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Top Questions Investigators Ask Program Officers

Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

Can I get funding without going through the peer review process?

No. For all grant applications and contract proposals, peer review is required by law for NIH funding.

Is my research topic appropriate for NIAID?

Read the NIAID Overview to see if your topic fits the Institute's research mission, and talk to a program officer if you still have questions. To find one, go to When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer.

Should I consult a program officer before submitting an application?

A program officer can advise you on preparing an application or requesting a study section, but please don't ask him or her to read your application. See When to Contact a Program Officer and Program Officers SOP for more information.

As a new investigator, should I apply for the smallest grant type?

Not necessarily. Read more in As a new investigator seeking independent funding, should I always ask for the smallest grant type? in New Investigator Advice questions and answers.

Do I need preliminary data?

For an R01 application, you will need preliminary data, though reviewers expect fewer preliminary data from new investigators.

Some grant types, e.g., the exploratory/developmental research grant (R21), do not require preliminary data. For information on small grants, go to the Other Grant Types portal.

Also see:

Do I need a faculty appointment to apply for an award?

While NIH does not have eligibility requirements for principal investigators, reviewers expect a certain level of achievement for an independent award, and your institution may have policies you'll need to comply with.

Read more at:

NIH also has fellowships and career awards—go to the Training and Career portal.

Which applications are peer reviewed by CSR, and which by NIAID?

In the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), the listed peer review contact will indicate whether the Center for Scientific Review (CSR), NIAID, or another institute will conduct the review.

NIAID oversees the initial peer review of applications with Institute-specific requirements: program projects, cooperative agreements, training and career development grants, some program announcements with special receipt, referral, or review criteria (PARs), and most requests for applications (RFAs). For details, see What award types are peer reviewed at NIAID? in the Peer Review at NIAID questions and answers.

CSR handles investigator-initiated applications for all other award types, as well as some PARs and RFAs. Read Ensure You Get the Right Assignments in the Strategy for NIH Funding to learn how an application is assigned to CSR or to an NIAID program division.

To what study section should I submit my investigator-initiated application?

If your application is to be reviewed at CSR, find a study section that may be friendly to your research. Follow our advice in the link above and in Investigate Committees and Members in Know Your Audience in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Does NIAID usually conduct a reverse site visit at the time of the review?

See Does NIAID usually conduct a reverse site visit at the time of the review? in the Peer Review at NIAID questions and answers. While there, you may also want to see Do site visits usually occur before or after review?

When does NIAID announce new paylines?

We cannot announce new paylines until well after Congress passes our annual appropriation. When that does not happen at the start of a fiscal year, we use interim paylines to begin funding a limited number of top-quality applications.

After our appropriation is passed, we can start preparing our budget and formulating paylines.

Do paylines change over a fiscal year?

Once NIAID sets its R01 payline, it does not change. Paylines for other awards may change later in the fiscal year. Find paylines at Paylines and Funding.

When can I see my summary statement?

See How long will I have to wait for my summary statement? in After Peer Review Questions and Answers.

If my application misses the payline, can I get funded through selective pay?

Possibly. Program officers nominate a very small number of applications that score above the payline for selective pay funding. Our advisory Council then ranks those nominations in priority order.

You cannot apply, but you may ask an NIAID program officer about your likelihood of being nominated. Scientific merit and relevance to our mission are key factors in selecting and ranking applications, and we give some special consideration to new investigators.

Find more information in the Lock icon: This link will not work for public visitors.Selective Pay SOP.

If I score outside the payline, should I resubmit or wait?

We advise you not to wait to see if you are funded later in the fiscal year. It's better to get a head start either improving your application based on the feedback from the review or submitting a new application.

Be sure to discuss your resubmission strategy with your program officer. Get more help in What to Do if You Get Bad News in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

If NIAID doesn't fund my application, might another NIH institute fund it?

You can ask your program officer to identify another institute that might be interested in your project. Your program officer may then work with a program officer in the other institute to change your application's primary institute assignment.

For such an option to be considered, your project's scientific focus must be within the mission of the other IC.

Keep in mind that other institutes don’t often accept these types of requests. As an alternative, next time you apply, think about requesting a secondary institute assignment in your PHS Assignment Request Form. Financial management plans vary among ICs. An application that is not fundable in one IC might be in another.

I've received a Notice of Award, and the grant start date has passed. Why don't I have funds yet?

Check your Notice of Award to see if there are any restrictions or bars to award. If there are, you may need to provide more information before you can receive funds. Contact your grants management specialist for more information.

How do I apply for a one-year no-cost extension to my grant?

Enter your request in the eRA Commons. For instructions, go to For the Signing Official (SO) to request a no-cost extension. To learn more about extending your grant's project period and whether you're allowed to do so, read our No-Cost Extension 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 August 11, 2015

Last Reviewed November 29, 2011