The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) partners with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Office of Acquisitions (OA) to support the NINDS mission, including planning, soliciting, negotiating, awarding, and administering biomedical and behavioral research and development (R&D) contracts, contracts for the direct support of R&D, information technology (IT) contracts, and simplified acquisitions.
About R&D Contracts
The NINDS uses R&D contracts to address critical needs, such as the acquisition of clinical trials, pre-IND manufacturing and preclinical testing, and product screening programs (e.g., the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP)).
R&D contracts do not include grants or cooperative agreements or other transactions.
Contract Process Overview
See details below on each step in the contract review and award process.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) regulations require peer review and approval of all biomedical and behavioral R&D project concepts, potential opportunities, and proposals before contract award.
Peer review of R&D project concepts evaluates the basic purpose, scope, and objectives of the projects and establishes relevance, priority, and need to accomplish NIH objectives. After the peer review and approval of a project concept, the OA works with NINDS program staff to create a solicitation.
Drafting the Request for Proposals
NINDS program staff, including the eventual Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) the the OA draft a request for proposals (RFP). During this process, they create a procurement package, which includes:
- The Statement of Work (SOW), which describes what the contractor will be expected to do during the contract.
- The Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE), which includes the anticipated costs for the work described in the contract and where those costs occur (labor, materials, travel, etc.)
- Market research, which identifies the groups who could perform the work in the SOW and current market conditions for the work being considered
- As part of market research and to gain equitable insight from potential contractors, the OA will post a Sources Sought and/or Small Business Sources Sought
The OA and COR also develop documentation to handle special circumstances for different contracts. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) dictates rules for considering small businesses, considering preferred acquisition tools, and rules based on the size of the acquisition. Generally, smaller acquisitions require fewer steps and review by fewer people, and larger acquisitions require more review and more steps to reach award. A presolicitation is sometimes prepared to notify potential applicants that a solicitation will be posted soon. A Request for Information (RFI) or Draft Solicitation may also be posted to allow offerors to provide information that is helpful for finalizing the SOW, IGCE, or market research.
Posting an RFP
SAM.gov is a public website that features notices of federal business opportunities, including proposed contract actions, solicitations, contract awards, and other procurement package information. A potential applicant for a contract must be registered in SAM.gov to participate.
SAM.gov publications include the following:
Solicitation notices are advertised in SAM and the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts. You may also find active solicitations at NIH electronic Contract Proposal Submission (eCPS). To filter the eCPS list for NINDS, use the Search by Institute field.
Solicitations contain all the elements necessary for prospective offerors to submit a proposal:
- Contract clauses
- Lists of documents, exhibits, and other attachments
- Representations and instructions
- Evaluation factors for award
Submitting a Proposal
Prospective offerors should carefully review each element of the solicitation to ensure that they understand the requirements and are able to fully respond.
Learn how NINDS uses the electronic Contract Proposal Submission (eCPS) system for the electronic submission, capture, tracking, and review of NINDS contract proposals. Check How To Submit an Electronic Proposal and electronic Contract Proposal Submission Frequently Asked Questions.
- Proposals are evaluated to determine an offeror's ability to perform the prospective contract successfully.
- The OA evaluates all competitive proposals and assesses their relative qualities solely on the evaluation factors and subfactors specified in the solicitation.
- For R&D contracts, OA staff work with the NINDS Scientific Review Program (SRP) to assemble ad hoc peer reviewers with background and experience in the subject area that is pertinent to the proposed contract award. These peer reviewers are screened to ensure that they have no conflict of interest with organizations submitting proposals.
- During the peer review meeting, reviewers discuss each technical proposal and then score each one independently against the technical evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation.
- For non-R&D contracts (e.g., consulting services that support R&D programs), an internal group of NINDS staff with expertise in areas relevant to the contract form a panel to evaluate and score all proposals, similar to the peer review process described above.
Determining the Competitive Range
After peer review is complete, the Contracting Officer determines the competitive range of all of the most highly rated proposals based on the ratings of each proposal against all evaluation factors in the solicitation. The competitive range is determined by the scores obtained after review of the proposals and will vary with each contract competition.
Offerors in the competitive range are notified and oral and/or written negotiations are conducted. When negotiations are conducted in a competitive acquisition, they are called discussions.
Discussions are tailored to each offeror's proposal and must be conducted by the Contracting Officer with each offeror within the competitive range. The primary objective of discussions is to maximize the government's ability to obtain best value based on the requirements and the evaluation factors set forth in the solicitation.
During discussions, the Contracting Officer may request or allow written responses to business and technical questions and proposal revisions to clarify and document understandings reached during discussions. These responses follow specific rules and are clearly communicated to all offerors when and if they occur.
At the conclusion of discussions, each offeror still in the competitive range will be given an opportunity to submit a final proposal revision.
A Proposal's Competitive Status
The OA will not provide an offeror information on its competitive status until a competitive range consisting of the highest rated proposals has been determined. At that time, offerors will be notified of whether their proposal is in the competitive range. Offerors can ask for additional feedback if their proposal was not in the competitive range to determine where they did not match the Institute’s needs.
Much of the information involved in reviewing contracts is confidential, including the identity of offerors. After the contract is awarded, we inform all offerors of the number of proposals submitted, contract number, name, address of the successful offeror, dollar value, and period of performance. Offerors may also submit a written request for a debriefing on their respective proposal's strengths and weaknesses in accordance with FAR Part 15.505 and 15.506.
Contract Timeline from Sources Sought to AwardImage
The contract process likely lasts 3-5 months once a Sources Sought is posted
- Smaller awards or fewer applicants will shorten the timeline
- Larger awards or many applicants will extend the timeline
- Solicitations can be posted for as short as 15 days or as long as the OA deems appropriate. Complex R&D needs are often posted for at least 30 days
Period of Performance
Each contract that is signed has a Period of Performance (POP) that starts with the date the contract is signed by both parties. Each contract specifies when evaluation of the contract will occur and when the government may have the option to terminate the contract.
The contractor works primarily with the COR to manage work that is supposed to occur within in the POP and to submit requests for changes.
There are multiple types of contracts that determine how a contractor bills the government for work performed and how changes in the amount of money need to be handled. Some contracts are set up without the ability to request more money (firm fixed price), and other contracts are set up to allow requests for additional money if costs are difficult to determine upfront (cost-type contracts).
Proposers should carefully review the type of contract that will be awarded and submit their price to perform the work based on understanding what will be expected of them throughout the POP.
Milestones and Deliverables
The contract will specify milestones and deliverables with dates. A contractor can be held in default of the contract if a milestone or deliverable date is missed. The dates can be modified, but communication with the OA and COR is necessary to ensure dates can be changed appropriately.