In the season of RPPRs and changing budgets, we thought it might be a nice time to once again mention effort reduction on NIH projects.
Remember, if you are reducing the effort of key personnel on a grant, you need the permission of your NIH program officer if the amount of effort reduced is 25% or more. The amount reduced is cumulative; that is, the 25% threshold may be reached by the reduction of two or more efforts per individual in successive project periods. To revisit an example, take Dr. Alpha: he devotes 25% effort to a project, or 3.0 person months. If he reduces his effort by more than 25% of 3.0 months (which is 0.75 months), he needs permission to reduce.
So, if Dr. Alpha reduces his effort in Year 2 by 20% (0.6 months) to 2.4 months, he does not need to request NIH permission. If he reduces his effort again in Year 3 by 10% (0.24 months), he DOES need special permission at that point, because his effort has been reduced from the last approved level by 28%. This is where the “cumulative” term comes into play: once NIH has approved a reduction, all subsequent reductions are measured at 25% of the MOST RECENT approval (as opposed to consistent measurement against the first-year effort levels, if subsequent changes were made). For further details on the 25% thresholds, be sure to read the Section 8 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement. If you need some guidance on calculating your own thresholds, we’re always happy to help!