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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.Part 2. Pick and Design a Project   ·   Get Ready Now to Apply ElectronicallyNext page in Strategy.

Timing for Picking and Designing Your Project

This timing page gives you information and tips on the timing aspects of choosing a topic and planning the research for your application as well as items to plan ahead for while you are at this stage.

If you are not sure how your research fits in at NIH, read What Funding May You Qualify For? in Part 1. before proceeding.

While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of our advice is useful for other grants.

Planning Timeline

The upper timeline shows major steps from application to award for a simple non-AIDS application, such as an R01. Preparation time can vary considerably. For investigators who are entering a new science area or are planning their first application, the planning stage is often much longer than the writing phase.

We give actual months only for precise timing events: the receipt date—indicated by the Due arrow—through the advisory Council meeting. Months to funding varies by 11 months depending on whether you must wait until the end of the fiscal year to get a grant.

Expanding the colored section in the top timeline, the lower timeline shows major action items and timeframes in more detail for Part 2.

See neighboring text for summary.

For timelines for other sections, go to Strategy Timelines. For more detailed timing information, including for AIDS applications, go to R01 Planning to Award Timeline by Review Cycle.

Understand Timing

Action Summary Learn More

If you're still a postdoc, plan your goals and start writing early.

Set a series of research goals you'd like to accomplish during the next ten years or so.

Start writing your first application toward the end of your postdoc instead of waiting until you begin an academic appointment.

Our Advice

Hatch a Plan for Your Career in Pick a Research Project in Part 2


Take time to plan your project.

As you begin planning your project, use the timelines above to determine how long it will take to complete the necessary steps.

If you are entering a new science area or are a new investigator:

  • We strongly recommend taking time to plan, investigate, and get feedback on your choice of topic.
  • You may need to spend more time planning than writing the application. Not planning properly will cost you more time in the long run.

Allow extra time for either of the following:

Just the Facts

Are You "New"? in the New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding


Our Advice

Part 2

Plan ahead for submitting.

Learn the advantages of applying for different cycles at Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.

  • Cycle 1—shortest wait if you need to resubmit.
  • Cycle 3—shortest wait to find out if your application will be paid at the end of the fiscal year.

Talk to your business office and factor your institution's deadlines into your timing. Note: your internal submission deadline is your key date, not the NIH receipt date.

For an investigator-initiated application, find your receipt date on NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications so you can let your business office know what date you plan to apply for.

  • Receipt dates differ by activity code—e.g., R01, R21—and grant type—e.g., new, resubmission, or renewal.
  • AIDS applications have their own receipt dates.
  • Investigators who serve on certain NIH committees may submit an R01, R21, or R34 at any time.
  • You will apply using an NIH Parent Program Announcement.

If you are responding to a request for applications or institute-specific program announcement, find the receipt date in the NIH Guide announcement for your funding opportunity announcement.

For more submission information, go to Part 4. Submit Your Application.

Just the Facts

Other Grant Types portal—more information on other activity codes


Our Advice

Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award—submission cycles and the timing of funding

Be Ready to Apply Electronically

Action Summary Learn More

Be ready for electronic application.

Even if you are just beginning to define your project, now is the time to ensure that everything will be in place when you are ready to apply.

Contact your institutional business office for the following:

  • Learn its deadlines and expectations.
  • Get you an eRA Commons account.
  • Find out what system to use to prepare and submit your application.

If you are at an institution that does not have NIH funding, make sure it will be ready to apply on your behalf by doing the following:

  • Signing itself up for a account.
  • Signing itself and you up for a Commons account.
    • Registrations could take more than a month.
    • Foreign institutions take even longer because they have additional steps.
  • Assigning an authorized organizational representative to submit your application.

Your institution will get a principal investigator signature assurance from you when you apply.

For more on submitting, go to Part 4. Submit Your Application.

Just the Facts

Get Ready Now to Apply Electronically in Part 2

Applying for a Grant questions and answers's Recommended Software

From NIH


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

Previous page in Strategy.Part 2. Pick and Design a Project   ·   Get Ready Now to Apply ElectronicallyNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 2. Pick and Design a Project

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email

Last Updated March 30, 2016

Last Reviewed September 29, 2011