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Strategy for NIH Funding
What to Do if You Get Bad News · Strategy for Resubmitting
Pages of Part 6. If Not Funded.
Now that you've read the previous page, What to Do if You Get Bad News, you have received your summary statement, assessed the results of your review, and made some basic decisions about how to proceed.
On this page, we give you the pros and cons of your three basic options: revise and resubmit, create a new application, and apply outside of NIH.
We also discourage you from appealing the review since it doesn't usually help you get funded.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
If your application does not get funded, you have three basic options: revise and resubmit, create a new application, and apply outside of NIH.
When you resubmit, reviewers look at the application in the context of the critiques mentioned in your summary statement. You have the opportunity to address those critiques and must include an introduction to your application that explains how you've done so.
Note that most requests for applications (RFAs) do not allow resubmissions. If your previous application responded to an RFA, read your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to confirm. If you're not allowed to resubmit, go to Option 2: Create a New Application below.
For an investigator-initiated application, you need to decide whether to resubmit for the same FOA or a different one.
Read Option 1: Revise and Resubmit below to get our advice on deciding what approach to take.
When you create a new (as opposed to a resubmitted) application, reviewers will not see the summary statement or any other information from the previous review. Your application will get a new serial number and NIH will instruct reviewers to disregard any information they remember from a previous application.
You'll have several choices to make.
For advice, read Option 2: Create a New Application below.
If your application didn't succeed, NIH lets you seek funding from other government agencies, private foundations, and other funding sources.
You may send the same application topic to NIH and another organization simultaneously, with the following limitations:
Learn more at Option 3: Apply Outside NIH below.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
Just because your application didn't fare well doesn't mean it's the end of the road.
You have several directions you can take—read below for guidance in picking the right one and make sure you've worked through the decisions we wrote about in What to Do if You Get Bad News.
Don't wait to see whether we have money to fund your award later in the fiscal year. Read Revise, Don't Wait for Later Funding in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Take heed if you score poorly on the Significance review criterion because that means reviewers aren't excited about your research. Speak to your program officer about what to do before you start preparing another application.
Even if your application had fixable problems in the approach, continuing the same line of research—whether through a resubmission or new application—won't help you get funded if your idea lacks significance.
We understand this is no consolation, but the worst thing you can do is pour more time and effort into an application that NIH will not fund.
You may have grounds to appeal the review under certain circumstances but not for differences of scientific opinion. Read more about when you can appeal and how the process works in our Appeals of Scientific Review of Grant Applications SOP.
In general, we do not recommend appealing as a way to improve your chances of funding. Most appeals are denied and those that succeed don't necessarily yield a fundable score upon re-review of your application.
Appeals can end one of two ways:
You're probably better off forgoing an appeal and applying again using one of the options listed below.
Before you dive into our advice, make sure you've read What to Do if You Get Bad News so you know how to assess why your application wasn't funded.
For all the options we present, consult with your program officer before you make a decision. We provide information below to help you understand your options and learn what each one entails.
You probably want to jump right into your resubmission, but first check your original funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to confirm it hasn't expired, you still meet eligibility requirements, and NIAID (or your chosen institute) still participates.
If the announcement has been reissued or updated, make sure you're aware of new deadlines, eligibility criteria, forms, and instructions, all of which may have changed since your previous application.
If you applied to a program announcement (PA), program announcement with set-aside funds (PAS), or program announcement reviewed in an institute (PAR), you may resubmit to the same or a different PA, PAS, or PAR. But you'll still want to check your new FOA for the information we just mentioned.
Should You Wait for the Summary Statement?
You may want to begin revising even before you get your summary statement since waiting may cause you to miss the next receipt date.
While you must address all the reviewers' comments from your summary statement, you can start adding new data or making other improvements to the application.
Just keep in mind that you'll still have to wait for your summary statement before you resubmit, and you may have to revise your application further based on what reviewers note.
New Investigators: Don't Hurry
NIH has special rules to help new R01 investigators resubmit for the next receipt date by posting their summary statements sooner and letting them resubmit later than established investigators.
If you qualify for this benefit, don't take it unless you're certain you've addressed reviewer comments in your summary statement. Rushing to submit a subpar application won't help you get funded.
Waiting to strengthen your application will give you the best chance of succeeding in the long run. Learn more at Revise, Don't Wait for Later Funding in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Choose Your Path
Your resubmission can take one of two paths: revise and request the same study section or revise and request a different study section, keeping in mind you might not have a choice for some funding opportunity announcements, e.g., PARs.
Revising and Requesting the Same Study Section. If your reviewers were enthusiastic about your idea and found fixable problems, revising and requesting the same study section is usually the way to go. This route is the most common one and works well when the points of contention are limited.
Reviewers look at the application in the context of their critiques, so the approach is effective if you can readily answer their concerns.
Be aware that your application may still face some new reviewers who may raise different issues.
Revising and Requesting a Different Study Section. If your reviewers were not enthusiastic about your idea, reassess the study section.
Do you have a sense that no matter what you wrote your reviewers wouldn't have appreciated it? That's a clue that your application and the study section were a poor fit.
But be careful not to assume that the reviewers were the problem—first thoroughly size up the application's faults that they identified.
To gauge whether the study section may have been unsuitable, use the roster attached to your summary statement to view the committee members' names, and check out their publications. Then ask yourself these questions:
If the verdict is no for any of the above, the study section may not have been the best fit. Talk to colleagues and mentors to get their take and before you decide whether to request a new study section, keeping the following points in mind:
Cautionary Notes About Resubmissions
Don't launch into your resubmission until you've read our instructions on How to Resubmit in Part 6 and consider the following words of caution:
Create a new application if your old one had bigger problems than those addressed in Option 1 or you've already resubmitted unsuccessfully.
When you create a new (as opposed to a resubmitted) application, reviewers will not see the summary statement from the previous review, so you get a fresh start.
You could use much of your previous application's Research Strategy, but feel free to go in a completely new direction. Or, pivot off of an aspect your reviewers felt strongly about while relinquishing other parts.
NIH offers myriad ways to submit a new application, but all paths lead in two general directions: 1) propose the same or similar research, or 2) go in a new scientific direction.
If you propose the same or similar research, check in with your program officer and take a hard look at whether another attempt using the same or similar idea is likely to result in funding. We don't anticipate a substantial improvement in paylines, so don't factor that into your decision.
Keep in mind that even if you submit research ideas from an unfunded application, it may go to the same study section and reviewers are likely to remember it from before even though NIH instructs them to disregard previous similar applications.
Also, you won't have the benefit of an introduction to address the prior comments, as you would with a resubmission.
You might have to go in a different direction if your previous application scored poorly in significance. Read more about that in Remember the Importance of Significance, above.
If you go in a new scientific direction, you can keep some or even most of your people, methods, animal models, and preliminary data if it helps you tackle a new scientific problem. This may be the only way to go if reviewers felt your application lacked significance.
Explore your research niche to find where in your field you can capitalize on your data, resources, and expertise. Read more on this topic in Pick a Research Project in Part 2.
Also read your reviewer critique for clues, and see if you could build on the ideas your reviewers liked or new areas of research they mentioned (but do not refer to the previous review in your new application).
Your "To-Do" List
Regardless of what (if anything) you keep from your previous application, take the following steps as you plan your new one:
Choose Your Approach
NIH gives you three ways to submit a new application: by applying to the same FOA, a different FOA, or as part of a team science project.
When you apply again for the same funding opportunity announcement, you're starting a brand new application. General considerations when taking this approach:
When you apply for a different funding opportunity announcement, you'll have to read the announcement carefully for page limits, application deadlines, eligibility criteria, budget requirements, participating institutes, and other important details.
Even though you may be familiar with a particular funding opportunity or activity code, always confirm by reading the announcement in case anything has changed. This may seem like an obvious point, but we regularly get applicants who cannot submit or have their applications withdrawn because they relied on outdated information.
Consider the following approaches and contact your program officer to discuss. Your decision depends on your application topic and the funding opportunities available when you apply. This list does not include every possibility.
Consult with your program officer on what to do. He or she may have insights into NIH funding plans or priorities that can help you decide what choice works best for your application.
If it's not crucial that you are the sole PI on your grant, consider another approach: including your research in another investigator's application.
You could link up with another PI for a multiple PI application, where you'd be equal partners. For more on that, read Should You Consider a Multiple PI Application? in Design a Project in Part 2.
Or, look for an opportunity to join a program project application or other team science effort that could benefit from your work. While you wouldn't be the PI, you would conduct a significant research project. Learn more at Team Science in Part 2.
In addition to the approaches we wrote about above, look for funding opportunities from the National Science Foundation or other government agencies outside of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS).
You should also look beyond the government. Visit NIAID's List of Foundations and Other Funding Sources to find opportunities from non-profits, philanthropic organizations, foreign governments, and trade groups that fund research in NIAID's areas.
Once you move beyond PHS, you don't have to worry about NIH's policy on overlapping applications—but you do have to remember the following rules:
Learn more in Broaden Your Horizons in Approaches for Staying Funded.
Strategy for NIH Funding
What to Do if You Get Bad News · Strategy for Resubmitting
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Last Updated May 28, 2014
Last Reviewed May 23, 2014