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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 Staying Funded   ·   Apply for Renewal or Start AnewNext page in Strategy.

Approaches for Staying Funded

Do you know when you may reuse an application and apply for the same research again?

To maintain funding throughout your career will take a strategy that will include writing a stream of applications at different intervals, rather than waiting until you're running out of funds.

To keep the research going, think about other possibilities, e.g., applying for an R21 or becoming part of a multiproject grant, and look into funding sources other than NIH.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

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

You May Reuse Some Types of Applications

Most applications will not succeed on the first or even second try, but you have several ways to reuse an application that does not get funded:

  • Apply to the same funding opportunity announcement.
  • Apply to a different funding opportunity announcement.
  • Apply as part of a team science application.

NIH will withdraw any application that overlaps with research that is underway, completed, or under peer review. Get advice in Reuse an Unfunded Application, below.

You may also send an application for the same research to NIH and an outside organization simultaneously, though for agencies within U.S. Public Health Service (e.g., FDA, CDC, AHRQ), you will be able to accept only one award. Read more in Broaden Your Horizons, below.

Our Advice

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

Staying Ahead of the Game

Even if you get a four-year award, we recommend to start planning new applications in the second year or sooner.

To maintain funding throughout your career takes a strategy. At any point, you'll likely need several applications in the works to avoid a break in funding.

You have probably heard the maxim that the best time to look for a job is when you have a job. That's a helpful way to think about application writing too.

Even after you get your grant, you can't relax on the application front. Instead, plan to continue to seek funding by submitting sequential applications.

Juggle Multiple, Nonoverlapping Projects

Even though you're busy with other responsibilities, it's critical that you write additional applications as early as possible rather than wait until you're running out of funding to act.

Sequential applications are critical, especially with today's low application success rates. As soon as you can, start planning new applications on additional topics that will likely be reviewed by different study sections and possibly funded by different institutes.

In addition to renewing your existing grants, you'll need a series of new applications that will enable you to maintain a stream of funding over time. You can also maximize your chances of success by submitting new and renewal applications at different times.

Besides an R01, think about other possibilities:

  • New field. Experienced investigators needing more experience or wanting to change fields should consider the following.
    • Training. Consider getting more training in the new area before preparing a grant application, unless the grant program is specifically designed to attract investigators new to a particular field of research. Such training can come from formal courses offered by (or through) professional societies, or hands-on training gained in the laboratory of an experienced colleague.
    • Collaborate and publish. If you're working in an area that's different from your previous one, it's worth taking the time to publish in this new area, possibly through a collaboration, before applying for a grant.
    • Small grant. You might want to start with a small grant type such as an exploratory/developmental research grant (R21) or a small grant (R03) before trying for an R01.
      • These smaller awards could permit you to generate key preliminary data (especially “proof of principle” data) for a later R01.
      • See Consider an R21 or R03 below.
  • Multiproject. You could get your research included as part of a multiproject grant, such as a program project or other team science effort that could benefit from your work. See Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application.
  • Contracts. We support many academic investigators under R&D contracts. Learn more at Why You May Want to Consider a Contract.

Your riskiest tack is to wait until you're running out of money to think about your next application. To avoid a funding break, apply early enough to get an award before your grant ends. Remember: it takes more than a year and a half from application to award if you succeed on the first try, over two years if you must resubmit (most people do).

Uncover New Topics

At any point—even if you're still waiting to hear about your application's fate—consider writing an application on another topic. Ask yourself:

  • Are there offshoots of your research that could be the basis of another project?
  • Have you uncovered a new line of promising research that you and your team have the expertise and resources to execute?
  • Do you have or can you find new collaborators who can bring additional expertise to the team to enable you to go in a promising new direction?

Plan another application. When planning your next application, carefully consider the following.

Make sure the topic is clearly distinct from your funded work.

Be careful not to dilute your best ideas with too many applications too close in topic. It takes a strong, virtually flawless project to compete successfully.

Ask yourself: Can I juggle all the work? You will need to convince reviewers that you have enough resources and time to do the work and are not stretched too thin (especially if you are a less experienced investigator). Keep the following in mind:

  • Your level of effort must not exceed 100 percent for all your work.
  • For research grants such as the R01, NIH does not set a minimum. However, reviewers expect to see a level appropriate to the work proposed, i.e., enough time to effectively manage the project. Read more in Put Forth Your Best "Effort" in Design a Project in Part 2.
  • Be sure you have sufficient staff to do all the work.

Consider an R21 or R03. In addition to a second R01, think about applying for an exploratory/developmental grant (R21) or small grant (R03) to explore a new avenue of research.

You need a solid track record demonstrating that you are qualified to conduct research in the new area.

While NIH does not require preliminary data, be aware that our data for R21 applications show that preliminary data correlate with funding success. Read more in Know the Importance of Preliminary Data in Should You Apply for an R21?

For these small grants, NIAID accepts investigator-initiated applications in response to parent program announcements as well as its own requests for applications and program announcements. Find the latter on our NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Read more in these resources:

You may also want to consider getting additional experience, training, or collaborators if a promising lead requires new expertise.

Stagger Applications

To maximize your chances of success, submit your new and renewal applications at different times.

If you have a funded grant, don't count on a successful renewal. Because many applications fail at this point, you'll need other possibilities, which means more ideas, more applications.

To maximize your chances of success, consider submitting your new and renewal applications at different times, targeting them to different review committees and a different institute.

Your goal is to avoid a funding gap so you can keep your lab and your research team going. Since you can revise and resubmit each (investigator-initiated) application only once, having sequential applications in the works can help maximize your chances that one will succeed.

Reuse an Unfunded Application

Did your next application not get funded?

Use the same research topic and any part of your proposal for a new application.

Make sure the Specific Aims differ from your funded research and point out in your application and cover letter that there's no overlap, otherwise NIH will withdraw your application.

You will likely have to modify the application to fit the requirements of your new funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Read the FOA instructions closely for details and learn more at Options if Your Application Isn't Funded in Part 6.

Broaden Your Horizons

Within NIH, consider going beyond the world of grants. Learn Why You May Want to Consider a Contract and watch for Extramural R&D Solicitations that may match your capabilities.

Or consider funding sources outside NIH: other government agencies, foundations, companies you could collaborate with and earn income.

If you're thinking about collaborating with industry, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I developed the technology that a company might be interested in?
  • Does my work lend itself to the development of a marketable product?
  • Do I have contacts in industry that could help give me an entrée into the for-profit biotechnology sector?
  • If I am working on a technology that could lead to a marketable product, have I looked at NIH's small business opportunities?

You may come up with ideas that are not appropriate for an NIH R01 but may be well-suited to funding from other agencies. Perhaps your research idea would be well-received by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, NASA, or another agency or foundation.

Under Just the Facts above, we noted that you may send an application for the same research to NIH and another organization outside the U.S. Public Health Service simultaneously, although you will be able to accept only one award.

But another strategy would be to submit applications that are scientifically distinct so you can accept all awards.

You can use the following links to find organizations that support research in NIAID's scientific mission areas.

One Final Thought

You will surely be busy writing multiple applications. But keep in mind that your productivity, reflected by publications in peer reviewed journals, is important—so don't neglect this key aspect of your career.

More Resources

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

Previous page in Strategy.Strategy for Staying Funded   ·   Apply for Renewal or Start AnewNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 7. Funding

Table of Contents for the Strategy

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Last Updated May 23, 2014

Last Reviewed March 21, 2012