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Strategy for NIH Funding
Navigation for the Strategy for NIH Funding. Link to Part 1. Qualify for NIH Funding.Link to Part 2. Pick and Design a Project.Link to Part 3. Write Your Application.Link to Part 4. Submit Your Application.Link to Part 5. Assignment and Review.Link to Part 6. If Not Funded.Link to Part 7. Funding.

Previous page in Strategy.Strategy to Determine What Funding You Qualify For · Part 2. Pick and Design a ProjectNext page in Strategy.

What Funding May You Qualify For?

Follow our steps to learn what funding both you and organization may be eligible for and get our advice too. This page gives you more detail on the topics introduced on Strategy to Determine What Funding You Qualify For.

NIH supports grants for scientists with different research needs and at various career stages. Learn about qualifying for an independent grant and as an NIH "new investigator." If you are not ready for or not seeking independent support, find options and opportunities for training-type awards.

On this page, you can also read more about funding for investigators and organizations outside the U.S.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)

How to Qualify for NIH Funding

As an investigator, keep in mind these facts about qualifying for NIH funding.

1. Your research topic must meet the NIH Mission. NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, each with a defined research focus. NIAID conducts and supports basic and applied research into infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases affecting humans.

For links to institute Web sites, go to Institutes, Centers and Offices. For more information about NIAID, go to Who We Are and visit the NIAID home page.

2. For most grants, including the basic research project grant, called R01, NIH has eligibility requirements for the institution only, not the principal investigator. (Exceptions include fellowships and career awards.)

For example, here is the eligibility statement in the R01 Parent Program Announcement under Eligible Individuals:

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the PD/PI is invited to work with his/her organization 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.

Nevertheless, peer reviewers expect to see sufficient experience and published expertise. Read about reviewer expectations at Ready for Independent Support? below.

Most types of institutions—including universities, small and large businesses, state and local governments, and foreign institutions—qualify for most research grants.

A few grants have special institutional requirements.

For example, AREA grants support small-scale projects that expose undergrads and graduate students to NIH-funded research. To be eligible, an institution must have received less than $6 million a year in NIH funding in at least four of the last seven years. Read more in the SOP linked below.

For details, read the Eligibility Information section of the NIH Guide announcement for the NIH funding opportunity announcement (FOA) you plan to use. Also check that section for other special requirements.

3. Last are eligibility requirements for the research project. Here is a list:

  • Fits the NIH Mission.
  • Is unique.
  • Complies with NIH and federal policies, including for human subjects and vertebrate animals.
  • Complies with other requirements specified in the FOA you choose.

Regarding the second bullet, NIH will not fund research that is either underway or already completed.

However, you may submit an application for the same research to NIH and another organization at the same time. NIH will not fund it if the other organization does.

Other funding sources include private foundations, foreign governments, and federal agencies that are outside the Public Health Service—you may not submit the same application to another PHS agency, e.g., FDA, CDC, and AHRQ.

Requirements for Foreign Investigators, Projects, and Institutions

You do not need U.S. affiliation or citizenship for most types of grants.

Though most NIH grants go to domestic institutions, you do not need U.S. affiliation or citizenship to become either a grantee institution or a PI for most grants.

The main exceptions are small business awards, which require U.S. citizenship, and fellowships, career development awards (with one minor exception), and training grants, for which you must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident (have an Alien Registration Receipt Card).

Foreign investigators working on NIH-funded grants have the following requirements:

Applications from foreign institutions must include either expertise or resources that are not available here—for example, access to a unique study population.

  • Foreign applications have an extra review step: reviewers assess whether comparable work is being done in the U.S. If it is, the application will suffer in review.
  • Reviewers also consider the relevance of the proposed research to NIAID's mission and check whether there is a need for the research.

For general eligibility information, read the entire Just the Facts section of this document.

Be aware that NIH requires additional steps for foreign institutional applicants to register for electronic application. Go to Registration Instructions for Domestic and Foreign Institutions.

More Resources



Our Advice

(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)

Steps to Determine Eligibility

1. First find out whether NIH supports your research area. It must fall within the NIH Mission to be funded by NIH. To learn about NIH, review these resources.

2. Once you've established that NIH is the right spot, look for an institute that would be appropriate to your work. For scientists seeking NIH funding, fitting in is complex.

NIH is made up of semiautonomous institutes and centers; while their mission areas are well defined, they often overlap. So it is possible that multiple institutes may be suitable for your application—though some may have a stronger interest in your research than others.

Might NIAID be interested in your field of research? We support basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. Learn more about NIAID at:

Find links to other institutes' Web sites at Institutes, Centers and Offices.

Another avenue for assessing where your research may fit is by looking into areas in which institutes are soliciting applications to see whether your ideas match any institute's priorities.

NIH solicits applications through funding opportunity announcements (FOA), which are either program announcements or requests for applications. To learn more about FOAs, go to Choose Approach and Find FOAs in Part 2.

Use these links to find current and potential future funding opportunities.

Next, you may want to talk to an NIH program officer about your research ideas and plans—find NIAID's at the links in the box at right.

  • Ask what areas are of high priority to the Institute and discuss possible topics for investigator-initiated research.
  • Get an opinion of your idea for an investigator-initiated application.
  • You may want to read Use an Iterative Approach to Plan Your Project in Pick a Research Project in Part 2.

You may also want to read Where do I find high-priority funding areas? in our Finding Help questions and answers.

3. When considering what research project you'll pursue, keep in mind that it must qualify as well. To be eligible for funding, your project must:

  • Fit in with an institute's mission.
  • Be new and unique—NIH will not fund research that is underway or already completed.
  • Comply with NIH and federal policies, including for human subjects and vertebrate animals.
  • Meet the eligibility requirements in the FOA you choose. Read the FOA's Eligibility Information section for details.
  • Comply with other requirements specified in the FOA.

Even though most grants do not have eligibility requirements for scientists, your reviewers will judge whether you are qualified. We describe this topic in more detail in the next section.

To find out about different types of grants, go to Choose the Grant in Part 2.

Ready for Independent Support?

For investigators, NIH has minimal eligibility requirements for most research grants—e.g., the R01 or R21.

But you will need to convince your peer reviewers that you can handle heading up a major research project, and they will assess your prospects scrupulously.

Reviewers expect you to show that you are ready and able to lead. That means your application must detail your expert qualifications and publications, your institution's commitment to you and your project, and the independent space you'll have by the time the award is made. A bench in someone else's lab is not enough.

Equally important, your institution must allow you to apply. Institutions generally have requirements for the organizational level you need to attain (for example, assistant professor) before they will let you apply for your own grant.

In Do You Qualify for Independent Support? in our New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding, we list the following criteria you should meet before seeking a research project grant, such as an R01:

  • Hold an advanced degree appropriate to the research (in most fields, this means a Ph.D. or M.D.).
  • Have a level of position at which your institution allows employees to apply (often assistant professor or higher).
  • Have a publication record (first or last author) in respected journals or a history of overseeing projects in the field in which you are applying.
  • Work in a research institution that has the resources—equipment and lab space—you will need and that has committed space for the project.

Read more about choosing a standard research grant in See if an R01 Is Right for You in Part 2.

While NIH does not require any position, reviewers will take notice. So if you're up for a promotion, for example, to assistant professor, state that in the personal statement of your application's biosketch. After submitting, you can inform the scientific review officer up to 30 days before the meeting.

New and early-stage investigator status. NIH also has eligibility requirements for new and early-stage investigators who are applying for a first R01. Having this status enables new investigators to qualify for higher paylines and possibly preferential funding. Additionally, peer reviewers have different expectations for new investigators.

Read more in the New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding at Are You "New"? as well as What Award Should You Apply For? and What's an R01?

For additional help, read our Checklist for New Investigators and visit the New and Early-Stage Investigators portal.

If you are unsure about eligibility, contact an NIH program officer. To find one at NIAID, go to When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer.

Learn more about planning a research career at Hatch a Plan for Your Career in Pick a Research Project in Part 2.

Not Ready for Independent Support?

If you are not ready for independent support, you have a couple of alternatives: 1) become part of someone else's grant or 2) apply for a training or career award.

Conduct research as part of another grant. Do you have senior-level collaborators?

Consider asking about the possibility of leading a subproject as part of their multiproject application, e.g., a program project grant (P01).You would not be an independent principal investigator, but you would have your own project. Read more about these grants at Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application.

Another avenue is to ask principal investigators in your institution to include you as an investigator on their application.

Could you hitch onto an existing grant through a research supplement? NIAID funds several types of supplements that add money to active research grants. A supplement can support your salary and other expenses, making you part of an established research team.

See if you meet the requirements for our Diversity, Primary Caregiver, or Reentry supplements. Then find a grantee who would be willing to apply for you, since you cannot apply.

Training and career awards. NIAID supports awards for investigators at different career stages. To see a progression of awards from graduate student through independent investigator, review our two graphics:

Visit our Training and Career portal for help such as Advice on Research Training and Career Awards, which describes awards for investigators at different career stages.

While training grants are for senior-level investigators who lead a training program, you could look into becoming a trainee on such a program. Contact your grants business office to find out.

Keep in mind that all training and career awards require U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status except the K99/R00 (and we make very few of those awards).

To get help from us at this stage, contact our training office at

More Resources

These grants have their own eligibility requirements—find program announcements and other information.

Find more resources on our Training and Career portal.

In NIH intramural divisions, the NIH Visiting Program has opportunities for foreign scientists to train at and collaborate with NIH.

You may also want to check out the following.

Look for opportunities from other organizations.

Strategy for NIH Funding
Navigation for the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Previous page in Strategy.Strategy to Determine What Funding You Qualify For · Part 2. Pick and Design a ProjectNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 1. Qualify for NIH Funding

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email

Last Updated March 30, 2016

Last Reviewed December 01, 2011