FAQs for Avenir Award Program for Chemistry and Pharmacology of Substance Use Disorders - RFA-DA-23-014

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the scope of this funding opportunity announcement (FOA)?
    This award program supports early stage investigators proposing highly innovative studies that open new areas of research in chemistry and pharmacology of addiction.  These may be focusing on developing novel chemical, pharmacological, and computational methods or approaches to study basic biological mechanisms, pathways, targets, tools and drugs of relevance to addiction and substance use disorders.  The program may also support investigators outside the field of addiction who are interested in applying their novel approaches to the chemistry and pharmacology of addiction.  The award will support those in an early stage of their career who may lack the preliminary data required for an R01 grant, but who propose high impact research and who show promise of being tomorrow's leaders in the field of chemistry and pharmacology of substance use and addiction.
  • Who is eligible to apply?
    Applicants must meet the definition of an Early Stage Investigator (ESI). An ESI is a new investigator (defined as a PD/PI who has not competed successfully for a significant NIH independent research award) who is within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent). A complete list of NIH grants that do not disqualify a PD/PI as a new investigator can be found at:  https://grants.nih.gov/policy/new_investigators/list-smaller-grants.htm.
    Frequently Asked Questions about the NIH Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Policy can be found at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/.
    An extension to the 10-year period may be granted under special circumstances (e.g., family care responsibilities, extended periods of clinical training, disability or illness, etc.). To request an extension, an applicant MUST complete the “Form for Requesting an Extension in the Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Period” (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/esi_extension_add.htm). A request for extension must be approved at the time the Avenir Award application is submitted. It may take up to several weeks for the approval process, so applicants should plan accordingly
  • Does the concept or the application of technology proposed have to be completely novel or just new to the field of addiction and substance use research?
    While applicants are encouraged to propose completely novel approaches, existing approaches novel to the field of addiction and substance use research are also encouraged. Emphasis is placed on 1) the importance of the scientific problem and the potential impact of the research on applying chemical and pharmacological approaches to study substance use and addiction, 2) the novelty and innovativeness of the approach, and 3) evidence of the applicant's potential for creative and innovative research as an early stage investigator.
  • Do applicants need to be trained in the field of addiction and substance use disorders? 
    No.  However, it would be prudent for applicants without such training to enlist the support of substance use disorder experts as collaborators. Applicants invited for the interview phase of the review should again enlist the support of collaborators working in the field of addiction and substance use disorders to better prepare for the interview and possible subsequent steps.
  • By what date must an investigator hold an independent position to be eligible to apply for the Avenir Award 
    Applicants must hold an independent research position at a domestic (U.S.) institution as of September 1, 2023. Investigators still in training or mentored status (postdoctoral fellows) are not eligible to apply unless they have a written commitment of an independent faculty position as of September 1, 2023 that is certified by submission of the application from that institution.
  • What is meant by “independent research position?
    For the purpose of this award, “independent research position” means a position that automatically confers eligibility, according to the applicant’s institutional policy, for an investigator to apply for R01 grants with an appropriate commitment of facilities to be used for the conduct of the proposed research. Investigators still in training or mentored status (postdoctoral fellows) are not eligible to apply unless they have a written commitment of an independent faculty position, certified by submission of the application from that institution, as of September 1, 2023.
  • What percent effort is expected for the Avenir Award. 
    At least 3 months of a 12-month calendar year.
  • Can an applicant submit an R01 at the same time?  
    Yes.  Applicants may submit or have an R01 (or other equivalent) grant application pending concurrently with their Avenir Award application. If the applicant receives an R01 before the Avenir can be awarded, then the investigator is no longer eligible for an Avenir award.
  • What is the page limit for the Research Plan?  
    5 pages
  • What should be included in the Research Plan?  Specific Aims must not be included.  The research strategy essay should include: 1) Statement of research effort commitment of at least 3 months of a 12 month calendar year 2) Project Description; 3) Innovativeness4) Investigator Qualifications.  Please see announcement for complete details.
  • Where should I place the references? 
    The references should be inserted in the Research plan and cited as author and PubMed ID.
  • What letters are needed?
    Letters of support from significant collaborators should be included in the application. In addition, three letters of reference are needed. The three confidential letters of reference are to be submitted separately from the application through the ERA Commons.
  • Are the letters of support different than the letters of reference?
    Yes.  The letters of support are from your collaborators to be included in the application. 
    The three letters of reference by your referees are to be submitted by your referees separately to the Commons https://public.era.nih.gov/commons/ (see video on reference letter submission). Referees are being requested to describe the applicant’s qualities that support the applicant’s claim to scientific innovativeness, creativity, as well as evaluate the likelihood that the applicant will conduct groundbreaking research in the proposed research area.
  • Where do I include letters of support in the application?
    The letters of support from collaborators should be included following the research strategy section.  The letters of support from collaborators are very important especially when the expertise of the applicant is outside the field of addiction and drug use.
  • Are the letters of References sent separately?
    Yes. Letters of reference are an important component of the application. Applicants must arrange to have three (and no more than three) letters of reference submitted on their behalf. Applications that are missing letters of reference will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed. Late letters will not be accepted. Applicants are responsible for monitoring the submission of their letters to ensure that three letters have been submitted prior to the submission deadline. Applicants are encouraged to check the status of their letters in their Commons accounts.
  • What are the deadlines for the referees to submit letters of reference?
    Letters may be submitted beginning  July 12, 2022 and must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. (local time of applicant organization), August 12, 2022.
  • Are the letters of reference confidential?
    Yes.  Letters of reference are confidential. Applicants will not have access to the letters. Email confirmations will be sent to both the applicant and the referee. The confirmation sent to the applicant will include the referee’s name and the date and time the letter was submitted. The confirmation sent to the referee will include the referee and applicant’s names, a confirmation number, and the date and time the letter was submitted.
    Note: Since email can be unreliable, it is the applicant’s responsibility to check the status of his/her letters of reference periodically in the Commons.
  • Where do the Referees submit the letters of reference?
    Letters may be submitted to the Commons at (https://public.era.nih.gov/commons/)
  • What Information does the applicant need to provide to referees for them to properly submit a letter of reference?
    The referee will need the following information:
    • Funding Opportunity Number (FOA) for this announcement: RFA-DA-23-014
    • The applicant’s eRA Commons User Name (Note: Referees do not need to be registered in the Commons and do not need their own Commons User Name – only the Commons User Name of the applicant is required);
    • The applicant’s first and last name (note – the name must match exactly the applicant’s name in the Commons)
  • What are the instructions to the referees?
    • Letters are to be submitted to the Commons at (https://public.era.nih.gov/commons/) by  July 12, 2022 and must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. (local time of applicant organization), August 12, 2022.
      • The applicant’s name should be placed at the top of the letter. Although signatures are not required, the letter must include a signature block with the referee’s full name, title, institution, and contact information.
      • In two pages or less, describe the applicant’s qualities that support the applicant’s claim to scientific innovativeness and creativity. When possible, give specific examples that illustrate these qualities. Address the likelihood that the applicant will conduct groundbreaking research in the proposed research area.
      • Note: The letter submission page can be accessed without signing into the Commons, and referees do not need to be registered in the Commons. Referees must provide the applicant’s Commons User Name (User ID) and the other information below:
      • REFEREE INFORMATION (the individual providing the letter of reference):
      • Referee’s First and Last Name (Required)
      • Referee’s Middle Initial (MI) (Not Required)
      • Referee’s Email Address (Required)
      • Referee’s Institution/Affiliation (Required)
      • Referee’s Department (Required)
  • Can you tell me about the review process? 
    Applications that are complete are reviewed in two phases by a multidisciplinary scientific review group of outside experts convened by The National Institute on Drug Abuse in accordance with NIH peer review procedures (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/peer/).   Applications will initially be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by outside reviewers. Subsequently, an editorial-style panel will consider the applications and the comments of the initial reviewers to select the most meritorious applications. Less meritorious applications will not be discussed.  Candidates with more meritorious applications selected by the panel will be invited to the Washington, D.C. area in November 2022 for interviews.
  • If I am not interviewed, will I receive a score? 
    For those who are not interviewed, their summary statements will indicate that their application was “Not Discussed”.  Nonetheless, the summary statements will contain the criterion scores and evaluative comments of individual reviewers.
  • When will the awards be announced?
    No later than September 30, 2023.
  • How will final selection be made?
    Final selection of awardees will be made by the Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, based on the outcome of the initial peer review, concurrence of National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, and programmatic considerations. Final selections will be announced publicly.
  • Will additional FAQ be added?
    Please refer back to this page frequently to check for updates to the FAQs.