to B and D to G, do not have page limits. However, the entire application is limited to 80 pages total, excluding the SF 424 R&R form pages. It is important that grantees consult the FOA they are responding to for any changes to these guidelines.
  • If an application exceeds required page limitations, it will not be considered for funding.
Does the Specific Aims section have a page limitation?

The Specific Aims section does not have a page limitation. However, this section typically runs 3-5 pages.

Are there font/margin requirements to R40 MCH Research applications?

Specifications regarding fonts and margins can be found in the FOA, but typically follow HRSA guidelines, which call for 1" margins and 12-point font. Please consult the FOA and/or the HRSA Application Guide, referenced throughout the FOA, for more specific information.

Where do I include the staffing plan?

The staffing plan information is included in the budget narrative attachment that should be uploaded into the budget form Box K.

Will there be another R40 MCH Research Program competition next year?

In general, the MCH R40 Maternal and Child Health Research Program is competed annually.

Can I submit a proposal on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for the R40 MCH Research competition?

The FOA states: “Projects addressing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will not be considered for either the multiyear or the R40 MCH SDAS competitions.” We have a separate competition for autism research that we anticipate coming out in the winter. Please sign up for our listserv in order to receive an announcement when we release this and other FOAs. http://mchb.hrsa.gov/research/

When will your next Autism FOA be released?

In general, the R40 Autism Research competition is usually announced in the winter. Please join our listserv at http://mchb.hrsa.gov/research in order to receive an alert whenever one of our FOAs is released.

Where can I find information on previous awards for the MCH Research Program?

Information on current and past funded R40 MCH Research projects can be found on our website. Please feel free to search our funded projects at http://mchb.hrsa.gov/research

Who should I talk to if I have further questions?

Please contact:

  • For programmatic questions, the Project Officer(s) listed in the FOA via email.
  • For budget questions, the Grants Management Specialist listed in the FOA via email.

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