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About NIH Grants and Funding Opportunities

The NIH provides financial support to advance its mission of enhancing health, extending healthy life, and reducing the burdens of illness and disability. While the NIH awards many grants specifically for research, it also provides grant opportunities that support research-related activities, including fellowships and training, career development, resources, scientific conferences, and construction of research facilities. The NIH encourages:

Projects of High Scientific Caliber

The NIH looks for grant proposals of high scientific caliber that are relevant to public health needs and are within NIH Institute and Center (IC) priorities. ICs highlight their research priorities on their individual websites. We encourage you to contact the appropriate Institute or Center staff to discuss the relevancy and/or focus of your proposed research before submitting an application.

NIH-Requested Research

NIH ICs regularly identify specific research areas and program priorities to fulfill their scientific missions. To encourage and stimulate research in these areas, many ICs will issue funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) in the form of program announcements (PAs) and requests for applications (RFAs). To find an FOA in your scientific field, search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts which includes all funding opportunities offered by the NIH, or Grants.gov to search across all federal agencies.

Unsolicited Research

The NIH supports "unsolicited" or “investigator-initiated” research and training applications that do not fall within the scope of NIH-requested FOAs. These applications still address the scientific mission of the NIH but originate from your research ideas or training needs. These unsolicited applications should be submitted through "parent announcements", which are FOAs that span the breadth of the NIH mission. Not all NIH ICs participate on all program announcements. Before submitting your application, make sure the NIH ICs that might be interested in your research are listed as a participating organizations in the announcement.

Unique Research Projects

By law, the NIH cannot support projects that are already funded or pay for research that has already been conducted.

For more information about NIH grants, see the resources below.

Applying for and Receiving NIH Grants

Preparing and submitting an NIH research application is a major undertaking. This competitive process requires diligent planning, preparation, and organization. The section below provides links to resources and offers strategies for developing your application and navigating the NIH grants process.

Strategies and Tips for Preparing and Submitting NIH Grants

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the NIH grants process and finding funding opportunities for NIH-requested research or parent announcements for investigator-initiated applications, you should consider the following strategies when applying for NIH support:

Assemble a Local Team of Experts

You should determine whether you have sufficient expertise to deal with the challenges that are likely to arise as you plan and execute your application. For example, expertise in project administration, research design, and data collection and analysis are critical for a grant’s success, but rarely are these skills found in a single investigator. It can be helpful to seek advice from colleagues at your institution and include experienced and senior investigators in key roles (e.g., statistics, data management, recruitment of subjects, theory).

Seek Advice from NIH Program Officials Before You Submit Your Application

Each NIH FOA will list a program official who helps manage the research portfolio of his or her IC. The program official, also sometimes referred to as the program officer or project officer, provides technical assistance to applicants, observes scientific review meetings, and monitors the research progress of grantees. Program officials are often listed as the scientific/research contacts in an FOA. You should contact the appropriate program official to discuss your proposed project well in advance of submitting an application. It is advisable to make initial contact by email and include a brief description of the proposed project, the FOA number(s), and the application receipt date for which you expect to apply. The program official can offer feedback on whether your project is an appropriate match for the IC and if it is likely to merit a good score during the peer review process.

Consult With Scientific Review Officers/Administrators (SROs/SRAs) to Identify the Most Appropriate Study Section to Review Your Application

The first level of review in NIH’s dual peer review system is carried out by a study section—also known as a scientific review group (SRG), which is composed primarily of non-federal scientists who have expertise in relevant scientific disciplines and current research areas. Approximately 70% of study section meetings are administered by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR); the remaining 30% are administered by NIH ICs with research portfolios. Each SRG is assigned a federal Scientific Review Officer (SRO) or Scientific Review Administrator (SRA) who organizes and oversees the review to ensure that it is a fair and unbiased process.

The SRO/SRA checks each application for completeness, recruits qualified reviewers, attends and oversees administrative and regulatory aspects of peer review meetings, and prepares a summary statement for all reviewed applications. SROs/SRAs can answer questions about what a study section covers and what kind of scientists serve as reviewers.

Request a Specific Study Section to Evaluate Your Application When Possible

Applications that come through a parent program announcement go to standing study sections. Standing study sections are organized by topic area and are comprised of members who serve terms, although ad hoc members are brought in when a particular expertise is needed. When submitting an application for a PA, it is strongly recommended that you request which standing study section you would like to review your application. CSR offers a number of ways to identify an appropriate study section including searching by topics, the CSR Assisted Referral Tool, and you can use NIH RePorter to identify where similar funded proposals were reviewed. Applicants may wish to contact SROs or the Division of Receipt and Referral (301-435-0715) with specific questions about a potential assignment. Requests for study section or Institute assignments should be submitted on the optional PHS Assignment Review Request form, which is found with the other optional forms in each application packet.

Your request is often, but not always, honored. If you do not request a specific study section, the NIH assigns the application to an existing one. Ultimately, the Receipt and Referral Office at CSR will identify the most appropriate study section for your application.

Applications submitted in response to a request for applications (RFA) or program announcement with special review (PAR), are not assigned to a standing study section; instead they go to a special emphasis panel (SEP). A SEP is an ad hoc group of peer reviewers pulled together expressly for the applications submitted for a given RFA or PAR. When applying to an RFA or a PAR, you may not request a standing study section—applications automatically go to the appropriate SEP.

For more information about submitting grant applications, see the videos below.