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Core Grants for Vision Research

Objectives of the Core Grant Program

The primary objective of Core Grants for Vision Research is to provide groups of investigators who have achieved independent National Eye Institute (NEI) funding with additional, shared support to enhance their own and their institution's capability for conducting vision research. Secondary objectives of this program include facilitating collaborative studies and attracting other scientists to research on the visual system.

Features of NEI Core Grants

Core Grants are subdivided generally into discrete units or modules, with each devoted to a specific activity that would be impractical or less-efficient to support on an individual research project grant. The primary purpose of each module is to support a service or resource that enhances or facilitates the research efforts of a group of investigators, each having independent NEI funding. This can include the purchase and maintenance of a shared instrument. Some sharing of Core Grant resources and services with other NIH-funded collaborators and with investigators new to vision research is encouraged.

Modules are based on function. Resource modules usually provide laboratory services; facilitate the production of materials for research; or support the purchase, maintenance, and technical support of shared equipment. Examples include Electron Microscopy, Tissue and Cell Culture, Hybridoma Facility, Laboratory Animal Resources, and Image Analysis. Resource modules may also help support computer experts, biostatisticians, and other individuals who can assist or collaborate with participating investigators in conducting laboratory or applied clinical research. A Biostatistics Module, for example, may be used to enhance programs through the application of advanced epidemiologic and biostatistical methodology to vision research projects. Service modules support essential technical services provided by one or more highly skilled persons. Examples of this kind of module are Machine Shop, Electronics Shop, and Photography. In the past, Administrative modules were requested occasionally to help support the day-to-day management of the Core Grant. NEI prefers that such requests, if necessary, be included in the summary Core Grant budget section (see below), and that they not be presented in a separate module.


Institutions applying for a Core Grant must hold, on the receipt date, a minimum of eight funded eligible NEI grants; grants in administrative extensions, with or without additional funds, are not eligible. The following grant mechanisms are applicable: Research Project Grants (R01), Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Awards (K08), Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23), Research Project Cooperative Agreement Awards (U01).

No other mechanisms or source of research support will be considered in determining eligibility. Eligibility will be confirmed by NEI staff prior to the meeting of the Initial Review Group. Applications from ineligible institutions will be returned to the applicant.

Only one Core Grant will be made to any single applicant organization. For multicampus institutions, no more than one Core Grant will be made to each campus. Joint applications may be submitted by investigators at neighboring, independent institutions.

For a specific module on a Core Grant to be funded, the module must be used to a "moderate" or "extensive" degree by at least three investigators each holding one or more awards of the types specified above. Biostatistics modules present a special case: the investigator-use requirement applies, but the types of qualifying funding is expanded to include NEI cooperative agreements (U01 or U10), or research and development contracts (N01) to conduct applied clinical research. Please note that these module usage and investigator funding requirements are the minimum acceptable. A larger number of NEI-funded investigators using modules to a "moderate" or "extensive" degree would generally strengthen an application.

Level and Duration of Support

The NEI will provide up to $2,000,000 direct costs for up to a 5-year period in support of a Core Grant to institutions having fewer than 20 eligible grants. Institutions having 20 or more eligible grants may receive up to $2,500,000 in direct costs over a five year period

Application Procedures

September 25 is the single annual receipt date for Core Grant applications. If the receipt date falls on a weekend, it will be extended to the following Monday.

The complete, signed original and FOUR exact copies of the application must be sent in one package to:

Center for Scientific Review
National Institutes of Health
BETHESDA MD 20892-7710
BETHESDA MD 20817-7710 (for express / courier service)

In order to expedite the review of the application, at the same time, please mail ONE additional complete copy of the application to:

Chief, Scientific Review Branch
National Eye Institute
Division of Extramural Research
Suite 1300
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9300
Bethesda, MD 20892-9300
ROCKVILLE MD 20852 (for express / courier service)

Advice to Applicants

NEI staff will provide advice to all applicants regarding these guidelines and procedures. First-time applicants, in particular, are encouraged to contact NEI to discuss their applications. Inquiries should be directed to:

Ellen S. Liberman, Ph.D., M.P.H.
National Eye Institute
Division of Extramural Research
Suite 1300
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9300
Bethesda, MD 20892-9300
Telephone: (301) 451-2020
FAX: 301-402-0528

For grants administration information, applicants should contact:

William W. Darby
Grants Management Officer
National Eye Institute
Division of Extramural Research
Suite 1300
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9300
Bethesda, MD 20892-9300
Telephone: (301) 451-2020
FAX: 301-496-9997

Specific Instructions

Submit applications on Grant Application Form PHS 398. Please note that an electronic version of PHS 398 is available at the NIH WEB site under "Funding Opportunities" at In preparing the application, follow the PHS 398 instructions, but substitute the following special instructions where indicated.

Face Page. In item 2, enter "P30 - CORE GRANT FOR VISION RESEARCH."

Key Personnel. ( Form Page 2.) Definition to be used in this application - key personnel is defined as the Principal Investigator, the Module Directors, the Biostatistician, and participating investigators who will use any module to a "moderate" or "extensive" degree, whether or not salary support is requested.

Budget. (Form Pages 4 and 5.)

Summary Budget - Provide summary budget pages for the initial and entire budget periods for the Core Grant, presenting the aggregate budget for all administrative and module activities. Provide budget justifications here (e.g., for administrative activities) only for requests not contained in the separate module budgets that will immediately follow.

Module Budgets - provide separate budget pages and justifications for each module. Module budget requests and justifications should not be repeated elsewhere in the application.

Administrative Activities - Requests for salary support for the Principal Investigator may not exceed 5% effort. Support for secretarial and administrative staff may be requested in the summary budget to the extent that it relates directly to the management of Core Grant activities, see the NIH guide announcement Costs for all secretarial and administrative activities (including support for the Principal Investigator) ordinarily may not exceed 15% of the total direct costs of a Core Grant award in any year.

Module Directors and Other Key Personnel (see definition above) - Salary support may not be requested. An exception will be made for the support of a biostatistician on a Biostatistics Module. Salary support for up to 75% effort of a biostatistician may be requested, whether or not this individual is the director of the module.

Technical Support Personnel - Salary may be requested.

Consultant Costs - Consultant costs may be requested.

Equipment - Requests for shared equipment are allowed.

Supplies - Consumable supplies may be requested if they are directly related to the operation of the modules (photographic supplies, electronics parts, machine shop stock, tissue culture media, etc.).

Travel - Not allowed.

Patient Care Costs - Not allowed.

Alteration and Renovation - Requests are allowable, but must be thoroughly justified. Cost sharing by the Institution is strongly encouraged and these arrangements should be described in the application.

Other Expenses - Equipment maintenance, computer time, and lease of computer lines are examples of the many types of allowable costs. However, human subjects reimbursement, animal care per diem charges (boarding), and costs associated with seminars, conferences, workshops, etc. are not allowed.

Resources. A section for overall Institutional or Departmental resources should not be provided. See discussion below under "Modules." Instead, provide a table listing each eligible grant. Include the complete grant number, title, and the Principal Investigator. List ONLY those grants described above under eligibility.

Research Plan.

Overview - Provide an overview of how the Core Grant would be used to enhance the capabilities of participating NEI-funded investigators and the institution for conducting vision research. If pertinent, describe how Core Grant services and resources would be used to help initiate or to continue collaborative studies, and/or to help attract scientists to research on the visual system.

Administrative Arrangements - Describe how potential problems, such as establishing priorities for allocation of resources or scheduling for use of a module, will be handled. Use of an advisory group is encouraged.

Institutional Commitment - Describe and give examples of institutional commitment and support of the goal of fostering vision research.

Progress Report - See discussion below under "Module Progress Report". An overall progress report is not required for competing continuation applications.


Present the research plan for each module in a separate and internally complete section. Do not, however, present the module budget and justification in this section.

Resources - Outline the facilities, equipment, etc. that would be available for the module in terms of space, location, capabilities, and availability for participating investigators, using the format provided (Form Page 8-HH). Be sure to include the most important equipment items that would be made available. If a major equipment item (e.g., an electron microscope) is located in the individual research space of an investigator, the issue of its accessibility for participating investigators should be addressed in more detail.

Module Supervision - The module should be directed, preferably, by an NEI-funded, independent investigator who has the expertise to supervise its use. Other arrangements may be proposed, but must be well-justified.

Module Use and Impact - Describe how the module will enhance the research capabilities of investigators using the module, citing some specific examples. Characterize the extent to which the module will be used by each investigator, employing the terms "limited," "moderate," or "extensive". This information should be summarized in a table (see example below) which gives the extent of module use for each proposed user.

Image Analysis Module





Dr. A




Dr. B








Module Progress Report - Competing continuation applications must include information that demonstrates how the module enhanced the capability of investigators and the institution for conducting vision research. Examples of projects or representative publications which benefited from use of the module should be cited, particularly for investigators using the module to a "moderate" or "extensive" degree. Do not submit copies of any manuscripts or publications. If applicable, describe collaborative studies, attraction of investigators to vision research, and any other research-related activities made possible or facilitated by the module. It is not necessary or required to provide an exhaustive, all-inclusive accounting of module usage in this section.

Personnel Report. You are not required to submit Form JJ, Personnel Report for Competing Continuation Applications.

Review Procedures

Core Grant applications will be reviewed in October/November by an initial review group convened by the Scientific Review Branch, NEI. Site visits are not conducted routinely. Second-level review is conducted by the National Advisory Eye Council at its January/February meeting.

Review Considerations

Applications will be reviewed for scientific merit by an initial review group in accordance with standard NIH peer review procedures. In addition, the following issues and questions will be considered by the initial review group in its evaluation. The application as a whole, and each module separately, will be evaluated and rated.

Participating Investigators

Overall, how strong is the research track record of the participating investigators?

Does the overall level of independent, peer-reviewed research support from the NEI/NIH seem appropriate for the number of participating investigators? Is it likely that the participating investigators, as a group, will remain productive and competitive?

Administrative Arrangements

Is the Principal Investigator qualified and in a position to administer this Core Grant effectively?

Are procedures proposed or in place to ensure smooth administration of the Core grant overall and of the modules? Is there an advisory group? Is its composition appropriate? Are its responsibilities defined? If an advisory group is not proposed, are there alternative procedures to administer the Core Grant effectively? How will priorities be set, and how will issues regarding accessibility to Core Grant facilities be handled?

Institutional Commitment

What is the extent of the commitment and support by the Institution to the goal of fostering research on the visual system and its disorders? Are examples provided of significant space commitments, faculty-position commitments, payment or partial payment of salaries for support staff, purchases of equipment, financial support of new construction or renovation, etc.?


Each module will be separately evaluated and rated. Emphasis will be placed on assessing the quality and productivity of the research conducted by the primary users of the module, the benefits that would be derived from the module, and the quality of the products and efficiency of services provided by the module.

Will the module be directed by an NEI-funded independent investigator with the appropriate scientific credentials? If other arrangements are proposed, are these appropriate?

How will the module enhance or facilitate the research efforts of the participating investigators? Will the module support a resource or service that would be impractical or less-efficient to support on an individual research grant?

What will be the overall level of use for the module? Is this level appropriate?

Are the resources appropriate? Are Core Grant facilities easily accessible to members of the group? If not, will this be an impediment to full utilization of the module?

Is each requested module budget item directly related to the operation of the module and justified adequately?

If funds for renovation are requested, is the request appropriate considering available space and other resources?

Overall Budget

Are there any requests in the overall budget beyond those included in the budgets for the individual modules; are these appropriate and consistent with NEI guidelines?

For Competitive Renewal Applications

The primary criterion is the effectiveness of the previous Core Grant (and the individual modules) in enhancing the capabilities of participating investigators and the institution for conducting vision research. What has been the quality of publications by participating investigators and the impact of these publications on the field? Did these research activities benefit directly from the services and resources provided by the Core grant and, if so, to what extent? Of secondary importance, to what extent, if any, did the Core Grant facilitate collaborative studies or help attract investigators to vision research?

What was the quality of the products and services provided by the module? Were the facilities and resources provided by the Core Grant shared effectively and efficiently? Was there a high level of use and sharing of any equipment provided in the previous funding period?

Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health