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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.Approaches for Staying Funded   ·   Strategy for NIH FundingNext page in Strategy.

Apply for Renewal or Start Anew

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 20 percent budget cap for R01s.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

(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.

Your Renewal May Not Be Allowed

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:

  • Small Grant (R03)
  • Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant (R21)

Requests for applications (RFAs) rarely allow renewals, but some do.

How to Fill Out Forms for a Renewal

While it is often best to keep the same title, use a different title if it's a better fit.

Renewals follow the same format and page limits as a new application with a few exceptions. Here is a summary.

Research Plan

  • Include a Progress Report (instead of Preliminary Studies) that has the following:
    • Project period beginning and end dates.
    • Summary of the importance of your findings in relation to your Specific Aims.
    • Account of published and unpublished results, highlighting your progress toward achieving your Specific Aims.
  • Attach a Progress Report Publication List that includes publications, manuscripts accepted for publication, patents, and other items resulting from the research. When citing articles that fall under the public access policy, provide the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (e.g., NIHMS97531) or the PubMed Central (PMC) reference number (e.g., PMCID234567) for each article. If the PMCID is not yet available because the journal submits articles directly to PMC on behalf of its authors, indicate “PMC Journal – In Process.”
  • If you are conducting clinical research, fill out the Planned Enrollment Report and Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report.

Senior/Key Person Profile

  • Highlight your inventions and patents in your biosketch.
  • Include a personal statement in each person's biosketch.

SF 424 (Cover Page)—several items, follow the SF 424 Application Guide.

Note: If you submit a renewal application 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.

What Happens if Your Renewal Does Not Succeed?

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.

Our Advice

(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)

Renewal Decision Points

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:

  • Do I want to continue the current project at roughly the same level of resources?
  • When should I apply?
  • How will I maintain funding if I don't succeed on the first try?

Read about our strategies to avoid a funding gap in Approaches for Staying Funded in Part 7.

Renewal or New?

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.

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 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.

Apply with a renewal if you . . .

  • Plan to continue your project under the same activity code (e.g., R01), with new Specific Aims.
  • Made progress and accomplished most of your Specific Aims.
    • You didn't have to follow your original Research Plan as long as you made progress.
    • It's key that you successfully conducted relevant research, got results, and then used those results to pursue the next set of experiments.
  • Want to submit to a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) that allows for renewals.
    • To be sure, check the "Application Types Allowed" in the FOA.
    • If the FOA was reissued, check for new rules, instructions, receipt dates, and review criteria—any of which may have changed since your previous application.
    • Make sure we participate and accept applications in your area of research. If we don't, talk to the scientific contact for a different institute.

Apply with a new application if you . . .

  • Want to submit to a FOA that does not allow renewals.
  • Want to significantly change or expand the scope of your research.
  • Have not accomplished several Specific Aims or lack quality data to continue your project.
  • Want to start over with a new idea.
    • Your application can be a spinoff of the original line of research.
    • Be sure to use a new title.
  • Plan to switch to a new activity code, for example, change from an R21 to an R01.
  • Want to apply under an RFA to continue the same line of research.
  • Have used up your one resubmission.

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.

Deciding When to Apply for a Renewal

No matter when your renewal application arrives, reviewers expect to see accomplishments.

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. In FY 2013, only 13 percent of NIAID's R01 renewals were funded on their first try, so plan on resubmitting.

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.

Pros

  • If you apply early, you can get earlier feedback on your application.
  • You can gain time to revise and resubmit if needed.

Cons

  • If you apply before your research yields significant results, you could use up the initial goodwill of the reviewers. They won't appreciate spending their time on a premature application.
  • Your application will likely be affected by the unknowable payline for the next fiscal year, which can make it harder to plan your strategy. We cannot fund your renewal until just before your old grant ends.

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.

No Time Limits . . . But

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:

  • Explain that your planned research is in sync with the science of your field.
  • State what you have done during the hiatus.
  • Highlight any new preliminary data.

Renewal How To

Your renewal should not duplicate the Specific Aims of your previous grant.

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.

Download the most current grant application package for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA). NIH regularly updates FOAs with new instructions, forms, and formats.

Avoid a gap. Apply as early as you can before the end of your grant to avoid a break in funding.

Revisit the science. Review your Research Plan, especially the Significance section.

  • See that it reflects the latest research in your field.
  • Make sure you stress the impact of your research on the field.
  • Show the flow of the project in terms of your past and next steps. Describe how the new project is part of a logical progression for your research.
  • Describe the significance of the renewal in the larger science and health context. Read more in Part 3.

Showing progress is enough. While you have to demonstrate results, you don't have to do everything you promised.

  • Reviewers care more about whether you got meaningful results than conducted all the experiments you outlined in your application..
  • Describe your work and highlight your successes in your progress report and in the Significance section of your Research Strategy.

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.

  • Know who's in your field and make sure they see you as a leader.
  • Funding is about both science and self-marketing. Recognition primes others to consider you as a leader.
  • Show accomplishments through publications, invitations to present, and conference Abstracts.

Publish before you apply.

  • Don't wait for the end of your grant to publish!
  • Get your papers published or papers accepted for publication before you apply.

Change the Title, but Let NIH Know It's a Renewal

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 Cover 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.

Plan Your Renewal's Budget

Ask for enough money, but pay attention to the budget cap.

In general, it's 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.

The cap is part of our Financial Management Plan (data won't be on the page when we don't have a budget; read more at Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year). It affects all renewal applications, modular and nonmodular, regardless of funding level.

Here's how we compute it. We base the cap on the direct costs of the last noncompeting award minus the following:

  • Facilities and administrative costs for all subawards.
  • Supplements.
  • Equipment.
  • Alterations and renovations.

We then increase that amount by 20 percent to get the cap level.

Here's an example.

  • Your final year award of $200,000 includes two items that we subtract: subaward facilities and administrative costs of $5,000 and an administrative supplement of $45,000, which total $50,000.
  • We subtract that from $200,000 to get a $150,000 base figure for your budget.
  • Then we add 20 percent to get your cap: $180,000.

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.

Strategies for Dealing With the R01 Budget Cap

If you need more money because your research has evolved in scope, submit a new application instead of a renewal.

As we said above, always 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.

  1. If you need more money because your research has evolved in scope, submit a new application instead of a renewal.
  2. In addition to the renewal, submit a second application to fund the work you could not do otherwise.
    • The advantage of this strategy is you are complying with the cap policy.
    • The disadvantage is that it may be hard to get another grant.
    • Learn more in Approaches for Staying Funded in Part 7.
  3. If you were a new investigator when you received your first grant, get advice from your program officer. Typically new investigators receive smaller awards than do more experienced grantees, so the cap can be a major problem.
  4. As a last resort, request more than a 20 percent increase—but do not plan on getting it.
    • Ask your program officer about the feasibility of getting funded beyond the cap, and what you can do if your request is denied. Your program officer cannot give you prior approval to exceed the cap.
    • Keep in mind that it's rare for investigators to get the extra funds. To receive the money, you have to clear all these hurdles:
      • Your application's study section must recommend funding.
      • Your program officer must agree that you need the funds.
      • Our advisory Council has to concur.
      • We must have the funds to pay for your request.

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.

When Funding Is Tight

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.

  • Keep expectations modest. Scale back plans. In general, don't increase your budget by more than 20 percent of the direct costs of the preceding award, since it's very unlikely that you will get more.
    • If that strategy can meet your needs, you won't waste time planning a big expansion.
    • If it doesn't, call your program officer for advice.
  • Keep the ball moving. Try to start preparing early so you have plenty of time to resubmit if you need to—most people do.
  • Stay real. Funding is always dependent on our budget constraints, so keep your budgets trim and awards at a reasonable number.

Unfunded Renewal: Should You Try Again?

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:

  • Do not prepare a progress report. Instead, use your progress as preliminary data.
  • Bolster your Research Plan with updates and revisions based on new discoveries and feedback from previous reviews.
  • Do not respond to reviewer comments, mention any previous reviews, or reference your attempts at renewal.
  • Get all NIH approvals necessary for a new application, even if you had these for your previous grant. For examples, see the Big Grants SOP and Conference Awards SOP.
  • Mark your application as "new" on your SF 424 Cover Form.
  • Apply for the new application deadline.

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:

Related Links

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

Previous page in Strategy.Approaches for Staying Funded   ·   Strategy for NIH FundingNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 7. Funding

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Last Updated July 17, 2014

Last Reviewed July 17, 2014