See the Glossary for more terms.
Strategy for NIH Funding
This page supplements Broaden Your Horizons in Approaches for Staying Funded.
If you're unfamiliar with the world of research and development (R&D) contracts, a little context may build your enthusiasm when you see solicitations well-suited to your scientific strengths.
We support many academic investigators under R&D contracts, and most large research institutions should have experience with federal government contracts as well.
Read on for what contracts are, how they differ from grants, and how to analyze whether a solicitation is right for you.
Contracts describe a defined government requirement for a product or service with specific deliverables and deadlines, and work done under a contract requires programmatic oversight by NIAID staff.
For example, we use R&D contracts to address specific programmatic needs, such as clinical trials under networks, product development, statistical and data coordinating centers, and development of animal models and product testing.
While “research” can be acquired under a contract, the research goals and objectives are clearly stated up front in a request for proposals (RFP).
NIAID also uses broad agency announcements (BAAs) to solicit contracted research. An RFP focuses on a specific requirement while a BAA focuses on scientific study and experimentation directed toward advancing the state of the art or increasing knowledge or understanding. Further, we define the statement of work for an RFP whereas the applicant (officially referred to as the offeror) develops the statement of work for a BAA.
In contrast, grants are more free-form because they allow you to go where the science leads you within your terms of award.
When we choose whether an opportunity should be a contract solicitation or a grant opportunity, we consider the scientific need and legal requirements.
The table below covers the major contrast points between contracts and grants. Here are some reference links that may come in handy as you review the table:
RFP or BAA
Request for applications (RFA) or program announcement (PA)
The contractor usually has the right to data first produced in the performance of the contract.
If you're viewing the Extramural R&D Solicitations list and spot a solicitation relevant to your interests, weigh these factors:
If you aren't sure or want more advice, check with your business office. Your organization has probably handled contracts before and may have special rules for you to follow.
Also, you may be able to find a colleague who can share insights based on his or her experiences with R&D contracts.
Or if you have questions regarding a specific solicitation, you can ask the NIAID Office of Acquisitions' contract specialist listed in the solicitation.
Note that unlike the list of contacts for a grant opportunity, you should not contact anyone in our program divisions for advice before the award stage. There are regulations that dictate who can communicate with offerors or potential offerors.
Also, unlike a grant, you enter into a legally binding contractual agreement to deliver a product or service at a certain time at a certain cost. You're expected to give us a defined, tangible output, not a biomedical research discovery.
Even if you end up deciding a solicitation is not for you, knowing how your organization handles contracts and what factors to watch for when considering future opportunities will benefit you in the long run.
Find current R&D contract opportunities at Extramural R&D Solicitations. You may also want to see a preview of potential future solicitations at Concepts: Potential Opportunities. Read what concepts are at Concepts May Turn Into Initiatives in Part 2 of our Strategy for NIH Funding.
Continue reading about other funding sources at Broaden Your Horizons in Approaches for Staying Funded.
Table of Contents for the Strategy
We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated February 17, 2016
Last Reviewed February 17, 2016