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SCORE SC2 MECHANISM (Pilot Project Award)

The SC2 mechanism lets investigators, normally in their earlier stages of development, to test a new idea or gather preliminary data to establish a new line of research, or it allows more experienced investigators to switch to a different research area from the one in which an individual has been engaged in and published. Mentorship from productive, established scientists in the proposed field of research is required, especially for beginning investigators. Additionally, any investigator applying for the SC2 mechanism must demonstrate that accomplishing the objectives of the pilot project is a first step in a long-term plan aimed at becoming established in a given biomedical/behavioral area covered by the NIH mission and securing other external funding. PIs who successfully complete a pilot project may apply for either an SC1 or SC3 funding opportunity depending on their developmental goals. Pilot project support may be requested for one to three years maximum and is not renewable.

The principal difference between a SC2 pilot project and an SC1 or SC3 award is that the pilot allows an individual to study and develop a new idea for which he/she has no preliminary data. Any individual planning to submit a pilot research project is advised to assess the field of study, evaluate his/her credentials and expertise, determine the resources necessary to conduct the project, and work on a clear hypothesis before initiating the writing of a proposal. He/she is also encouraged to consult the instructions of PHS form 398 (4/2006 revision), which provides general guidance on how to prepare an NIH investigator-initiated application.

PIs who have previously received S06 subproject, SC1, or SC3 awards may only apply for SC2 support if: 1) they intend to change research fields and develop a different line of research from that in which they have been engaged in and published, and 2) have no other active external research support.

Funds Available



  • Twenty-five to 30 SC2 awards totaling $2-$2.2 million dollars (direct costs) are expected to be made each year.
  • The anticipated amount of individual SC2 awards is expected to range between $50,000 to $100,000 maximum direct costs per year. Yearly requests need not be of the same amount but must be determined based on $25,000 module increments.
  • SC2 awards may not exceed $225,000 (direct costs) for the entire length of the award which may be one to three years maximum.

Eligible Individuals

Any individual with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research is invited to work with their institution to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support. Typically the PI of a SCORE application possesses a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. degree. He/she must also have a full-time faculty appointment at the applicant institution and be eligible to apply for a NIH R01 research grant. Postdoctoral fellows, research fellows, and part-time or adjunct faculty are not eligible to apply for SCORE individual awards. An applicant may not be the Principal Investigator of any other NIH investigator-initiated research grant or a PI of an S06 subproject at the time an SC2 award is made.

Pilot project awards may not be transferred from one PI to another.

Cost Sharing or Matching

Not required.
A PI may only apply for/receive one individual SCORE award at a time. Additionally, pilot research projects (SC2 awards) are not renewable and must fall within the scope of the NIH mission. Emeritus/retired professors or investigators who have or have had a significant track record of non-MBRS external research funding are considered fully developed and may not apply for any of the SCORE investigator-initiated research awards. Because of the developmental nature of the SC2 award mechanism, no Co-PIs are allowed.
SCORE SC2 awards include some restrictions as to how the funds may be used. The following account summarizes allowable and non-allowable costs under the SCORE SC2 mechanism.

Allowable Costs

  • Costs essential to the conduct of the research projects, such as technical assistance, equipment, travel, and supplies are allowed.
  • Faculty salaries, typically based on full-time, nine-month contract, are reimbursed according to person months dedicated to the proposed research. However, SCORE academic year or summer support for faculty can not be used to increase one’s actual institutional salary, supplement it, or establish the institutional base salary.
  • Summer-salary support based on person months spent on the SCORE research project is allowed if permitted by institutional policy. The maximum summer-salary support provided by the program may not exceed the equivalent of two months or another length of time specified by the institution as its policy or whichever is shorter.
  • Travel costs for mentor, external consultants/collaborators or PI’s travel to collaborator’s or mentor’s institution are allowed.
  • Consortium arrangements are only allowed with SCORE-eligible institutions.

Unallowable Costs

  • Costs for student development (e.g. student stipend, salary or tuition), textbooks, journals, memberships, and Internet or cell phone subscription costs are not allowed.
  • Employees of the applicant institution may not serve as paid consultants.
  • Support for foreign institutions or foreign components/consortia/collaborators/consultants in research projects are not allowed.
  • Travel for technical personnel is not allowed.
  • Funds for faculty salaries cannot be used to supplement the PI’s or collaborators’ actual academic year salary or to increase the base by which academic year PI or collaborators’ salaries are calculated.
  • Collaborators/consultants at a SCORE-ineligible institution are expected to have their own research funds, i.e., SCORE grant funds may not be utilized to provide collaborators/consultants support for the conduct of research projects such as salary for technical personnel or to purchase equipment or supplies.
  • Salary compensation for mentors
  • Secretarial/clerical support

Additional Instructions:

Modular Budget Format Page. Follow instructions in PHS 398 (4/2006 revision). Refer to the Budget Instructions of the research grant application at http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html for step-by step-instructions for preparing modular budgets. Note that applicants request direct costs in $25,000 modules and that the total direct costs for the entire length of the award (not to exceed three years) is $225,000. The maximum direct costs amount that may be requested for each year is $100,000.
In the “Biographical Sketch” of the PI, list the education and training, selected publications with full citations, position(s), any honors, and any grant support, with information, including overall goals and responsibilities, on research projects ongoing or completed during the last three years. Also provide for the PI only information on his (her) previous or current experience supervising students from underrepresented groups in research, and/or other relationships within the institutional framework (e.g., cross-departmental research collaborations).

Under the Research Plan’s “Specific Aims” section include not only the pilot project’s research objectives but the PI’s developmental objectives as related to the long-term development of a new line of research.

The Research Plan for a pilot project should be prepared following PHS 398 instructions (4/2006 revision) except for the page limit that should not exceed 12 pages for items A-D, including figures, charts, tables, and diagrams. In the “Background and Significance” section of the Research Plan include a subheading entitled Institutional Data. In this part, which is limited to two pages (counted as part of the 12-page limit), include the following:

  • The total student enrollment at the institution and the number and percent of underrepresented minorities (e.g. Native American, African American, Hispanic American, natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands) in the total student population;
  • Number and percent of underrepresented minority students (undergraduate and graduate) enrolled in the sciences relevant to biomedical and behavioral research;
  • Number and percent of total and underrepresented minority faculty in the sciences relevant to biomedical and behavioral research and the total number of faculty and of underrepresented minority faculty from these departments participating in funded research.

PIs proposing to switch research areas must include in the “Background and Significance” section another subheading entitled “Rationale for the Development of a New Research Area”. In this part, the PI must briefly summarize any accomplishments resulting for previous SCORE funding and explain the reasons that have led him/her to seek support for a different line of research.

In the “Research Design and Methods” include a subheading on the Role of the Mentor as it relates to the project and the PI’s development. Letters of collaboration/support should be placed after the literature cited (see PHS 398 instructions).
Appendix. Follow instructions in PHS 398. Limit appendix to and papers published or in press


Additional and more detail information on SC2 Mechanism can be found at this address:
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-06-492.html




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