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September 26, 2012

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

Your Resubmission—Application Act Two

Nobody likes bad news, but unsuccessful applications are a fact of life every investigator eventually faces.

But unlike the director of a Broadway play, you don't have to worry about your audience walking out on your second act. Your reviewers will play their part, keen on seeing how you addressed their critiques.

Before we discuss the ins and outs of resubmitting, let’s back up to earlier events where you judge whether resubmitting is your most effective tack.

After you learn your application is not fundable, you’ll first need to spend time to effectively deal with your anger and frustration.

When you've done that, you'll be ready to take a cold hard look at your options and do a thorough analysis of your situation so you can determine what to do next.

Keep in mind that summary statements don't tell the whole story. Be sure to discuss the comments and possibly get additional feedback from your program officer.

Besides resubmitting, other options include creating a sufficiently new application or, in some cases, reusing or repurposing the original one. If you’re unsure how to proceed, get advice from program officers and colleagues, and read more in these resources:

How to Stage a First-Rate Review

Now that you have decided to resubmit, you'll need to meet your reviewers’ expectations to elicit their applause. That means paying close attention to both the written and unwritten rules.  Let’s start with NIH's requirements:

Rule 1: You can resubmit only once.

Rule 2: You must apply within 37 months of the original application's receipt date.

Rule 3:  Your application must include a one-page introduction and a cover letter. See Create a Cover Letter in Part 4.

Rule 4: You must address all your reviewers' issues in your summary statement. Reviewers will look for this information and will evaluate your revisions. Providing any additional data requested by the reviewers is always preferable to arguing in your response why it’s not needed.

Following the official rules is important but not enough. You also must adhere to this essential tenet: remove all emotion from your writing, especially in the introduction.

Instead, you want to be respectful and stay objective.

To achieve that level of cool, put yourself in your reviewers’ shoes and view your application from their perspective. That mindset may also help you avoid taking disagreements about facts or choices as a personal affront.

In addition to presenting information in a thoroughly objective manner, you will want to acknowledge the good insights and helpful guidance of your reviewers.

You may not agree with all of their comments, but the reviewers have spent quite a bit of time evaluating your proposal and writing their critiques.

Tact is particularly key in such cases. Additionally, you’ll need to choose your approach to dealing with the comments: you could revise your plans to get around the problem or respectfully explain why you think you are correct.

That call can be tricky to make. For a difference of scientific opinion, you may not succeed.  On the other hand, a missing or misunderstood fact can usually be clarified successfully.

And another consideration: you get only one page for your introduction, so make the most of it.

  • If you agree with the reviewers, say so and move on. Save precious space for justifying why you disagree with a point.
  • Refer to sections in the application with new information that strengthens your case.
  • Reviewers are human: if they missed some information, state where it is—and resist the urge to say it was there before!

To get an idea of what a well-written introduction should sound like, look at our sample applications linked below.

Then after you finish writing your introduction, have a colleague or two read it to judge whether it could possibly be interpreted as defensive or argumentative.

Timing Your Entry

Say your application scores just above the payline or perhaps has been placed on our selective pay list. What should you do?

We often recommend resubmitting rather than waiting.

First, the advantage to resubmitting as soon as you can is that you get the application in earlier, and usually a resubmission will not hurt you.

Second, most resubmissions do better than the initial application. Our data show that more than 80 percent of resubmissions get better scores, and less than 5 percent get significantly worse scores.

Even if your resubmission scores slightly worse, that probably won't affect your funding chances because we can fund the earlier one later in the fiscal year.

Above all, don’t rush. Do not resubmit until you can send in the strongest possible application that adequately addresses all the reviewers' comments. If you can't do that, it's better to wait for the next receipt date.

And if you need additional preliminary data or new data are imminent, wait until you have them before resubmitting.

You can also begin drafting your revised proposal even before you get the summary statement, so you’ll be ready to apply for the next receipt date.

This approach works if you have promising new data, manuscripts accepted for publication, or other obvious improvements to make. Then, after you get your summary statement, you can add to the final revisions needed to address your reviewers’ concerns.

A consideration for new investigators: although you get your summary statement at least a month before the next receipt date, NIH data show that most new investigators are not ready to apply for that date. As we advise everyone, whether new or experienced, you shouldn’t apply until you are truly ready.

One final thought on timing: sometimes waiting has little impact on the timing of an award.

  • For Cycle 1 receipt dates (September-October Council), you often must wait several extra months for an award because we do not yet have a budget for the following fiscal year.
  • If you submit for the Cycle 3 receipt dates (May Council) instead, you could lose just a month or two before you get an award.

Read more in Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award linked below.

Give It Your Best Shot

You have only one opportunity to resubmit, so you’ll want to give it your best shot. Here are some tips for success.

Respond point by point to the reviewers' comments and suggestions even if you disagree. Carefully and respectfully address each point, stating how you dealt with all the criticisms in the summary statement.

  • If you disagree, explain the reason, giving additional information (or citing new published papers) if possible.
  • Even if you don't agree initially, consider changing your plans. For example, if a reviewer does not like an approach, see if you can propose a different one.

Keep in mind that reviewers are not wedded to their critiques, new reviewers may disagree with previous comments or raise new criticisms, and your summary statement is not an exhaustive critique—it may not list all the concerns the reviewers had or may have raised if the discussion had continued.

Identify all changes (usually). Make changes clear.

  • Highlight your reviewers' comments in your introduction and identify changes in the body of the Research Plan unless most of the text has changed. If so, state that fact in the introduction and don't mark changes.
  • Make new text in the Research Plan easy to distinguish.
    • Use arrows, brackets, indents, or a new (allowed) font.
    • Do not underline, shade changes, or use color.
    • Avoid italicizing large blocks of text—it's hard to read.

Capitalize on your strengths and throw out or revise the parts reviewers felt were weak.

  • Then, check that all the parts are still in sync, for example, that the new experiments in your Research Strategy line up with your Specific Aims and hypothesis.
  • Update your references cited.
  • Check cross-references to figure and table numbers. Reviewers get annoyed when they waste time looking for a Figure 5 that no longer exists.

Add new findings and improvements. You aren't limited to revising issues mentioned in the summary statement.

  • Strengthen the application by adding new information and preliminary data—including in areas your reviewers did not question.
  • Review and update your letters of support.
    • Get new letters to show continued commitment for your project or willingness to provide reagents or samples or to perform assays.
    • Make sure all letters of support still match your project: don’t confuse your reviewers by including a letter that refers to assays no longer proposed.

Check our Latest Funding Updates and Top Policy Changes, linked below, to find out about new policies or other changes that happened since you last applied.

The bottom line: many people do get their applications funded after revising and resubmitting. So be optimistic, careful, and as we say to any good Thespian—break a leg!

Related Links

Strategy for NIH Funding

Sample Applications and Summary Statements (look for "Introduction" in the navigation on the left of the PDF file)

  • R01—Adam Ratner, "Gardnerella vaginalis: toxin production and pathogenesis"—Full Application

Latest Funding Updates

Top Policy Changes

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Small Business Awardees: Take Advantage of NIH's Niche Assessment Program

"To market, to market" comes from a nursery rhyme but aptly describes where NIH's Niche Assessment Program can take your technology. The newly renewed Program is now open to both Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) phase I awardees (grants and contracts).

Details about the Program are pretty simple; in fact, much of them can be summed up in threes.

For example, the Program can help kick-start your company's commercialization efforts by:

  1. Providing market insight and data to strategically position your technology in the marketplace.
  2. Helping you prepare the commercialization plan required for your phase II application.
  3. Introducing you to potential commercialization partners.

How it Works

An NIH contractor, Foresight Science and Technology, will assess potential uses of the technology in your grant and prepare an in-depth market analysis report.

Here's the three-step process Foresight will follow:

  1. Gather pertinent information to identify feasible applications of a company's technology.
  2. Analyze the use of the technology to determine factors such as end-user needs, competing technologies, and market dynamics.
  3. Recommend a market entry strategy.

Why You May Want to Sign Up

If what we've written so far hasn't prompted you to consider signing up for the Program, maybe these three points will:

  1. You don't pay anything for the analysis; it's free.
  2. You'll get your analysis report in a relatively short time: two to three months.
  3. All you have to do is spend a couple of hours completing the Setup form.

Act Fast

Time is of the essence if you want in. Only 125 slots are open for FY 2012 and FY 2013 awardees and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. To sign up, fill out the Setup form.

For complete details on the Program, see the August 31, 2012, Guide notice.

Speaking of Signing Up...

If you haven't already, we encourage you to Subscribe to Email Alerts to be notified quickly of SBIR or STTR funding opportunities or other research funding topics, like Fiscal Year Paylines and Top Policy Changes.

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Two Other Bits of Business for Small Businesses

In addition to the Niche Assessment opportunity we wrote about above, here are two other items of interest to small businesses.

Web site for SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act. Visit SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011: NIH Implementation of Key Changes to stay abreast of NIH's plans to implement provisions of the SBIR/STTR reauthorization legislation passed at the end of last year.

The site identifies key changes and describes NIH's response.

National SBIR/STTR Conference. Meet representatives from NIH and participate in conference activities such as networking sessions, "one-on-one" sit-downs with representatives from federal agencies, and a legal clinic for businesses.

The conference will be held in Portland, Oregon from November 13 to 15, 2012. To register and learn more, go to Oregon SBIR/STTR National Conference 2012.

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Interim R01 Paylines PostedMore Budget News Coming

We released interim FY 2013 paylines for R01 awards: 6 percentile for non-new investigators, 10 percentile for new ones. See NIAID Paylines.

These conservative initial paylines are an administrative tool that lets us get some top-scoring grants out the door while we await our appropriation.  We will set official paylines later in the fiscal year, once we have our budget.

Note that we do not send email alerts for interim paylines—only official ones. As soon as we receive our final paylines and financial management plan, we will send you alerts. To sign up, Subscribe to Email Alerts.

For background on how we set paylines, read Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year on NIAID Funding Opportunity Planning and the Budget Cycle.

We will have more information on FY 2013 budget and paylines in a future issue.

Header: Other News. 

The Progress of Progress Reports: RPPR

Starting on October 19, 2012, you may use NIH's Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) for most streamlined noncompeting award process (SNAP) and fellowship awards.

Here's how to learn more about RPPR:

For now, you can still use the old PHS 2590, eSNAP, and PHS 416-9 for progress reporting. We expect that NIH will require use of RPPR sometime this spring.

Complex grant types and non-SNAP awards will use RPPR eventually as well, though NIH hasn't set a transition schedule for them yet.

We predicted this shift originally in our March 28, 2012, article "This Summer's Feature: Uniform Progress Report, RPPR." Previously, only institutions participating in the pilot could use the new reporting method.

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News Briefs

NIH Expands Eligibility for BRAD Award. The Biomedical/Behavioral Research Administrators Development (BRAD) Award is now open to applicants in certain Latin American and Caribbean countries. For details, see the September 7, 2012, Guide notice.

Boost for K08 and K23 Awards. We bumped up salary and research support levels for two of our career development awards: Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) and Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23). The increase goes into effect starting with new applications that go to January 2013 Council. See the September 12, 2012, Guide notice for details.

Check Your FY 2012 Award Information. Make sure your business office confirms that your FY 2012 award information is accurate in NIH's RePORT database. After October 4, you will not be able to update your records. For background and instructions for making corrections, read the September 18, 2012, Guide notice.

Header: Advice Corner.

Get a Compilation of Genome-Wide Association Study Data

If your research interests include genome-wide association studies (GWAS), you may appreciate a new aggregate dataset offered through NIH's Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP).

The Compilation of Aggregate Genomic Data includes all authorized aggregate genomic data from datasets currently in dbGaP that are already approved for general research use.

Though you'll have to abide by the dbGaP Approved User Code of Conduct, these particular dbGaP data have no publication embargo or other use limitations. Also, you don't need institutional review board approval for secondary analysis.

A single request can get you access to the entire Compilation after NIH's central Data Access Committee approves. To learn more about how to request access, see the Compilation site and the August 10, 2012, Guide notice,

Because researchers conducting NIH-funded GWAS studies must share the data, dbGaP has an abundance of single-study and aggregate data for other investigators to analyze. Your research and analysis efforts in this area help identify common genetic factors that influence health and disease, accelerating development of better diagnostic tools and the design of new, safe, and highly effective treatments.

Related Resources

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.

"What type of peer-reviewed publications should be listed in my biosketch?"—anonymous reader

You should include original research articles, editorials, reviews, and publications that highlight your contributions to your field. We advise you to choose the most important and relevant publications.

For examples from other investigator applications, take a look at the Biosketch and Bibliography and References sections of our Sample Applications and Summary Statements.

"Who receives NIAID's just-in-time notices?"—anonymous reader

Our grants management specialists send those emails to the PI, the business office contact (item 5 on the SF 424 Face Page), and the program officer assigned to the application.

If you have a question about your just-in-time notification, contact the grants management specialist listed in the eRA Commons for your application.

Note: NIH sends an automatic just-in-time notification for any application that has an overall impact score below 40. Our email goes only to those likely to be funded, though it's not a guarantee of funding.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

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Last Updated September 26, 2012

Last Reviewed September 26, 2012