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May 11, 2011

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

Other News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

News Flash!News Flash: Budget, Salary Cap, and Funding Plans

The President signed the FY 2011 budget last month, and we now have details for NIAID.

NIH saw its $31 billion budget drop 0.9 percent. It distributed this burden equally among the institutes—see NIAID Budget Data Comparisons for a tally of cuts.

Accordingly—for the first time we can recall—NIAID received a 0.9 percent reduction, forcing us to make cuts across the board to keep our $4.8 billion budget balanced and meet our existing funding commitments while maintaining strong paylines.

Tending to Funding Priorities

We are doing the best we can in this difficult funding environment to maintain strong R01 paylines, honor our set-asides, and continue to fund grants in progress.

Our top priorities are funding incoming applications and supporting noncompeting awards. During this time of cutbacks, balancing those two priorities requires sacrifice on both accounts. See our FY 2011 Financial Management Plan for details.

Note that NIAID is funding noncompeting awards below FY 2011 commitments, with future year escalations trimmed from 3 percent to 2 percent for nonmodular grants.

Salary Caps Hold Steady

Salary limits remain at the previous level—$199,700. The cap doesn't apply to consultants, and your institution may pay beyond the cap with its institutional money. Read the May 4, 2011, Guide notice for details and bookmark PI Salary Cap and Stipends for future changes.

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Your Application Did Not Succeed—What's Next?

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

Previously, we discussed how to plan, write, and submit your application and the steps that take place after you apply, which included exploring your options if your application is not funded. In this article, we delve into how you resubmit.


  • Choose one of three options: revise and resubmit, create a "new" application, or repurpose the application.
  • Know when you can submit the same project again—without resubmitting.
  • If you are resubmitting, know the rules.
  • Start revising immediately and resubmit as soon as you can significantly improve the application.
  • Generally a resubmission will not hurt you—if it gets a worse score, we can use the first submission.

If we did not fund your R01 application, be sure to read our previous article "Application Snag—What to Do if You Get Bad News" before you proceed here. Don't skip that key analytical step. Before you can act, you need to understand the nature of the issues you are dealing with as well as your options.

Once you get to the heart of the matter, you will go down one of three main tracks:

  1. Revise and resubmit.
  2. Create a "new" application.
  3. Repurpose the application.

Below we give you guidance to help you make the best choice and execute your strategy.

Committee members look at the application in the context of their critiques, so this approach is effective if you can readily answer their concerns.

Option 1: Revise and Resubmit

This option has two tracks: revising and requesting the same study section and revising and requesting a different study section.

Revising and requesting the same study section. If your reviewers were enthusiastic about your idea and found fixable problems, revising and requesting the same study section is usually the way to go. This route is the most common one and works well when the points of contention are limited.

Revising lets you keep most of your original application intact while addressing the critiques of your reviewers. Committee members look at the application in the context of their critiques, so the approach is effective if you can readily answer their concerns.

Be aware that your application may still face some new reviewers who may raise new issues—we'll talk more about that subject later.

If expertise was lacking, you have grounds for appeal, but you will need to justify your appeal, and NIH may disagree.

Revising and requesting a different study section. If your reviewers were not enthusiastic about your idea, reassess the study section.

Do you have a sense that no matter what you wrote your reviewers wouldn't have appreciated it? That's a clue that your application and the study section were a poor fit.

But be careful not to assume that the reviewers were the problem—first thoroughly size up the application's faults that they identified.

To gauge whether the study section may have been unsuitable, use the roster attached to your summary statement to view the committee members, and then check out their publications. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Did the reviewers' expertise fit your topic?
  • Were they knowledgeable about your methods?
  • Did they understand the rationale for your research?

If the verdict is no for any of the above, the study section may have been inappropriate. Talk to colleagues and mentors to get their take and before you decide whether to request a new study section, keeping these points in mind:

  • You have no guarantee of anyone's presence at the meeting—including past reviewers—because participants rotate on and off, and NIH uses ad hoc reviewers.
  • Make sure your cover letter lists the expertise necessary to review your application in addition to requesting a study section.
  • Even if you believe there was a problem with a reviewer, frame your request in positive terms.
    • For example, say that another study section has several people on it who would be knowledgeable about your area and qualified to judge your work.
    • Don't request reviewers by name or they will be disqualified!
    • Spell out the competencies of an ideal reviewer for your application.

Another point: if you conclude that the necessary expertise was lacking, you may have grounds for appeal. But if you go that route, beware that you will need to justify your conclusion, and NIH may disagree with you.

Appeals can end in two ways:

  • The same application is reviewed by the same, or more commonly a different, study section.
  • The review outcome stands (the appeal loses), and you must revise and resubmit or proceed with one of the options described below.

Read more about requesting a study section in "Your Application Takes Center Stage" and "Finishing Touches for Your Application" under our New Investigator Series links.

We discuss how to prepare your resubmission under the header Dancing to a Different Tune below.

Option 2: Create a "New" Application

Create a new application if your old one had bigger problems than those addressed in option 1 or if you've already resubmitted unsuccessfully. Note: this section does not apply if you are repurposing your application—see Option 3: Repurpose the Application below.

While you may keep preliminary data and some parts of the application that fit, you must substantially change direction and scope.

When you create a "new" (as opposed to a resubmitted) application, reviewers will not see the summary statement from the previous review, so you get a fresh start.

Often your biggest challenge is making sure your application is sufficiently new.

NIH is strict about newness as it ensures that investigators comply with its one resubmission policy. Referral officers in the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) are on the lookout and reject any new application that overlaps too much with a previous one.

CSR uses software to compare applications for similar content, and program and scientific review officers check your application for newness. They will question these situations:

1. After an unsuccessful resubmission, you submitted a new application without sufficiently revising.

The scientific review officer will contact you and give you a chance to rebut CSR's decision. If CSR disagrees, it will return the application to you without a review.

2. You included a progress report and applied as new.

CSR will work with you to correct the problem. Depending how much time remains before the review meeting, you may need to withdraw the application and submit for the next receipt date (assuming there is one).

Take time to think through your approach thoroughly. Making a few revisions—for example, just changing the title—isn't enough. You'll need to significantly revise your Research Plan and other application parts.

The following actions would not pass muster:

  • Changing only the Significance or Innovation sections.
  • Modifying the Approach section while keeping the same Specific Aims.
  • Requesting assignment to a different NIH institute or scientific review group.
  • Rewording the application without changing the direction or approach.

While you may keep preliminary data and some parts of the old application that fit, substantially change your direction and scope. You may keep some of your experimental design if you are addressing a new research question.

In your cover letter or in the application itself, it's helpful to state that you have previously submitted some of the same ideas, and explain how the new application is different. That way, you make your case proactively rather than rely on someone who is unfamiliar with your work to figure it out.

Some other thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Include any new preliminary data you have, and strengthen the application where you can, including addressing any feedback from the review.
  • Follow procedures for a new application: do not include a progress report, and do not mark it or refer to the previous reviewers' comments.
  • Talk with your program officer for more advice.
  • If your application ends up with the same study section, it's not a problem as long as you have made significant changes.

You may want to read NIH's Evaluation of Unallowable Resubmission and Overlapping Applications linked below.

Option 3: Repurpose the Application

Normally you can apply to do the same research only once, but there are exceptions if you wish to take the following actions:

  • Submit an investigator-initiated application after responding unsuccessfully to an RFA.
  • Respond to an RFA after unsuccessfully submitting an investigator-initiated application.
  • Submit an unsuccessful application as a different activity code (e.g., R01, R03, R21).

Always apply with a new application, not a resubmission, and follow the requirements in the new funding opportunity announcement.

You may have to modify your application to fit the new announcement—for example, by changing time and scope. Read the instructions closely for details. For more on repurposing your application, read You May Reuse Some Types of Applications in the links below.

Also consider getting your application included in a multiproject grant, e.g., a program project or other team science effort that benefits from your proposed work. While you might not get to be a principal investigator, you would conduct a significant research project.

Did you know you can send any application to NIH and to another organization simultaneously? This is an effective strategy that costs you relatively little in time and effort for the potential payoff.

Think about submitting to the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation as well as outside foundations—read more at Consider Other Funding Sources linked below.

Be sure to bone up on your new requirements and be aware of two limitations: the organization cannot be part of the U.S. Public Health Service (e.g., FDA, CDC, AHRQ), and you will be able to accept only one award.

Dancing to a Different Tune

Include any new preliminary data you have, and strengthen the application where possible—even in areas your reviewers did not question.

With a resubmission, you're playing by new rules.

Rule 1: You have just one opportunity to resubmit.

Rule 2: You must send it within 37 months of your application's original receipt date.

Rule 3: You must create an introduction and a cover letter. See Do You Need a Cover Letter? and "Finishing Touches for Your Application" linked below.

Rule 4: You must address all reviewer concerns in your summary statement. Reviewers will look for their comments and check that you revised accordingly. Here's how to proceed:

  • Discuss each of the reviewers' points one by one.
  • In your introduction, respond to your reviewers' comments and explain how you addressed their concerns.
    • For an example, see the Introduction to Dr. Adam Ratner's Research Plan linked below.
  • Carefully address each point, stating how you dealt with all the criticisms in the summary statement. Summarize substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application.
  • Differentiate new text from old text in the body of the Research Plan.
    • Make new text easy to distinguish—use bold, italics, brackets, indents, or some other marker (avoid colors).
    • If changes are so extensive that most text would be affected, state that in the introduction instead of marking up text.
  • Include any new preliminary data you have, and strengthen the application where possible—even in areas your reviewers did not question.
  • Always download new forms, and revisit the funding opportunity announcement for page limits or other items that might have changed.
  • For an R01, limit your introduction to one page.

Remember—there is no guarantee of success for several reasons:

  • Reviewers are not wedded to the critiques.
  • New reviewers may disagree with previous comments or raise new criticisms.
  • Because a summary statement is not an exhaustive critique of your proposal, it may not list all problems reviewers have. For more insights, read our article "Application Snag—What to Do if You Get Bad News" to learn how to assess your options.

With those caveats in mind, take heart that many people get funded after revising.

Resubmission Timing

Do not resubmit until you can send in the strongest possible application that effectively addresses all the reviewers' comments.

If your application scores above the payline and its problems are fixable, think about revising and resubmitting.

You can start revising right away, but take time to do the best job you can. Do not resubmit until you can send in the strongest possible application that effectively addresses all the reviewers' comments.

Many people begin revising even before getting the summary statement because waiting may cause them to miss the next receipt date. New investigators get summary statements earlier than others, but often find that time is still short—as of 2010, less than 13 percent of new investigators who received summary statements in that timeframe were able to apply for the next receipt date.

If you are on a list for possible selective pay or end-of-year funding, don't wait to see what will happen. Start revising instead. See our R01 Planning to Award Timeline by Review Cycle and R01 Application Considerations for Each Review Cycle linked below.

When is it feasible to start revising? You could start before you get your summary statement if you have the following information:

  • Insights into peer review from your program officer, who attended the review meeting and told you about the discussion.
  • Promising new data or other improvements you want to include.

Then after you get your summary statement, add to the revisions you've already made to address peer reviewer concerns.

When Not to Resubmit Quickly

Of course you want your grant as quickly as possible, but rushing can be a bad idea. You have only one chance to resubmit, so be sure you're absolutely ready before you do. It's better to wait for the next receipt date than send an application prematurely.

And sometimes waiting has little impact on the timing of an award:

  • For Cycle 1 receipt dates (September-October Council), you often have to wait several extra months before you get an award because the Institute does not yet have a budget for the following fiscal year.
  • If you wait to submit for the Cycle 3 receipt dates (May Council) instead, you could lose just a month or two before you actually get an award.
  • For more timing information, see our previous article "A Long Hard Look at Application Timing" linked below.

Can a Resubmission Hurt You?

Usually a resubmission can't hurt you.

Most resubmissions score better than the initial application, though, of course, there's no guarantee. During fiscal years 1996 to 2006, more than 80 percent of resubmissions got better scores, and less than 5 percent got significantly worse scores.

A resubmission that scores slightly worse probably won't affect the funding chances of an earlier application.

  • If you've submitted two applications, NIAID can still fund the earlier one.
  • eRA Commons will keep both versions of your application active.
    • Related applications have the "MAA" (Multiple Active Application) flag in the eRA Commons; use the Status module.
    • When one application is funded, NIH automatically withdraws the other.

Keep in mind that if reviewers find major problems not detected in the initial application, your resubmission could score significantly worse.

Resubmission Tips 

Be respectful. Respond point by point to the reviewers' comments and suggestions even if you disagree.

Here are some tips to help you succeed.

  • Capitalize on your strengths and consider throwing out or revising the parts reviewers felt were weak. Check again that your Specific Aims line up with your hypothesis.
  • Respond point by point to the reviewers' comments and suggestions even if you disagree. Be respectful.
    • If you disagree, explain why, and provide additional information if possible.
    • If you agree with the reviewers, change your proposal. For example, if a reviewer does not like an approach, eliminate it and propose a different one.
    • Keep in mind that, if several years have elapsed since you submitted the application, the reviewers' comments may no longer be relevant.
  • Identify all changes (usually). Use brackets, indents, or a new font. You can use Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype, Georgia typeface, or a combination of the above. All fonts used should be black, 11 points or larger.
    • One exception: if most of the text has changed, state that in the introduction rather than doing the above.
    • Do not underline, shade changes, or use color.
    • Avoid italicizing large blocks of text—it's hard to read.
  • Add new findings and your own improvements. Though you must revise items mentioned in the summary statement, you aren't limited to those items.
    • In the Preliminary Studies/Progress Report, add any new findings you've gotten since the previous application.
    • Don't hesitate to make other changes. Strengthen the application as much as you can.

Related Links

New Investigator Series

Strategy for NIH Funding


Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Small Businesses, Get the Scoop on What Interests NIAID

Looking for the skinny on what NIAID wants your small business to focus on? Check out our recently updated Small Business High-Priority Areas of Interest. Scan the topics, and if you find an area you like, contact the subject matter expert listed.

Among the Division of AIDS' fourteen areas of interest, two are new:

  • Preclinical development and evaluation of HIV vaccines, adjuvants and delivery systems in animal models using SIV, SHIV, or HIV. Priorities include vaccines that enhance innate and mucosal immunities and induce broadly reactive and long lasting neutralizing antibodies; and novel technologies and vaccine vectors.
  • Advancements for the microbicide field, which include developing combination microbicides and developing and identifying inhibitors for existing and new microbicide targets.

All five areas of interest from the Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation are new:

  • Innovative treatments for autoimmune diseases.
  • Biomarkers for measuring risk, disease activity, and therapeutic response in autoimmune diseases.
  • High throughput assay of T-cell activity in autoimmune diseases.
  • Standardized validated diagnostic criteria and outcome measures for autoimmune diseases correlated with disease activity.
  • Mucosal immunity.

Of the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases' eleven areas of interest, one is new and two have additional information:

  • Next generation sequencing and genomic technologies for new diagnostic strategies for infectious diseases including molecular signatures developed from studies on human microbiome and pathogen-host interactions.
  • Simple, rapid, field-deployable, sensitive and specific point-of-care in vitro diagnostics for the following:
    • NIAID Category A, B, and C priority pathogens and those causing emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
    • Respiratory disease pathogens.
    • Sexually transmitted infections.
    • Differentiating among causes of acute febrile illness in tropical and subtropical regions.
    • Detection of infectious disease-causing pathogens (bacteria, viral, or parasite) and determination of their antimicrobial resistance and/or sensitivity profiles.
  • More sensitive and accurate methods of direct detection of Borrelia burgdorferi to diagnose Lyme disease patients. Certain diagnostic approaches are encouraged, including discriminating between active and previous infection.

Check the high-priority areas of interest page annually to see if any updates have been added. Read NIAID's section of the NIH Omnibus Solicitation for SBIR and STTR Grant Applications and find out more about our Small Business Awards.

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Heads Up: FOA for AIDS Vaccine Program Is Expiring

Last call if you're planning to apply for the Integrated Preclinical/Clinical AIDS Vaccine Development Program. NIH has cancelled the funding opportunity announcement, so this November 8 is the final receipt date for applications.

Find the official word in the April 19, 2011, Guide notice.

Header: Other News.

OGR Needs a Director. Maybe You?

Our Office of Global Research needs a permanent head. Are you interested? If hired, you would coordinate NIAID's international research activities, programs, and funding opportunities.

And you'd have a hand at preparing major NIAID publications, supporting NIAID staff overseas, and being a liaison to the Fogarty International Center, State Department, CDC, and leaders of our international collaborative research projects.

If this sounds interesting to you, read the announcement for details and application instructions.

Header: Advice Corner.

What's "New" for Multiple PI Applications?

It's all or none when it comes to new investigator status on multiple PI applications. You and your fellow applicants must all be new to qualify as such, which means if even one of you doesn't fit the bill, none of you is considered new. Same goes for early-stage investigators (ESI).

Before you give up your status, give it careful thought. Being new or ESI gives you some important breaks, like a higher payline to make it easier to get funded. For other benefits, read Are You "New"? in our New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding.

If you need help deciding whether to go the multiple PI route, read "Are You Ready to Conduct Your Research?" and "Team Science—Sharing the Sandbox" in our New Investigator Series. Also see NIH's Multiple Principal Investigators Web site.

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Appealing a Peer Review Decision: Your Role

NIAID recently changed the process for appeals of peer review. What does that mean for you?

Contact your program officer right away if you see an appealable flaw in the review process—even before you speak to your business office. Be sure you understand what is appealable and what is not by reading our Appeals of Scientific Review of Grant Applications SOP.

Then identify the problem, substantiate your concern, and try to resolve the matter with your program officer, who may bring your scientific review officer into the conversation. Don't file an appeal until you have this conversation.

If you do end up appealing, check in with your business office first. If it supports you, get your authorized organizational representative to sign your letter requesting an appeal. NIAID requires express approval of your AOR.

Make sure the letter describes flaws in the review process and explains the reasons for the appeal. Refrain from mentioning other applications, past experiences, or general commentary on peer review process and policies.

While you're waiting to hear the outcome of your appeal, work on your resubmission or new application. Council members rarely disagree with the study section, and even when they do, there's no guarantee your application will score better on the re-review.

Be prepared to try again for funding, but wait until the appeal process concludes—otherwise NIH will withdraw your appeal. To learn more, go to our Appeals of Scientific Review of Grant Applications SOP.

For more on resubmitting or creating a new application, read our companion article "Your Application Did Not Succeed—What's Next?"

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.

"Will you apply the R56-Bridge and the select pay policies to SBIR?"—anonymous reader

No. We fund SBIRs out of a separate appropriation dedicated to small business awards. Federal rules say never the twain shall meet, so we can't expand other programs to include SBIR.

However, we may fund a small business grant that scores beyond the payline, based on NIAID's programmatic need and the availability of funds.

"As an SBIR phase I awardee, do I need to submit a new phase I application if both my phase II application and resubmission scored beyond the payline?"—anonymous reader

Yes. You have to abandon your project and submit a new phase I application that is significantly different. Read our advice in Option 2: Create a "New" Application of the above article "Your Application Did Not Succeed—What's Next?"

"What happens if I can't send my SBIR phase II application within six due dates of the end of my SBIR phase I award?"—anonymous reader

If your program officer approves, submit a late phase II application. Program officers may approve late submissions for projects that meet an NIAID priority and have a reasonably good chance of getting a fundable score.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See these and older announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated March 02, 2012

Last Reviewed June 17, 2011