Skip Navigation

Research Funding

Skip Content Marketing
  • Share this:
  • submit to facebook
  • Tweet it
  • submit to reddit
  • submit to StumbleUpon
  • submit to Google +

June 8, 2011

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Other News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Staying Ahead of the Game

This is the twenty-third article in our New Investigator Series.

In this series, we explored planning, writing, and submitting your application; funding decisions; and options if your application is not funded. Here we look into strategies for getting and staying funded.

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


  • At any point in your career, you'll likely need several applications in the works to enhance your chances that one will succeed.
  • If you have a grant, avoid a break in funding by applying for additional support well before your grant ends.
  • Consider topics stemming from your research that could be the basis of another application.
  • Look into various funding sources.
  • If you are starting out, you should begin writing your first application even before you start an academic appointment.

To maintain funding throughout your career takes a strategy: at any point, you'll likely need several applications in the works to boost your chances that you will continue to be funded. If you are new, factor this strategy into your plans; even if you already have a grant, rely on this strategy to avoid a funding break.

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 on continuing to seek funding by submitting additional applications.

Read more below and get ideas from senior-level researchers in your institution.

Juggle Multiple Projects at the Same Time—With No Scientific Overlap

Submitting many applications is critical, especially with today's low success rates. As soon as you can, write applications on different topics with different Specific Aims.

Even if you get a four- or five-year award, it's a good idea to start planning new applications after your first year. Use our timelines as a guide—see the links below.

If you are a funded PI, your riskiest strategy is to wait until you're running out of money to think about your next application. To avoid a break in funding, apply early enough to get an award 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.

Here are some ideas to contemplate for making plans to stay funded.

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

Plan another application. When planning your next application, take care and carefully consider the following:

  • Make sure the topic is clearly distinct from your funded work.
  • Be careful not to dilute your best ideas with too many applications too close in topic. It takes a strong, virtually flawless project to compete successfully.
  • Ask yourself: Can I juggle all the work? If you are a new investigator, you will need to convince reviewers that you have enough resources and time to do the work and are not stretched too thin.
    • Your level of effort must not exceed 100 percent for all your work.
    • For research grants such as the R01, NIH does not set a minimum. However, reviewers expect to see a level appropriate to the work proposed, i.e., enough time to effectively manage and oversee the project.
    • Be sure you have sufficient staff to do all the work.

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 gather data to explore a new avenue of research.

  • You need a solid track record demonstrating that you can explore a new area.
  • You need little or no preliminary data.
  • NIAID accepts investigator-initiated applications in response to parent PAs as well as its own requests for applications and program announcements. Find the latter on our NIAID Funding Opportunities List, linked below.

Stagger Applications

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, submit your new and renewal applications at different times.

Shoot for only one application for each receipt date, make sure Specific Aims do not overlap, and target each application to different review committees and, if possible, to 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 application only once—possibly not at all for RFAs—having multiple applications in the works can help maximize your chances that one will succeed.

Reuse an Unfunded Application

Did your next application not get funded? See if you can reuse it.

Although applications usually have only two chances to succeed, the original and one resubmission, you can use the same NIH application—appropriately modified—more than once in two circumstances:

  • Apply for a new activity code, for example, from R01 to R21.
  • Switch from investigator-initiated to a request for applications (RFA) or vice versa.

Read more at You May Reuse Some Types of Applications—find the link below.

Broaden Your Horizons

Consider funding sources other than NIH: other government agencies, foundations, and companies.

Ideas that are not appropriate for an NIH R01 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.

You can send an application to NIH and to another organization outside the Public Health Service simultaneously, although you will be able to accept only one award. An even better strategy is to submit applications that are scientifically distinct so you can accept all that are fundable.

Look to nonprofits. Use our List of Foundations and Other Funding Sources linked below as a starting point to find foundations that support research in NIAID's scientific mission areas.

And don't forget the for-profit sector. Contact your institution's technology transfer office to explore how you can get a company to pay to develop or license your intellectual property.

Here's another idea to broaden your horizons: if a promising lead requires new expertise, consider getting additional experience, training, or collaborators.

Writing Your First Application?

Speaking of experience, we advise that you not wait until you officially begin an academic appointment to write your first application.

Instead, get a head start by beginning toward the end of your postdoc, even though your new employer will submit the application.

Working with current colleagues lets you tap the knowledge of people who are familiar with what you're doing and are well positioned to help you choose a topic and give you feedback. And application writing is great practice: our data show that writing any grant application increases your chances of success for future applications.

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 aspect of your career.

In our next article, we'll give you tips for renewing your grant.

Related Links


Reuse an Unfunded Application

Funding Sources

Separator line

Check Out Final FY 2011 Paylines

We now have official FY 2011 paylines for all grant types. Though NIAID's budget shrunk, paylines went up for some grant types compared to last year's levels.

Take a look at NIAID Paylines. For background on how we set paylines, read Planning and Budget Cycle.

You can check out the latest news on NIAID's budget cuts and how we responded in the May 11, 2011, NIAID Funding Newsletter article "News Flash: Budget, Salary Cap, and Funding Plans."

To be notified instantly of changes to paylines, sign up for Email Alerts—visit the NIAID Email Alerts Subscription Center.

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Weigh In on Our Sample R01 Applications

Since the June receipt date was just days ago, we're thinking many of you who submitted used our New Sample R01 Applications and Summary Statements for some guidance, whether on writing, organizing, or formatting. If you did, we want your thoughts:

Were they helpful? Did they meet your needs? What worked best—or least—for you?

Feel free to chime in even if you weren't among the most recent applicants, or you plan to use the Samples at some future point. And, if this is the first you've heard of them, check them out and let us know what you think.

Header: Other News.

View NIAID's Showcase of Accomplishments

What's in NIAID's showcase?

Selected biomedical research advances in which NIAID has played a major role.

After over 60 years of sustained commitment to basic research and collaborations that help translate scientific discoveries into public health strategies and tools, we think it's appropriate to display the results of some of these efforts.

Take a look at the NIAID Showcase and read the Foreword.

Separator line

Last Chance to Join NIH's SBIR/STTR June Conference

Join us at NIH’s Bethesda campus on June 22 and 23, 2011, to learn how your small business can tap into NIH research and development funding.

Meet SBIR and STTR veterans, participate in business development and commercialization workshops, and get the scoop on NIH technology transfer licensing opportunities.

This year you can choose from more sessions than ever before, including:

  • Raising Capital Beyond SBIR/STTR.
  • Update on SBIR/STTR Programs.
  • Preparing Successful Applications—Tales from the Trenches.
  • Commercialization Strategies for Building a Business.
  • One-on-one meetings with program and grants management staff, including key NIAID contacts.

To learn more about the conference, go to 13th Annual NIH SBIR/STTR 2011 Conference.

Separator line

News Briefs

Some news and notes from around NIH.

Attend an IACUC Workshop in St. Louis, MO. Join NIH and Scientists Center for Animal Welfare for an advanced seminar on institutional animal care and use committee functions. Read the May 27, 2011, Guide notice for more and follow the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare Listserv.

SBIR Extension Passes. Congress extended the SBIR program through September 30, 2011.

Header: Advice Corner.

Protect Your Intellectual Property

Just a friendly reminder that if you have intellectual property, be sure to safeguard it with a patent, copyright, or trademark. While our March 3, 2010, article "Be Intelligent About Intellectual Property" gives you the entire picture, here's a snapshot of what you need to know.

At an Academic Institution

  • Do not include confidential information in your application—particularly in the title or abstract—unless you have a patent or patent application covering your inventions.
  • If you do include confidential information, clearly mark it as confidential or proprietary.
  • Address intellectual property in your consortium agreement if using subawards.

At a Small Business

  • In your application, do not describe your inventions unless you have a patent or have filed a provisional patent application.
  • Before submitting an application, SBIR and STTR applicants with partners should have intellectual property agreements.
  • Have an intellectual property agreement with subcontractors.

Find general information about intellectual property at NIAID's Office of Technology Development and NIH's Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Policy.

For issues concerning small businesses, contact Dr. Gregory Milman, director, NIAID Office for Innovation and Special Programs.

Header: Reader Questions.

Feel free to send us a question at After responding to you, we may include your question in the newsletter, incorporate it into the NIAID Research Funding site, or both.

"Do I need to submit a final progress report for my grant if I am applying for a renewal?"—anonymous reader

No. You do not need to submit a final progress report because you must document progress in your renewal application.

If you are closing out your grant or your renewal application does not get funded, you will need to submit all final reports. Read File Your Final Reports at Award End in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

back to top

Last Updated January 31, 2012

Last Reviewed June 08, 2011