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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.Strategy for Staying Funded   ·   Apply for Renewal or Start AnewNext page in Strategy.

Approaches for Staying Funded

To maintain funding throughout your career will take a strategy that will include writing a stream of applications at different intervals, rather than waiting until you're running out of funds.

To keep the research going, think about other possibilities, e.g., applying for an R21 or becoming part of a multiproject grant, and look into funding sources other than NIH.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)

You May Reuse Some Types of Applications

Most applications will not succeed on the first or even second try, but you have several ways to reuse an application that does not get funded:

  • Apply to the same funding opportunity announcement.
  • Apply to a different funding opportunity announcement.
  • Apply as part of a team science application.

NIH will withdraw any application that overlaps with research that is underway, completed, or under peer review. Get advice in Reuse an Unfunded Application, below.

You may also send an application for the same research to NIH and an outside organization simultaneously, though for agencies within U.S. Public Health Service (e.g., FDA, CDC, AHRQ), you will be able to accept only one award. Read more in Broaden Your Horizons, below.

Our Advice

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

Staying Ahead of the Game

Even if you get a four-year award, we recommend to start planning new applications in the second year or sooner.

To maintain funding throughout your career takes a strategy. At any point, you'll likely need several applications in the works to avoid a break in funding.

You have probably heard the maxim that the best time to look for a job is when you have a job. That's a helpful way to think about application writing too.

Even after you get your grant, you can't relax on the application front. Instead, plan to continue to seek funding by submitting sequential applications.

You'll also need to make sure you publish.

Publishing not only improves your reviewers' impressions of your research accomplishments when you apply, but also gives other researchers an opportunity to learn more about your work. This may lead them to ask you to collaborate with them on an NIH grant—giving you potential new opportunities to get funding for your research, as we discuss below.

Juggle Multiple, Nonoverlapping Projects

Even though you're busy with other responsibilities, it's critical that you write additional applications as early as possible rather than wait until you're running out of funding to act.

Sequential applications are critical, especially with today's low application success rates. As soon as you can, start planning new applications on additional topics that will likely be reviewed by different study sections and possibly funded by different institutes.

In addition to renewing your existing grants, you'll need a series of new applications that will enable you to maintain a stream of funding over time. You can also maximize your chances of success by submitting new and renewal applications at different times.

To avoid a funding break, apply long before your grant ends. Remember: it takes more than a year and a half from application to award if you succeed on the first try, over two years if you must resubmit (most people do).

Uncover New Topics

At any point—even if you're still waiting to hear about your application's fate—consider writing an application on another topic. Ask yourself:

  • Are there offshoots of your research that could be the basis of another project?
  • Have you uncovered a new line of promising research that you and your team have the expertise and resources to execute?
  • Do you have or can you find new collaborators who can bring additional expertise to the team to enable you to go in a promising new direction?

Plan another application. When planning your next application, carefully consider the following advice.

  • Pick a topic that is clearly distinct from your funded work.
  • Be sure you have sufficient staff to do all the work.
  • Take care not to dilute your best ideas with too many applications too close in topic. It takes a strong, virtually flawless project to compete successfully.

Also remember to mind your effort. You can apply for multiple awards with total effort levels that exceed 100 percent, but ask yourself: Can I juggle all the work?

You will need to convince reviewers that you have enough resources and time to do the work and are not stretched too thin (especially if you are a less experienced investigator).

If multiple applications are funded, we'll adjust your effort to be no more than 100 percent during award negotiation. Read Putting Effort Into Your Application and Grant to learn more.

Consider an R21 or R03. In addition to a second R01, think about applying for an exploratory/developmental grant (R21) or small grant (R03) to explore a new avenue of research.

You need a solid track record demonstrating that you are qualified to conduct research in the new area.

While NIH does not require preliminary data, be aware that our data for R21 applications show that preliminary data correlate with funding success. Read more in Know the Importance of Preliminary Data in Should You Apply for an R21?

For these small grants, NIAID accepts investigator-initiated applications in response to parent program announcements as well as its own requests for applications and program announcements. Find these on our NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Read more in these resources:

Train. You may also want to consider getting additional experience, training, or collaborators—particularly if a promising lead requires new expertise.

Such training can come from formal courses offered by (or through) professional societies, hands-on training gained in the laboratory of an experienced colleague, or programs specifically designed to attract investigators new to a particular field of research.

Stagger Applications

To maximize your chances of success, submit your new and renewal applications at different times.

If you have a funded grant, don't count on a successful renewal. Because many applications fail at this point, you'll need other possibilities, which means more ideas, more applications.

To maximize your chances of success, consider submitting your new and renewal applications at different times, targeting them to different review committees and a different institute.

Your goal is to avoid a funding gap so you can keep your lab and your research team going. Since you can revise and resubmit each (investigator-initiated) application only once, having sequential applications in the works can help maximize your chances that one will succeed.

Reuse an Unfunded Application

Did your next application not get funded?

Use the same research topic and any part of your proposal for a new application.

Make sure the Specific Aims differ from your funded research and point out in your application and cover letter that there's no overlap, otherwise NIH will withdraw your application.

You will likely have to modify the application to fit the requirements of your new funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Read the FOA instructions closely for details and learn more at Options if Your Application Isn't Funded in Part 6.

Collaborate

You can get NIH funding through different types of collaborations.

Respond to an RFA for Cooperative Agreements

Look for requests for applications (RFAs) that support cooperative agreements.

Under a cooperative agreement, you would work more closely with NIH program staff during the course of the project as compared to an R01 grant, but you will get funding for a research partnership that meets an NIH priority.

How do you find cooperative agreement opportunities?

Search for funding opportunity announcements that carry activity codes containing a "U" (e.g., U01, U19, UH2) on our NIAID Funding Opportunities List in the NIH Guide.

Lead One Component or Core of a Multiproject Application

You could get your research included as part of a multiproject application, e.g., a program project (P01).

Though you wouldn't be PI, you would be responsible for conducting meaningful research.

Keep in mind that when you apply for a multiproject grant, your goals, methods, and aims must sync well with other projects, remain synced for the duration of your grant, and demonstrate synergy.

Too often, PIs submit separate projects on a high-level shared theme (e.g., inflammation, host defense).

Reviewers will score your application poorly if they don't see how your combined projects would make a bigger impact than each project alone.

Learn more in our Multiproject Awards SOP, and read our Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application.

Seek Supplemental Funding to Join Another Researcher's Project

If you have a pilot study or a small project that dovetails with another PI's research, talk to that PI about requesting supplemental funding to incorporate your work into his or her grant.

For projects that fit within the scope of your collaborator's grant aims, have your collaborator request an administrative supplement. He or she can do this any time of year, though NIAID has some requirements your collaborator will have to meet. For example, your collaborator's grant cannot be in its first or last year of award.

For projects that expand the scope of your collaborator's grant, wait for an opportunity for your collaborator to apply for a revision of his or her aims through a funding opportunity announcement that targets your area of research.

Learn more in our Supplements to Grants—Administrative, Revision, and Research Questions and Answers.

Consult for Other Scientists—Especially NIH-Funded PIs

NIH-funded PIs frequently use grant funds to pay consultants to contribute a certain amount of effort to the project and provide specialized expertise.

Consider lending your own effort and expertise to somebody else's research.

Seek out other researchers within your institution, at conferences, and through publications, and formalize these consulting relationships with letters of collaboration.

Check with your institution's business office about whether it has rules or restrictions about consulting for other PIs. NIH will pay for consultants if they're budgeted in the application and do not have a substantive role (e.g., they don’t perform experiments).

For more on finding people who would likely need your talent, read Researching Research Topics and Teammates.

Contract with NIH

Think about contracting with NIH to develop new technologies or deliver research materials, expertise, and manpower.

We support many academic investigators under R&D contracts, and also purchase a variety of products and services necessary to carry out our activities, such as running intramural labs and clinical trials and providing data, reagents, and other benefits to the public.

Search for "National Institutes of Health" on FedBizOpps for a list of NIH's open solicitations. If your lab can fill any of those needs, submit a proposal in response to one of those solicitations.

You will probably compete with biotech companies and small businesses, but don't let that discourage you.

We review all proposals according to the evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation—meaning as long as you demonstrate you can meet the requirements of the solicitation, you stand a chance of being selected.

Learn Why You May Want to Consider a Contract and watch for Extramural R&D Solicitations that may match your capabilities.

Broaden Your Horizons

Consider funding sources outside NIH: other government agencies, foundations, companies you could collaborate with and earn income.

If you're thinking about collaborating with industry, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I developed the technology that a company might be interested in?
  • Does my work lend itself to the development of a marketable product?
  • Do I have contacts in industry that could help give me an entrée into the for-profit biotechnology sector?
  • If I am working on a technology that could lead to a marketable product, have I looked at NIH's small business opportunities?

You may come up with ideas that are not appropriate for an NIH R01 but may be well-suited to funding from other agencies. Perhaps your research idea would be well-received by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, NASA, or another agency or foundation.

Under Just the Facts above, we noted that you may send an application for the same research to NIH and another organization outside the U.S. Public Health Service simultaneously, although you will be able to accept only one award.

But another strategy would be to submit applications that are scientifically distinct so you can accept all awards.

You can use the following links to find organizations that support research in NIAID's scientific mission areas.

One Final Thought

You will surely be busy writing multiple applications. But keep in mind that your productivity, reflected by publications in peer reviewed journals, is important—so don't neglect this key aspect of your career.

More Resources

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

Previous page in Strategy.Strategy for Staying Funded   ·   Apply for Renewal or Start AnewNext 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 June 10, 2015

Last Reviewed March 21, 2012