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Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants

Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

General

R03—Small Research Grant Program

R21—Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award

General

Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.

What are small grants?

Small grants are Small Research Grant Program (R03) and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21) awards.

These non-renewable awards give principal investigators limited support for the early-stage development of new projects but are not appropriate in many situations.

If you're considering this type of grant, first talk to an NIAID program officer—go to When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer. Do not choose this or another grant type on your own.

For more information, go to the following pages:

What types of small grants does NIAID support?

NIAID participates in the Small Research Grant Program (R03) and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21) parent program announcements.

We also issue small grant initiatives aimed at our high-priority areas of science. You can find those on the NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Where can I find opportunities for small grants?

For NIAID, go to NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

What kinds of projects are suitable for small grants?

See the Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP for examples of suitable R03 grant projects. For R21 grants, read the research objectives listed in its parent announcement, NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21).

Read caveats about the R03 at Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What are some drawbacks of a small grant?

At NIAID, applications for small awards are not eligible for an R56-Bridge award or selective pay.

People do not benefit from NIH's new investigator status, and while small awards do help some investigators, there is no evidence they create a path to independent research.

Moreover, if you're an early-stage investigator, you could lose your status if you spend too many years on a small grant.

And, if you plan to apply for an R01 after the grant expires, you likely face a gap in funding. It generally takes at least a year to do the studies and analyze the data. Then you need time to succeed with the R01 application.

If you are a new investigator, talk to your institution and a program officer for advice. Do not choose an award type yourself.

For advice and links to program officer contact information, go to Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding. New investigators, read the following sections of our New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding:

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

No. See What are some drawbacks of a small grant? above. Also, don't expect to use an R21 to gather preliminary data for a larger research project; in fact, a lack of preliminary data will harm your chances of getting the R21. Read more in Know the Importance of Preliminary Data in Should You Apply for an R21?

Is it better to apply under one of the broad NIH PAs or an Institute-specific one?

Though NIAID funds small grants under the two broad NIH program announcements for any topic in its mission, other PAs aimed at our high-priority areas often come with higher paylines or funding levels.

If you have a choice between submitting your application under a broad NIH PA or an Institute-specific one, we suggest you go for the latter.

Keep in mind that some NIH institutes do not participate in the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21) program announcement, though NIAID does. Read Does NIAID accept R21 applications that are not tied to an Institute-specific program announcement? below.

How do I find active initiatives?

To find active initiatives, check the NIAID Funding Opportunities List and filter by grant type codes R03 or R21.

How do I apply for an R03 or R21 grant?

Apply electronically. For other application details, read the Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP.

How much time and money can I get with these awards?

For both award types, you can get up to two years of support.

R21 grants provide up to $275,000 in direct costs while R03s limit direct costs to only $50,000 a year for the entire project.

If my application is not funded, how many times can I reapply?

You can reapply once. Read Part 6. If Not Funded in the Strategy for NIH Funding for more on resubmitting an application.

Can R03s and R21s be renewed?

No. NIH does not accept renewal applications for R03s or R21s. See What are small grants? above.

Do small grant awards receive annual budget increases?

Most small grant awards are modular, so they wouldn't. (Foreign institutions submit a detailed budget.)

If I have a subaward agreement, what budget information must I send for the partner organization in my application?

For modular grants such as the R03 and R21, we require the name and annual total cost for consortium partners. You don't need to send a detailed budget. See our Subawards (Consortium Agreements) for Grants SOP.

Must a subaward partner provide a detailed budget if the primary applicant prepares a modular budget?

If the application is modular, include only the name of the subaward partner and annual total cost in the budget justification. Be sure to include subaward partners in the list of performance sites.

On the other hand, nonmodular applications proposing subawards must include a list of performance sites and complete budget pages for each subaward partner. See our Subawards (Consortium Agreements) for Grants SOP and the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).

R03—Small Research Grant Program

Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.

Is the R03 a good option for a new PI?

No. Read more in Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Is a subaward with a foreign institution allowed under an R03?

Yes, you may have a foreign subaward under an R03. That holds true for the parent R03 funding opportunity announcement as well as institute-specific FOAs. As always, however, read your FOA carefully for any restrictions.

Do you have a sample of a successful R03 application?

We do not have an R03 application on our list of Samples and Examples. If R03 is a sample you would like us to publish, email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.

To see the types of projects that have been funded, go to NIH RePORTER and select R03 in the Activity Code field.

R21—Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award

Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.

Is the R21 a good option for a new PI?

Usually, no. Though new investigators can succeed with R21 applications, NIH did not intend the R21 to be a means for new investigators to obtain their first NIH grant. There is no evidence that R21s provide a path to an independent research career.

For our advice, read Should You Apply for an R21? in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Does NIAID accept R21 applications that are not tied to an Institute-specific program announcement?

Yes, we do, as long as your area of science fits our mission. Use the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21) program announcement.

Before you write your application, contact one of the program officers listed on our Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP to discuss your application.

Do new investigators receive any special consideration when applying for an R21?

No.

Should I include preliminary data in my R21 application?

While NIH does not require preliminary data, be aware that our data for R21 applications show that preliminary data correlate with funding success. Read more at Know the Importance of Preliminary Data on Should You Apply for an R21? in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

I am resubmitting an R21 application. How long should my introduction be?

One page.

Do you have a sample of a successful R21 application?

Yes. We have examples of successful R21 Sample Applications and Summary Statements on Sample Applications and Summary Statements.

Are no-cost extensions possible on R21 grants?

Yes. Aside from a few exceptions, the no-cost extension option is part of the standard terms of award, including for R21s. Make your request through the eRA Commons. See For the Signing Official (SO) to request a no-cost extension, and read our No-Cost Extension SOP to find out more about extending your grant's project period.

Can I apply for an R33 when my R21 award expires?

No. We fund R33s only as part of an R21/R33 Phased Innovation Award, which is distinct from an R21.

The R21/R33 is a single, phased award under which you start with an R21 award and then transition to the R33 phase once you meet certain milestones. However, you must apply for a funding opportunity that uses the R21/R33 activity code.

Learn about the R21/R33 in our R21/R33 Phased Innovation Award SOP.

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

Email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov 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 12, 2013

Last Reviewed June 10, 2013