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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.

Start Here to Use the Strategy for NIH Funding

With the Strategy for NIH Funding, you gain exposure to critical inside knowledge that can help you succeed in the world of NIH grants. Learn our expectations and your important action items at each step of the way.

Table of Contents

Introducing the Strategy

To secure funding for an NIH grant, you'll need sound guidance and a solid strategy—the raison d'être for our Strategy for NIH Funding.

The Strategy takes you through all the steps from qualifying for NIH support to staying funded. Even more, it gives you specific "to do's" so you're prepared at every stage.

You enter at the Strategy main page for a graphical overview and corresponding table of contents.

If you need to determine how your research may fit in at NIH, start with Part 1. Qualify for NIH Funding.

Part 2. Pick and Design a Project and the rest of the Strategy help qualified scientists plan and prepare a grant application, geared especially to the standard NIH research grant, called R01. The Strategy also covers later steps: submission, review, and funding.

The Long and Short of It

Each part launches from an Index page that lists the bases covered:

  • Timing pages—house timelines for the stage and a table with time-based actions in the left column and links to resources at right.
  • Strategy pages—outline the key steps to follow in a table showing actions and resources.

From there, find resource pages that give you more detailed advice and information.

With this organization, you can take a shorter route on the Timing and Strategy pages or get a more comprehensive look— both facts and our best advice—on the Resource pages.

Here's how the structure looks in bulleted form (indentation shows hierarchy).

  • Strategy for NIH Funding home page with graphic and high-level table of contents
    • Parts 1 to 7 main page with table of contents showing timing, strategy, and resource pages
      • Timing page
        • Resource page
          • Facts
          • Advice
      • Strategy page
        • Resource page
          • Facts
          • Advice
        • Resource page
          • etc.
      • Strategy page
        • etc.

You can also find a full Table of Contents that shows every header and subhead, which is helpful for searching for your topic of interest.

Use your browser's search function (e.g., control F) to enter keywords, such as "cover letter," to find the right page—in this case Create a Cover Letter in Part 4.

Do It Right and Right on Time

Our timing pages can help you make the right moves at the right moment.

Use them in two ways: 1) a cue to take key actions and 2) a reference to remind yourself of upcoming action items so you can make sure your plans are on track. Find a page with all the timelines at Strategy Timelines.

Check It Off

So as not to overload you, we present much of the information for writing the application as a working tool to use as you work on your draft.

On the resource pages, we get you started with the concepts and a rationale for each topic. After you've prepared an initial draft, you can use our checkpoints to critique your draft, and make sure you've covered each point.

Check the list, review your work, and revise your text. Repeat until perfect!

What It's Not

The Strategy does not repeat the directions in NIH's SF 424 Application Guide or the NIH Guide announcement associated with a funding opportunity announcement. You need to follow those instructions to prepare your application.

It also does not detail requirements for different types of grants. While much of our content applies to grant writing in general, the Strategy is geared to the standard NIH research grant, the R01.

On the Research Funding site, you can find more information, for example, our Other Grant Types portal.

Though much of the Strategy pertains to grantsmanship in general, we wrote it from an NIAID perspective.

NIAID's Perspective

Though much of our information and advice pertains to grantsmanship in general, the Strategy is written from an NIAID perspective. We share with you the knowledge and experience of senior NIAID staff, including former NIH grantees.

Some of this information is specific to NIAID—we cannot speak to the practices of other institutes.

Please take our advice as opinion only. Differing views may exist, and if you have one, we would welcome hearing it. Send your comments to

Find other NIH information at Office of Extramural Research and Institutes, Centers, and Offices.

Facts to Know Before You Do Anything

These key points will help you understand NIH and NIAID.

Do you know enough about NIH to make it successfully through the system?

You may also want to take our Test Your NIH Savvy: Self-Quiz in our New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding, which asks you application-related factoids such as "NIH funds people and their careers—True or False?"

  1. What does NIH do? NIH is the federal government's main agency that supports biomedical and behavioral research to expand scientific knowledge to improve public health. Congress appropriates NIH's funds with the goal of finding solutions to important public health problems.
  2. What does NIAID do? NIAID supports basic and applied research to understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. Read more at About NIAID on the NIAID Web site.
  3. Who receives NIH grants? Most of NIH's money funds grants to research organizations throughout the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, other parts of the world. To learn about qualifying for grants, go to What Funding May You Qualify For? in Part 1.
  4. How important is it to address institute priorities? Most investigators apply for investigator-initiated research—people submit their best ideas—rather than respond to an institute priority, though even with this approach you can still take priorities into account. See Use Our Concepts List, Blend Approaches in Part 2.
  5. What is a grant? A grant is financial assistance for peer-reviewed research, usually made to institutions. Investigators have a lot of leeway in the direction they can take their research, and the government is usually not involved in the project. Read more at:
  6. How do I apply? You apply for an NIH grant through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA). You will also need to read the FOA's NIH Guide announcement to get important information that supplements the SF 424 Grant Application Guide.
    • To apply with an investigator-initiated application (on a topic of your choice), use type of FOA called a parent program announcement, e.g., the Parent R01.
    • Some FOAs represent Institute opportunities: requests for applications and institute-specific program announcements. Find our opportunities at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.
    • Learn more at Choose Approach and Find FOAs in Part 2.
  7. What is initial peer review? Peer reviewers—experts from institutions generally outside NIH—assess applications for scientific merit and technical feasibility, using NIH review criteria. They give each application an overall impact score, the main basis for funding. Learn more at:
  8. Who is the audience for my application? Your main audience is the group of peer reviewers who review your application. To read more, go to Know Your Audience in Part 3.
  9. How does NIAID determine which applications to fund? For NIAID, submitting an outstanding application is the best strategy. NIAID funds most applications by scientific merit: in rank order by percentile (for R01s) or overall impact score (for other types).
  10. What types of grants does NIH fund, and how do I know which one to pick? NIH funds dozens of grants— large and small, simple and complex. Unless you are an expert on NIH activity codes, choosing a grant is not a do-it-yourself activity, so get advice from an NIAID program officer.

Contact Staff for Help

To learn when and how to contact NIAID staff, visit Communicating With NIAID—How to Get Help.

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

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email

Last Updated March 31, 2016

Last Reviewed September 29, 2011