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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 for Assignment and Review   ·   Initial Peer Review and Your Next StepsNext page in Strategy.

Ensure You Get the Right Assignments

On this page, you can find critical information and actions to help you make sure your application is reviewed by the most appropriate reviewers and assigned to the correct institute.

Be sure you understand the importance of this step, when and where to find your assignments, and how to request a change if you are not satisfied with either of them.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

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

NIH Checks Your Application

After your application moves to NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR), staff there make sure it conforms with administrative and formatting requirements.

CSR's manual check is a potential failure point for your application.

This check is a potential failure point. NIH may return your application to you without a peer review for the following reasons:

  • Including other support (you submit this just-in-time; see Prepare Your Just-in-Time Information in Part 3).
  • Insufficient human or animal documentation, including missing data, assurances, or other required documentation.
  • No preapproval documentation to submit an application requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any one year. If you want more information, read the Big Grants SOP.
  • No preapproval documentation for an investigator-initiated clinical trial—go to our Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Resources.
  • No documentation of approval for using select agents.
  • A detailed rather than a modular budget if requesting $250,000 or less in annual direct costs for grant types requiring modular.
  • Improper formatting, including font size and margins. See Master the Application in Part 3 for details.
  • Improper submission, for example, emailing the forms to NIH instead of submitting through Grants.gov.
  • Not meeting the requirements of a request for applications or institute-specific program announcement, if responding to one of the initiatives. NIAID program staff decide this.
  • Contacting a reviewer.

A late application is also a potential failure; read Rules for Late Applications in Part 4 and Late Applications SOP.

Applications Are Assigned to an Institute and Integrated Review Group

Within seven to ten days after you apply, you should find your initial assignments in the Commons.

After your application makes it through the eRA Commons, it arrives at CSR where it gets a unique identification number that looks like this: 1 R01 AI183723 02 A1 S1. See the application identification number glossary term for an explanation. NIH staff will typically refer to your grant or application using that number.

At that point, CSR assigns your application to an integrated review group, an umbrella organization comprising several study sections, and then to the study section that will perform the initial peer review. It also assigns your application to an institute or center for potential funding.

You may have requested these assignments in your cover letter; read Create a Cover Letter in Part 4. While CSR often complies with these requests, it is not required to, and CSR staff may make different assignments based on NIH referral guidelines and workload.

In any case, within seven to ten days after you apply, you should find your initial assignments in the Commons.

Study Section. At first the Commons may show your integrated review group instead of your study section. During the next few days, CSR will update this information with the study section assignment. If you don't see your study section assignment within two weeks, call the NIH Referral Office at 301-435-0715.

Institute. After NIAID receives notice of your application, our Referral and Policy Analysis Branch assigns it to one of our program divisions using our internal referral guidelines.

Approximately 30 days before the review meeting, CSR posts your study section's updated roster in the Commons. You'll have to wait longer if your application is assigned to a SEP. Learn more in Investigate Committees and Members in Part 3.

Request a Change of Study Section

If you feel your application was not assigned to an appropriate study section, you can request a change. Check CSR's Integrated Review Groups to find an alternative. Find roster links at the top of the study section pages.

Discuss your alternative with the chief of the integrated review group for your assigned study section. Find his or her contact information on CSR's Office of the Director staff list or ask your scientific review officer if you cannot find it online.

Then, fax a letter to CSR at 301-480-1987 requesting a new assignment and briefly stating the rationale for the change. Below is an example of an acceptable and an unacceptable request.

  • Acceptable: "The focus of study section X seems to be more on the structural biology of molecules of immunologic importance. Since my application proposes to develop new antibodies for Phase I human studies, the clinical perspective of reviewers on study section Y is critical to appreciate the approaches I have taken."
  • Not acceptable: "I don't want X reviewers but want Y instead."

If this action does not resolve the problem, you may dispute the assignment with CSR's director of receipt and referral. Call 301-435-0715 and inform your program officer about the situation.

Our Advice

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

After you apply, make sure your application's assignments give it the best chance of success.

Make Sure You Have the Right Reviewers

The period after applying is a busy one for you—use it wisely to make sure you're on the right track.

To succeed in peer review, you'll need to check the people involved, anticipate events, and respond accordingly.

It's critical to have your application reviewed by a study section that will appreciate and competently evaluate your application, as we wrote in Investigate Committees and Members in Part 3.

The period after applying is a busy one for you—use it wisely to make sure you're on the right track.

First, check the study section assignment. Log in to the eRA Commons to check that your application is assigned to a study section that has the expertise you requested in your cover letter.

If you did not get the study section you requested, check carefully that the one you are assigned to meets your needs. CSR may have more than one study section with the expertise you require and sometimes creates ad hoc groups to fill in gaps. Find out more from your scientific review officer (SRO).

Later, check the roster. After the roster appears in the Commons—about a month before the review—make sure the expertise you need is on the committee. If it is not, notify your SRO, and discuss any competitors you see on the roster. Read about the importance of having the right reviewers in Investigate Committees and Members in Part 3.

Know Your Reviewers

About 30 days before the review meeting, check the roster again to make sure the study section has the necessary expertise to review your application.

Keep in mind that rosters change from one review cycle to the next, so you won't know exactly who's on the panel until CSR posts updated rosters about 30 days before the review meeting.

Still, at that point, you can check to see if the study section appears to be a good choice, e.g., it has some people who have the appropriate expertise. If unsure, contact your SRO to discuss.

Keep in mind that it is often better to wait for the next receipt date than be reviewed by the wrong reviewers.

Check the Institute Assignment

If you didn't get the right assignment or you think you chose the wrong institute, check in with your program officer.

Did you request assignment to an institute?

If you didn't get the right assignment or you think you chose the wrong institute, check in with your program officer.

Your application stands the best chance of getting funded if it goes to an institute that considers the research high-priority, and program officers are in the best position to make that assessment.

To ask for a reassignment, follow the same process as above but tailor the letter to a change of institute.

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

Previous page in Strategy.Strategy for Assignment and Review   ·   Initial Peer Review and Your Next StepsNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 5. Assignment and Review

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.​

Last Updated April 17, 2014

Last Reviewed September 30, 2011