BAG Application Instructions

Program overview

Block Allocation Group (BAG) Applications are a category of access at NCCAT that allows researchers greater flexibility in instrumentation access allocation and scheduling. At this time BAG proposals are limited to an individual investigator or small groups of investigators working on a common biomedical research problem or other synergistic reasons. BAGs permit greater flexibility in the choice of driving biological projects and cryoEM ready samples within a given allocation period; and offer the benefit of access to more regular allocation.

Currently, BAG proposals will support access to instruments for single-particle cryoEM data collection on Titan Krios instruments. Accepted NCCAT users (and their PI’s if applicable) are required to sign a written agreement that they will comply with all NIH data sharing, reporting, and publication policies. The written agreement will also outline other requirements and policies for NCCAT access so as to manage expectations as transparently as possible.

BAG program overview

Program details

  • BAG proposals will be valid for two years.
  • The total amount of time that may be requested for one BAG proposal is limited to 20 cycles of Krios access.
    • An application may not request more than 10 cycles per year.
    • If you would like to include requests for other categories of instrumentation access in your application, please first set up a meeting with the NCCAT User Office to determine if this will be possible.
  • BAG members are responsible for the distribution of assigned shifts among the BAG subprojects.
  • BAG members should aim at distributing the requested shifts evenly over the whole period of two years.
  • BAG members are expected not to submit any additional access proposals with similar scientific objectives to NCCAT.
  • BAG members will be required to submit regular progress reports. [Midterm and End of BAG instructions.]

Proposal administration

Awarded proposals will require coordination and regular reporting. The BAG spokesperson should be an experienced senior scientist. They are responsible for submitting the access proposal, communication between BAG members if multiple researchers apply, and submission of annual reports. The NCCAT Time Allocation Committee (TAC) and NCCAT User Office (NUO) will be in charge of the scheduling and user coordination of individual instrument sessions once BAG members are assigned.

Annual reporting and continuation request

The BAG is required to submit an annual report. This report includes (but not limited to) a 2-3 page summary that details the results obtained, any publications from the work, and any problems encountered. The report must contain BAG continuation request with justification for the next year of instrument access. At the end of the two-year term of the BAG a 2nd annual/final report must be submitted. Similar to the annual report it also should include an executive summary of the two-year term highlighting the successes and productivity of the BAG. Although the BAG may be recommended to receive a certain amount of Krios days the lifetime of the BAG may end before this maximum limit is reached. In exceptional cases, the 2nd annual report may include a BAG continuation request for an extension of up to half a year. In this case, a final report will be due at the end of the lifetime of the BAG.

The NCCAT User Access Committee (UAC) may recommend to add or remove members/subprojects, or change BAG allocation according to performance, which will be assessed through the annual reports. NCCAT management reserves the right to terminate a BAG prior to the end of its two-year term if recommended by the UAC. If the annual report or final report is not filed with NCCAT a HOLD will be placed on all BAG members’ NCCAT access proposals (including awarded proposals) until the report is submitted.

Application requirements and process

BAGs are limited to three (3) pages of text, and two (2) pages of supporting data and figures. All BAG members named in the application must also submit an NIH Biosketch ( The initial round of proposals will be a variation on General User Proposals (GUP1s) for Titan Krios access. NCCAT has a quarterly call for applications, reviewed and ranked by a User Review Committee (URC), which is a peer review committee. Applications may include multiple projects led by separate PIs, however there will be a primary spokesperson for the BAG to coordinate communication. Projects requiring multiple days and many sessions will be given extra scrutiny and will have to meet a high standard for preliminary data. If a BAG proposal is awarded, then BAG members cannot submit another GUP proposal covering the same scientific project until the BAG term ends.

The BAG proposal must include the following information:

  • Proposal Title
  • Abstract explaining the overall goal of the BAG
  • Justification for the 6 scoring categories
  • BAG spokesperson and members
  • Communication plan (if there are multiple PIs)
  • Details of each individual subproject (up to 3 with no more than 1/2 page length for each subproject)
    • list names of BAG members related to the subproject
    • scientific background and significance
    • goals and objectives
    • safety issues, and special technical requirements (if applicable)

Users’ proposals are scored in the following categories: (i) Aims & Impact; (ii) Feasibility & Data; (iii) Proposed Experiments; (iv) Goals & Expectations; (v) Expertise & Resources; (vi) BAG Justification. The URC will score these aspects on a scale of 1-5 and also have the option to provide additional comments.

The content of the proposal will be kept confidential by the reviewer or relevant committees. A user may specify individuals that pose a potential conflict and exclude them from the external review committee.

Categories for review

The user review committee (URC) will score with respect to five (5) different categories.
(i) Aims & Impact: The specific objectives of your project. Include the scientific and technological importance of your project.
(ii) Feasibility & Data: Information and preliminary data for the samples associated with this proposal that impact feasibility of cryo-EM studies.
(iii) Proposed Experiments: The work to be conducted at the national center during the awarded project period.
(iv) Goals & Expectations: The goals for the project.
(v) Expertise & Resources: The team’s expertise in CryoEM sample preparation, microscope operation, and data interpretation, as well as the available cryoEM and/or computational resources that your team has access to.
(vi) BAG Justification: Why would combining multiple proposal access applications be critical to the program instead of separate applications for access that have a faster award turn around time.

Note: Geographical diversity, need for access by under-served or under-represented institutions, the extent of requested support, and other options available to the users or the trainees, will be taken into account in setting priorities.

These scores will be combined and averaged for a final proposal score from 1 (excellent) to 5 (poor).

Possible scores

Scores are on a scale from 1 (excellent) to 5 (poor).

Score Title Description
1 Excellent Highly innovative research of great scientific or technological importance. Access to NCCAT is integral to the success of the work.
2 Good High quality research with the potential for making an important contribution to a specific field, scientific discipline, or technical development project. Use of NCCAT resources is important to a successful outcome of the work.
3 Satisfactory Interesting research likely to produce results or incremental technological advances. The work will benefit from access to NCCAT.
4 Needs improvement Research may not significantly impact a specific field, scientific discipline, or technological area. Proposed work would also be able to be completed in other facilities including the home institution of the user.
5 Poor / Unsatisfactory Not well-planned or not feasible. The need for use of a national center is not clear.
NR No Review Insufficient information to base a review.


NCCAT encourages applicants to contact nccatinfo [at] or attend one of our regular information sessions before applying.