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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.

Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award

To help you make informed decisions at each step, this page gives you an overview of timing from application to award, including the consequences of applying at different times of the year, the status of the Institute's budget, factors that may delay your award, and other key topics.

Look at our table to see the correlations between the budget, stage of the fiscal year, and R01 payline, and read a summary of the reasons you may not get funded right away.

For details on timing for each step of application and funding, go to the appropriate timing page for Parts 2 to 7 or view all Strategy Timelines.

Table of Contents

Just the Facts

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

For timelines with action items, go to the page that corresponds to the stage you are looking for.

Go to R01 Planning to Award Timeline by Review Cycle for more in-depth timing information.

For an application funded on the first try, count on between 5 and 20 months from submission to award, depending on factors we describe below. That timeframe does not include the several months it will take to plan and write your application or the many months extra if you need to resubmit.

Note that the time span for AIDS applications is three months shorter because applications are due later for the same review cycle.

When Will You Apply?

For investigator-initiated applications, receipt dates vary by activity code (e.g., R01 or R21) and grant type (e.g., new or resubmission).

The NIH Guide announcement for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will give you a receipt date, a deadline for submitting your application electronically.

But note that your internal deadline is your key due date, not the NIH date. Even so, the NIH receipt date will trigger other dates relevant to your submission.

For an investigator-initiated application (including some program announcements), you will apply by one of NIH's three standard receipt dates (except for institutional training grants), called cycles 1, 2, and 3.

For example, new non-AIDS R01 applications are due February 5, June 5, and October 5.

Dates for other applications differ by various factors:

  • AIDS and AIDS-related research.
  • Activity code, e.g., P series (program projects), U01 (cooperative agreements), or R41 to R44 (small business applications).
  • Grant type, e.g., new, renewal, or resubmission.

Find all dates on Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

At NIAID, T32 and T35 training grants have only one annual deadline: September 25 for non-AIDS and January 7 for AIDS-related applications.

Here are a few more items you need to know about NIH receipt dates.

  • If a standard deadline falls on a weekend or federal holiday, it moves to the next business day.
  • Each request for applications has its own (usually one-time) receipt date stated in the FOA.
  • Some program announcements also have their own special receipt dates; read the FOA to be sure.

If you serve on any of the following committees, you can apply for an R01, R21, or R34 any time, regardless of a standard receipt date.

  • NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and other (e.g., NIAID) scientific review groups, including temporary or ad hoc reviewers who served six times or more during the preceding 18 months
  • Boards of Scientific Counselors
  • Advisory Councils
  • Program advisory committees
  • NIH's Peer Review Advisory Committee

This policy, called continuous submission, does not apply to special receipt dates. If you use continuous submission, you may not request assignment to a study section.

For a list of eligible people, go to NIH's list of Applicants Eligible for Continuous Submission, and find more details in the Investigators Eligible for Continuous Submission section of our Late Applications SOP.

You Will Send Some Materials Just-in-Time

Some required items do not go in the application. Instead, you send them just-in-time when your application is within a range of possible funding.

NIH uses just-in-time for other support information and several items for human subjects, human embryonic stem cells, and vertebrate animal research. Read more in Prepare Your Just-in-Time Information in Part 3.

Funding Is Tied to the Fiscal Year

If your application scores within the payline, we will fund it (assuming no administrative issues), but Cycle 1 applications are usually delayed because we don't have a budget.

Only about half of fundable R01 applications typically receive an award on time (see Summary of Why You May Not Get Funded Right Away below), and we fund the largest number in the last half of the fiscal year.

"On time" means you see your Notice of Award in the Commons within six to eight weeks of our advisory Council meeting, earlier if your application underwent expedited second-level review. (Read more about first- and second-level review in Part 5. Assignment and Review.)

For an investigator-initiated application, time to award depends to a great degree on which of the three cycles (noted above) you choose.

Below we discuss award timing for the different cycles for applications that scored within and above the payline and describe the advantages and disadvantages of each cycle.

Application scores within the payline. If your application scores within the payline, we will fund it, assuming it has no administrative issues, e.g., for research animals or human subjects.

But at the beginning of a fiscal year—which begins on October 1—awards for Cycle 1 applications are usually delayed because we don't have a budget. Typically, Congress has not yet passed our appropriations bill, so we do not know how much money we will have to fund grants.

Here's what happens.

We begin each fiscal year using interim paylines so we can start making some awards.

  • An interim payline is an administrative measure. It is not a true payline in that it is not based on our budget.
  • Interim paylines enable us to get very low-scoring grants out the door (at NIH, the lower the score, the higher the quality of the application).

After Congress passes our appropriations bill and the president signs it into law, our budget office crunches the numbers and sets our new paylines so we can start awarding more grants.

We generally start posting interim paylines in the fall and post actual paylines in winter or sometimes even spring.

For an illustration of these events, see the table Correlation of Budget, Fiscal Year Stage, and R01 Payline With Hypothetical Timing below.

For an above-the-payline application, you have the longest pause for Cycle 1— possibly an additional 10 months—for a funding decision.

Application scores above the payline. If your application scores above the payline—even just above—it may be deferred for a funding decision until near the end of the fiscal year for a different reason than the one described above.

We set our actual paylines at very conservative levels because we don't know the scores of applications coming in later in the fiscal year. (Note that here we are referring to our actual, not interim, paylines.)

As a result, toward the end of the fiscal year we stop using paylines and make more—often many more—awards.

We fund many of those applications by percentile or overall impact/priority score order and pay others that are programmatically important. That last point is a good reason for you to discuss the importance of your research with your program officer before applying.

For an above-the-payline application, you also have the longest pause if you applied for Cycle 1. You may need to wait till the next August—possibly an additional 10 months—for a funding decision.

Because other actions are possible, talk to your program officer about your options if funding is not imminent.

Correlation of Budget, Fiscal Year Stage, and R01 Payline With Hypothetical Timing

October to January Winter Until Spring Several Weeks Later August to September

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.

Find more details at Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year.

Summary of Why You May Not Get Funded Right Away

Time from application to award can vary by as much as a year. Here is a list of the major timing factors influencing grant awards, including those already described above.

Whether we have a congressional appropriation. If your application goes to September or October Council, it will be funded in the next fiscal year, which may delay funding. You can check the budget status on our Paylines and Funding portal.

Whether you are in the funding "gray zone." Many high-quality applications that scored somewhat above the payline are deferred for a funding decision until later in the fiscal year. If you want more information on that topic, read When We Defer a Funding Decision in Part 7.

Whether your application undergoes expedited Council review. About eight weeks before each Council meeting, a subset of members performs an electronic expedited review for qualifying applications. Read more at Council's Second-Level Review in Part 5.

Whether you are submitting an investigator-initiated application for AIDS or AIDS-related research. It will have a later receipt date for the same funding date. See NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

Whether you are responding to a request for applications. RFAs and some program announcements have their own receipt dates. Learn more in FOAs Explained in Part 2.

Whether we need foreign clearance for your application. Contact your program officer for help.

Whether the grant type is complex. Contact your grants management specialist for help.

Our Advice

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

How Long Will It Take?

Expect the unexpected. Build in extra time for items you cannot control since surprises are sure to happen.

It's a long and winding road that leads to the door of a funded grant, and many of the twists you encounter can lengthen or shorten the way.

When planning your application, figure the journey will take from 5 to 20 months from the time you submit to the day you get an award if your application is funded on the first try—far longer if you need to resubmit. That time does not include the several months it will take you to plan and write your application.

Such an extended time span makes a strong case for careful planning and execution at every stage.

Perfect the steps you can control. These actions include choosing a project that's right for you and creating as impeccable an application as you can. Read more in Part 2. Pick and Design a Project and Part 3. Write Your Application.

Expect the unexpected. Build in extra time for items you cannot control since surprises are sure to arise. For example, your mentor may recommend major revisions to your draft, or one of your collaborators may back out at the last minute.

Though the time needed to write an application can vary considerably from one person to the next, this list shows a typical break down of timing. See these steps represented on our timelines at Strategy Timelines.

Your institution. Visit your institution's business office as soon as you start planning an application to find out about procedures and timelines. Your institution may need your application weeks or even months before your receipt date to process, sign, and submit it.

Initial preparation. Plan on two months or more of dedicated time to prepare for a simple R01, e.g., one that does not include vertebrate animals or human subjects.

Getting feedback. Allot at least two weeks to finalize your application; the time will vary depending on the responsiveness of your internal reviewers.

  • Send it to colleagues, mentors, and peers for an internal review.
  • Make changes resulting from that review.

Checks and edits. Allow at least a week to check and recheck your application to make sure nothing is missing and all information is consistent, search for factual errors, check spelling and grammar, and proofread.

Submission. Your institution's internal deadline is your due date, not the NIH receipt date.

  • Your institution should submit well ahead of the receipt date in case you need to correct the application during submission.
  • Your application is on time if Grants.gov timestamps it by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time on the receipt date listed in the FOA.

Review and award. After the receipt date, it will take roughly 5 to 20 months to go through both levels of review and get an award—three months less for AIDS and AIDS-related research—assuming you succeed on the first try.

If your application is not likely to be funded, you will need to resubmit, leading you back to the start of that long and winding road.

When Is the Best Time to Apply?

Having only one chance to resubmit is another strike against hurrying to meet a receipt date.

For sure, the best time to apply is when your application is ready. The most important success factor is an application that's as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

Having at most one chance to resubmit (should the first submission fail) is another strike against hurrying to meet a receipt date (unless you're applying to an initiative that has only one receipt date).

Even so, it helps to understand the quirks of the different cycles used for investigator-initiated applications. Read the Just the Facts section above; then read below to see why despite the complications noted above, Cycle 1 may be the most advantageous time to submit.

Note: the months listed below are for new non-AIDS R01s; other types, including R01 resubmissions, have different receipt dates. Find them all at Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

Cycle 1—Submit in February

Even with an extremely low percentile, your award will likely be delayed because your application goes to September Council, the first of the fiscal year, when we typically do not have a budget.

The good news: Cycle 1 has the shortest waiting time if you don't succeed and have to resubmit. Most PIs do resubmit, so assume you will too. Cycle 1 is the only one that lets you resubmit in the same fiscal year (in Cycle 3) without a rush.

"Without a rush" means you have enough time to revise and resubmit for the next cycle. Keep in mind that you need to receive your summary statement before you may resubmit.

New investigators get summary statements at least a month before their next receipt date, though as of 2010, less than 13 percent were able to apply for that date. Others do not have even that guarantee.

Resubmitting in the same fiscal year is helpful because you know the payline, and you avoid the start-of-year wait. Learn more at What to Do if You Get Bad News in Part 6.

Cycle 2—Submit in June

We may still be operating under interim paylines, so you may experience a delay.

In theory, you can resubmit in the same fiscal year (in Cycle 3), but you will probably have only around three weeks to revise after getting your summary statement.

If you resubmit for Cycle 1, you're applying for funding at the beginning of a fiscal year, which almost always delays an award, and the payline is unknown.

Cycle 3—Submit in October

If your score is just outside the payline, you won't have to wait long to find out if your application is one of those NIAID will be paying at the end of the fiscal year.

But if your application is not funded, you will need to resubmit in the next fiscal year under an unknown payline. If you resubmit quickly for Cycle 1, you will most likely experience a delay for the award as well.

Get Your Application in Early

Get your institution's deadlines from your grants business office well ahead of time, and factor them into your timing.

As we stated above, your institution's internal deadline is your key deadline, not the NIH receipt date. Read more in Part 4. Submit Your Application.

Prepare Your Just-in-Time Information Early

Have your just-in-time information ready well before we make the award.

You may want to start preparing it when you are writing the application or just after, so it will be ready when we ask for it.

If we do not receive your just-in-time information on time, you may experience a delay in getting your award. At the end of the fiscal year, we may bypass your application altogether because we do not have time to wait.

Learn more in Prepare Your Just-in-Time Information in Part 3.

Don't wait to see if your application is funded later in the fiscal year. If problems are fixable, start revising when you get the summary statement.

Revise, Don't Wait for Later Funding

If your application scores above the payline, we strongly advise that you not to wait to see if you are funded later in the fiscal year.

If problems are fixable.

If your application's problems are fixable, plan to revise and resubmit. Improve your application based on reviewer feedback and other enhancements you can make. Resubmit as soon as you are ready, even if the application scored just above the payline.

It usually can't hurt you to go this route because we can usually fund the application with the best score (occasionally reviewers find major problems not detected in the initial application, the resubmission scores significantly worse, and we cannot use the first application).

No matter what your situation, discuss your resubmission strategy with your program officer and experienced investigators in your institution. Don't rush—take the time you need to get it right.

Read more about what to do if funding is not imminent in Part 6. If Not Funded.

If problems are not fixable.

Learn how to distinguish between a fixable versus unfixable problem in What to Do if You Get Bad News in Part 6.

If the problems are not fixable, begin writing a new application as soon as you can after you get the summary statement. It's better to start with a fresh idea than try to fix insurmountable problems.

Dealing With a Delay if Fundable

If your application has a very low percentile, consider asking your institution about spending funds ahead of the award in case of a delay at the start of the fiscal year.

This approach can help you be ready to launch when you do get the grant and the clock starts ticking for reporting results and publishing.

NIH lets you begin spending funds within 90 days of an expected award. Institutions have different policies on early spending, so ask people in your business office what you are allowed to do.

Is a delay a problem?

You may need to consider where your support will come from during the interval it takes to apply for and receive an R01. Talk to your institution about your options.

Here's something to think about for the future: the best time to negotiate institutional support is when you are accepting a job.

To read about how to stay funded, go to Strategy for Staying Funded in Part 7.

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 deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.

Last Updated February 04, 2014

Last Reviewed September 29, 2011