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Strategy for NIH Funding
Approaches for Staying Funded · Strategy for NIH Funding
Pages of Part 7. Funding
To continue funding, you can either submit a renewal or apply with a new application. See which option is best for you, then determine when is the most advantageous time to apply.
Know how to plan for and prepare your renewal application, including strategies for dealing with the budget cap for R01s.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
To continue funding, you can either renew your grant by submitting a renewal, or you can apply with a new application.
You may always renew a grant funded under the Parent R01 funding opportunity announcement. For any other type of grant, check for "Application Types Allowed" in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) before you prepare a renewal application.
Some activity codes do not have an option to renew, for example:
Requests for applications (RFAs) rarely allow renewals, but some do.
Renewals follow the same format and page limits as a new application with a few exceptions. Here is a summary.
Progress Report Publication List
Senior/Key Person Profile
SF 424 (Cover Page)—several items, follow the SF 424 Application Guide.
Note: If you submit a renewal application describing your progress before the due date of your progress report, you do not need to submit a separate progress report for your grant.
Receipt dates. Use the renewal receipt date. Check your FOA to see whether to use NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications. RFAs and some program announcements have unique application deadlines.
Study Section. You can request any study section in your cover letter if it’s relevant to the science. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee your application will go there.
For the full instructions, check the SF 424 Application Guide and the FOA's Guide announcement.
If NIH does not fund your renewal application, you may revise and resubmit once. Read How to Resubmit.
After that resubmission, you must abandon your renewal application—but you don't have to abandon your project.
You may update your unfunded renewal application and submit it as a new application using your previous research accomplishments as preliminary data. NIH will give your application a new serial number and instruct reviewers to ignore your previous attempts at renewal.
While this option does not give you the benefits of a renewal, it does give you a chance to try again. Learn more in Unfunded Renewal: Should You Try Again?, below.
Or, you can prepare a new application that goes in a different direction.
For more information, go to Option 2: Create a New Application in Options if Your Application Isn't Funded.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
A good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan for staying funded by answering three questions.
Renewing a grant is a big challenge for many PIs who often find themselves running out of money as they revise and resubmit their renewal applications.
To keep your current project funded once the grant ends, you will need to apply for support and undergo initial peer review again.
A good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan for staying funded by answering these questions:
Read about our strategies to avoid a funding gap in Approaches for Staying Funded in Part 7.
Your situation and the science dictate which route is most advantageous: submitting a renewal or a new application.
To make this decision, it may help to conceptualize the difference between your long-term research goals and your short-term objectives, your Specific Aims.
If you think of your long-term goals as a line or bar, your Specific Aims are one segment. So while your goals may take a lifetime to achieve, you must be able to complete your Specific Aims within the award period of a grant.
Renewal. Request funding to continue to pursue the same long-term goals you have been pursuing but with new Specific Aims. Your peer reviewers take into account what you have accomplished when assessing the merits of your new application.
New application. Even if you stay in the same field, proposing a project that goes after new goals is a new application.
In both cases, reviewers judge the merits of the research, its relationship to your previous research, and the impact you have made on your field of science.
If your research has gone well, peer reviewers are likely to give you an edge no matter which approach you take because you have a proven track record, and they know it takes time to build a successful research team.
But experienced investigators feel it is usually advantageous to apply with a renewal if they have made progress and want to continue the same long-term project. Here is what we advise.
And here is another approach.
Split your project into two applications: one for a different set of research goals and a renewal to continue the existing project. Be careful not to dilute the original application's quality.
In your cover letter, state that you are using this approach.
Consider whether to apply early rather than wait until the last possible receipt date before you would incur a funding gap.
To avoid a gap, think about applying one or more review cycles early to gain extra time in case you must resubmit, which you likely will. In FY 2015, only 31 percent of NIH’s R01-equivalent renewal applications succeeded on the first attempt.
But here's the catch: no matter when your application arrives, reviewers expect to see accomplishments. If your work is progressing slowly, it's better to wait to get results that you can describe in the application.
So ultimately your timing hinges on your comfort with your progress and the length of the grant. For example, if you have a three-year award, you may not have enough data to apply early.
Weigh the pros and cons of applying early, and ask your program officer for advice.
In some cases, waiting to spend more time polishing your application is a better strategy than rushing to meet a receipt date, and the delay may have only a small impact on the timing of an award. For more advice on timing, go to Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Another timing issue is: how long can you wait to submit a renewal application after your grant ends?
NIH does not set a time limit, but reviewers will probably be concerned by major gaps between projects because the science has likely changed. Take this into account when writing the application, and prepare a new application if the research is dated.
If the research is still current with the latest science, address the following points:
A renewal should clearly link back to your previous grant's Specific Aims, show progress, and not duplicate the aims of the previous grant. Follow these tips.
Publish before you apply.
Avoid a gap. Apply as early as you can before the end of your grant to avoid a break in funding.
Download the most current grant application package for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA). NIH regularly updates FOAs with new instructions, forms, and formats.
Revisit the science. Review your Research Plan, especially the Significance section.
Showing progress is enough. While you have to demonstrate results, you don't have to do everything you promised.
Revise and resubmit even if your renewal application is nominated for selective pay (this advice applies to R01s only).
Keep up with your peers. Assess what the outside world (including reviewers) thinks of your research.
While it is often best to keep the same title, use a different title if it's a better fit. Your title should reflect the new Specific Aims you are proposing.
If you change your title, mention it in your cover letter and check the box indicating that your application is a renewal on the SF 424 Form and PHS 398 Checklist (the last page) of the grant application. That way, NIH will know that the title is new, but the application is a renewal.
It's usually best to request the amount of money you need to perform the research.
But R01 renewals have an extra consideration: for the past several years—which we expect to continue—NIAID has capped the amount of money you can request at 20 percent.
That said, it could be some other number in the future, so be sure to check the Financial Management Plan for the latest information. Data won't be on the page when we don't have a budget, as explained on Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year.
The cap affects all renewal applications, modular and nonmodular, regardless of funding level.
Here's how we compute it. Our calculations below use the 20 percent figure.We base the cap on the direct costs of the last noncompeting award minus the following:
We then increase that amount by 20 percent to get the cap level.
Here's an example.
For modular grants, if the cap results in a number between modular increments, we round up to the next module. In the example above, that would take your budget request to $200,000.
Contact your institution's business office with questions about calculating your budget cap. Your grants management specialist will discuss your actual funding level when negotiating your award.
As we explained above, you should usually request a budget level needed to adequately fund the science, although our budget cap for R01s can make that job harder. NIAID will not allow you to skirt the cap by requesting a larger budget after the first year.
To help you cope, here are several options to choose from.
If for any reason you don't get the money you need, you can negotiate fewer Specific Aims by letting your program officer know which ones you would not be able to do at the lower amount. Read about grant negotiation at Getting a Grant Award in Part 7.
During both lean and fat years, we all have to live within our means, as difficult as that may be.
Here are some tips for dealing with a tight budget era.
If your renewal application does not succeed, you may revise and resubmit once—but after that, you need to prepare a new application (i.e., you can't send another renewal application or resubmission).
The question is: do you try again with a new application for the same line of research, or do you go in a different direction?
Trying again could be a good option if reviewers showed strong enthusiasm for the significance of your scientific questions and approach, but had specific, fixable concerns—e.g., problems with your methods, reagents, or preliminary data.
Review your summary statement and talk to your program officer and colleagues about whether you should take this approach.
Also consider the welfare of your lab and your career, as well as new opportunities for success you might find by refocusing your energy, talent, resources, and personnel toward a different direction.
If you decide to pursue the same line of research, improve your application as much as possible and treat it like a new application:
For more on what to do with an unsuccessful application and an explanation of what we consider "fixable" problems, read the following sections in Part 6:
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections ofPart 7. Funding
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Last Updated May 05, 2016
Last Reviewed November 16, 2015