Strategy for NIH Funding
Choose Approach and Find FOAs · Design a Project
On this strategy page, you will find action items for each step of designing an effective research project, including the hypothesis, Specific Aims, and experiments. You'll get our advice on how innovative your research should be, how high-profile policy areas will affect your application, and how to ensure you have the resources to do the work.
We also tell you about the importance of limiting the scope of what you propose and how to achieve that goal. Find links to resource pages with more information and advice.
If you have not yet planned your project, go to Pick a Research Project in Part 2.
While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of it is useful for other grants. This strategy page also includes a section for other grant types.
Create a plan, choose a hypothesis.
Thoroughly plan your research.
Don't make the mistake of starting to write without proper planning.
Make sure the research you are considering can make a difference: it will create new knowledge, open up a new area of discovery, or develop a new approach to a major problem. Get outside opinions on that judgment.
Go through our iterative process repeatedly as you plan and design your project.
As you design the experiments, keep a running tab of "who, what, when, where, and how (much money)."
Sample Applications and Summary Statements
Plan your aims and experiments.
Plan your Research Plan.
To test your hypothesis, create Specific Aims—the concrete objectives you will accomplish with the time and money you plan to request.
Start planning the experiments you will perform to accomplish each aim.
Make a Plan in Design a Project in Part 2
Figure out which resources and expertise you'll need.
Find out which resources and support your organization can give you and determine what to do about other needed resources.
Determine whether you have access to all needed equipment. Can you share or collaborate to gain access?
Ask staff in your institutional business office whether your institution will give you a budget to purchase equipment.
Consider whether to request funds for equipment in your application.
Just the Facts
Resources for Researchers
Assess Feasibility in Design a Project in Part 2
Create a team with the expertise to conduct all the experiments.
If you do not have all the needed expertise, it's fine to enlist collaborators, but know the pros and cons.
Consider carefully before deciding on a multiple PI application.
Design a Project in Part 2
Opportunities and Guidelines to Facilitate Scientific Collaborations
Define the scope of the work.
Design a project that is a bit outside of the box—but not too far.
Be Innovative, But Be Wary in Design a Project in Part 2
Determine the scope of the work and how much time you can put into it.
Figure out how much work you can accomplish with the time and resources you request.
Plan your design understanding that research often takes more time than you may think.
Even if you are a new investigator, it's okay to ask for the maximum number of years (five for an R01) as long as you can fill the time productively.
Build a Budget in Design a Project in Part 2
NIH's Usage of Person Months questions and answers
Your Project's Scope: Plot Your Boundaries in Design a Project in Part 2
Know the policy areas that make your application more complex.
Determine whether your application will be affected by policies for sensitive areas, e.g., human subjects, vertebrate animals, and rDNA.
Certain areas involve extra policies and procedures that make applying more complex.
See if you can avoid these areas, especially if you are a new investigator.
Because rules are complex, you may inadvertently enter one of these areas, especially for human subjects research—see the definition for individually identifiable.
See if you can use an alternative route and still accomplish your goals.
Talk to your program officer early on for advice and to learn NIH's expectations.
Read a synopsis of requirements and find links to additional information at Will Your Application Involve Policy Areas With Special Requirements? in Part 2.
Will Your Application Involve Policy Areas With Special Requirements? in Part 2
When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer
Are you designing a project other than an R01?
Are you designing a project for an application other than an R01?
Though the information above is about designing a project for an R01 application, much of it is useful for other grants.
Find information tailored to other activity codes.
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections ofPart 2. Pick and Design a Project
Table of Contents for the Strategy
We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated March 22, 2012
Last Reviewed February 08, 2012