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Big Grant Applications Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

Can I request more than $500,000 in direct costs in any year?

You may, though you must get NIAID approval before applying. In deciding whether to fund a big grant, NIAID weighs the effect on its budget as well as the priority of the research. For details, see the Big Grants SOP.

What are the basic requirements for a big grant?

NIH policy for unsolicited applications with budgets of $500,000 or more in direct costs in any year requires that you submit documentation with your application stating you have discussed it with an NIH (NIAID) program officer, and the institute (NIAID) has agreed to accept it.  

For applications submitted in response to a request for applications (RFA), the RFA will explicitly state in Section IV.6 if an application must include the letter of acceptance from the program officer. 

You must seek approval from the program officer at least six or more weeks before applying, as identified in the FOA. Your program officer will send you an acceptance letter to include with your application. See the Big Grants SOP.

Clinical trial applications follow their process—go to Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Resources for more information.

Can I bypass these requirements by putting a program officer's name in my cover letter and saying he or she approved?

No. You must include an acceptance letter from NIAID with your cover letter. For details, see the Big Grants SOP.

Can you direct me to the program officer with whom I would need to speak about submitting a big grant?

If your big grant application is in response to an RFA, contact the program officer listed in the funding opportunity announcement. You can find this person listed under Scientific/Research Contacts in Section VII.

If your big grant application is investigator-initiated, e.g., a large R01 or a P01, you will need to find a program officer to consult with based on your area of science. Choose the most appropriate extramural research division:

For more information, see the Big Grants SOP.

When submitting a big grant request for approval, must I identify a published funding opportunity announcement (FOA)?

Yes, you need to respond to a specific FOA. For more information on submitting a big grant application, see our Big Grants SOP.

Does the $500,000 limit include subaward facilities and administrative costs?

No. The $500,000 limit excludes any subaward F&A costs.

What is the best approach to planning a big grant application?

Work with your program officer—submitting a big grant application is best approached as a team effort.

It's much better to call or write while still planning your application, so your program officer can advise you. That way, you don't waste time writing an application we. To find a program officer, visit When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer. Read the Big Grants SOP for more information.

What happens if I don't get program staff approval before applying?

Without program staff approval, you face the following consequences:

  • If you don't include a big grant acceptance letter, NIH's Center for Scientific Review will reject your application without a review. See Act Now to Avoid Post-Submission Rejection in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
  • If you don't contact program staff before applying, they cannot be your advocate and you cannot benefit from their advice.

Do I need permission if I'm near but not over $500,000?

Yes, you need permission any time your request could exceed $500,000 in any year. For example, if you ask for $499,000 in direct costs in the first year, the out years could be more than $500,000, even if you don't request an annual increase.

Should I contact NIAID staff if my application is part of a large multiproject application?

Only if you are the PI. Project and core leaders do not contact NIAID staff.

Am I just as likely to get a big award as a smaller one?

It depends. When deciding what to fund, we weigh the effect on our budget as well as the priority of your proposed research.

Do large awards get annual budget increases?

Getting an annual budget increase depends on our annual financial management plan, which we post on Paylines and Funding. You should start checking this site at the beginning of a new fiscal year, keeping in mind that our numbers usually change later in the year when our budget is final.

Do big grants use a modular budget?

No. A detailed budget is a requirement for any grant requesting more than $250,000 in a year. See Plan Your Budget in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Why does NIAID convert some big grants to cooperative agreements?

We usually convert large clinical research grants and epidemiology studies into cooperative agreements when NIAID staff need to participate substantially in the research.

Like all clinical awards, cooperative agreements are subject to NIAID Clinical Terms of Award and to additional requirements for NIAID staff participation. Also see Conversion of Grants to Cooperative Agreements SOP.

What if my question wasn't answered here, or I'd like to suggest a question?

Email with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. We answer questions by email and post them here. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.


Last Updated May 15, 2015

Last Reviewed May 15, 2015