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Strategy for NIH Funding
Understand Paylines and Percentiles · Strategy for Your Grant
Pages of Part 7. Funding
At NIAID, we fund all applications that rank within the payline (and some other applications) reflecting their scientific merit as judged by their peer reviewers.
To make funding decisions for most investigator-initiated applications, we use a percentile or score-based cutoff payline. For requests for applications, we fund mostly in overall impact score order until we use up the money set aside for the RFA.
If your application ranks above the payline, other funding options are selective pay and R56-Bridge awards—you must be nominated for either program.
Our ability to fund grants evolves during the fiscal year, so even if your application misses the payline, it may get funded later.
Know how you can head off a delay in getting your grant.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
After peer review, your application moves to a program in an NIH institute for a funding decision.
At that point, your main contact person becomes the institute program officer assigned to your application. His or her name is listed on your summary statement and in the eRA Commons together with that of your grants management specialist.
Institutes use different policies and paylines to fund grant applications.
At NIAID, we mostly fund by scientific merit as judged by your peer reviewers and reflected in your overall impact score, or percentile for investigator-initiated R01s.
If your application is assigned to a different institute, talk to your program officer there to learn what to expect. Here we describe NIAID's approach to funding R01 applications.
We have two ways of making funding decisions: 1) use a percentile or score-based cutoff point, called a payline, or 2) fund mostly in overall impact score order until we use up money we set aside for a program.
(Note: if you did not respond to a request for applications, you submitted an investigator-initiated application. Read more about this topic at Choose Approach and Find FOAs in Part 2.)
Think of a payline as a limbo bar you must clear—the lower you go, the better you do.
Approach 1—Investigator-initiated applications. We award most investigator-initiated applications in order of their percentile (for R01s) or overall impact score (for the rest) until we reach the payline for each grant type. (We state "most" because of the PAS described below.)
Each major activity code, e.g., R01, has its own payline that we post online at Paylines and Funding. We also fund some applications beyond the payline at the end of the fiscal year and through special funding programs.
Approach 2—RFAs and PAs with set-asides. For RFAs and some program announcements (called PAS—"S" is for set-aside), we fund mostly by overall impact score until we use up the funds. The amount set aside is stated in the initiative's NIH Guide announcement. (We say "mostly" because we may skip over some applications to fund others that better meet a priority or need.)
In the investigator-initiated world, paylines loom large in deciding an application's fate. Think of a payline as a limbo bar you must clear—the lower you go, the better you do—so an 8 percentile ranking is better than a 9.
At NIAID, we fund all applications that rank under the payline bar. For example, if the R01 payline is at the 8 percentile you would get a grant if your application ranks at the 8 percentile or lower assuming it is not held up by administrative concerns, for example, human subjects or animal welfare issues.
If your application scores 8.1 or higher, the situation is more complex.
Our ability to fund grants evolves during the fiscal year. The table below shows the relationship between the budget and R01 payline as it unfolds. The timing is purely hypothetical and can vary by several months but the phases are pretty much constant.
No budget yet
October 1—fiscal year begins.
Usually, we do not have a budget and operate under a continuing resolution at the previous fiscal year's funding level.
We use interim paylines to fund a limited number of applications. Other awards are delayed.
Have a budget
Congress passes our appropriations bill, and the president signs it into law, setting NIH's budget levels.
For the next several weeks, budget figures are analyzed and parsed within the Department of Health and Human Services before the new budget figures arrive at NIAID.
Crunch budget numbers
Over several weeks, our budget office sets a conservative R01 payline that we maintain until the end of the fiscal year approaches.
We fund Council-approved grant applications that rank within the payline and a few others through special funding programs.
Close of the fiscal year begins.
Around this time, we stop funding by paylines because they are no longer relevant.
Because we set our paylines conservatively, we usually have money left over at the end of the fiscal year to fund some of the deferred applications that missed the payline.
Effect of evolving paylines. Here are the main ways the changing fiscal scenario can affect you.
If your application misses the payline, NIAID has two small funding pools that could possibly benefit you: selective pay and R56-Bridge awards.
Selective pay. Program officers nominate a small number of programmatically important R01 applications beyond the payline for review and ranking by our advisory Council. If our Council approves, you may get four years of funding for your project.
R56-Bridge. An R56-Bridge gives you up to one year of support while you improve and resubmit your R01 application.
You can't apply for either a selective pay or R56-Bridge award—you must be nominated by an NIAID program officer. For both programs, we choose a small number of R01 applications based on scientific merit and relevance to our scientific priorities, also giving some priority to new investigators.
To learn more about the impact of the annual budget process on our paylines, go to Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year.
Read more about how paylines work at Understand Paylines and Percentiles in Part 7.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
After you receive your summary statement, contact your program officer.
Find out the probability of funding. If funding for your application is not imminent, discuss your options, including whether you should resubmit or submit a new application. Get more information in Part 6. If Not Funded.
Also ask about the possibility of a selective pay or R56-Bridge award, and heed the following advice and caveats.
Selective pay. For the following reasons, you should not count on imminent selective pay funding.
R56-Bridge. If you get a Bridge award, start revising your R01 straight away.
Resubmit anyway. Don't let the possibility of special funding keep you from resubmitting, especially if you applied for Cycle 1 or 2.
Read more in Revise, Don't Wait for Later Funding in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Resubmit as soon as you can improve your application and address your reviewers' concerns. But since you get only one opportunity, prepare your resubmission carefully and thoughtfully based on your summary statement, feedback from your program officer, and advice of experts in your institution.
Read more in these resources:
If you did not get an award right after Council, we will put your application on hold for possible funding at the end of the fiscal year, if it ranks not too far from the payline.
NIAID typically defers decisions for such applications until June or July, after we know the results of the third review cycle.
At that time, we fund as many remaining applications as our budget for research project grants allows. If your application is deferred for a funding decision, we strongly advise you start revising right away.
If you are not able to act quickly, you may experience a significant delay or even miss out on getting the grant altogether.
Even before you know whether an award is imminent, start preparing your just-in-time information.
If you are not able to act quickly when we are ready to issue your award, you may experience a significant delay—and at the end of the fiscal year, you may miss out on getting the grant altogether.
Your grants management specialist will review the submission as part of making sure your application complies with all NIH policies and regulations before we can award the grant. Resolve any problems with either your grants specialist or program officer right away.
Just-in-time is one of several administrative steps that you and your institution need to complete for us for you to be approved for funding—see Prepare Your Just-in-Time Information in Part 3.
Assuming no delays, you can expect to find your R01's Notice of Award in your eRA Commons account within about six to eight weeks of our advisory Council meeting, earlier if your application underwent expedited second-level review.
You can help head off a delay by avoiding these common issues.
If your application gets a bar to award, act quickly—see the links below under "Resolve Problems."
Caveat. The timing of your grant award hinges on the factors listed above as well as others, such as whether NIAID has an appropriation, which Council reviewed your application, and whether your application requires foreign clearance. Learn about timing considerations in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Strategy for NIH Funding
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Part 7. Funding
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Last Updated December 20, 2012
Last Reviewed September 30, 2011