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NIAID Funding Decisions Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

How does NIAID make funding decisions?

The most important factor determining whether you get a grant from NIAID is the potential scientific impact of your proposed project, as judged by peer reviewers.

NIAID awards most investigator-initiated applications in strict order by percentile for R01s, or overall impact/priority score for other grant types, until we reach the cutoff point called the payline.

For requests for applications and program announcement with set-aside funds, we fund applications in overall impact/priority score order until we use up funds set aside for the initiative. Read more in How NIAID Makes Funding Decisions in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What are paylines, and why does NIAID use them?

Paylines are percentile- or overall impact/priority score-based funding cutoff points set around the beginning of a fiscal year for investigator-initiated applications. NIAID uses these paylines to make awards by scientific merit, as judged by peer reviewers.

How does NIAID determine paylines?

For each grant type—or activity code—NIAID calculates the projected number of grant applications recommended for funding it can award with the funds it has to spend.

For more information on how NIAID sets paylines, see How NIAID Makes Funding Decisions in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

To view current paylines, go to the Paylines and Funding portal.

Do all grant types have the same payline?

No. Each type has its own payline, although the percentile-based R01 payline is often referred to as "the payline." See Paylines Are a Conservative Funding Cutoff Point in the Strategy for NIH Funding and the Paylines and Funding portal.

Does NIAID ever skip grants within a payline?

No. We fund all applications within a payline. If they have reviewer concerns such as human subjects or animal use, we cannot fund the affected research until the concerns are resolved.

If my application is not within the payline, may it still get funded?

Possibly. Talk to your program officer to see if your application will be raised for selective pay or a High Priority, Short Term Project Award (R56-Bridge).

Further, applications are active until the end of the year when we may have more funds to make additional awards. In any case, we usually advise that you revise and resubmit.

When you resubmit, the Commons keeps both versions of your application so we could fund the original application if the resubmission receives a worse score.

Read more in Part 5. Assignment and Review in the Strategy for NIH Funding:

My R01 application is within the payline of the secondary institute but not the primary—what should I do?

We suggest that you contact the program officer at the secondary institute for guidance on the next steps.

Keep in mind that even if an application scores within the secondary institute’s payline, there's no guarantee it will be funded. And be aware that other institutes have different funding policies than we do.

Do all institutes openly publish their paylines?

No, but NIAID does—go to Paylines and Funding.

Why does NIH use percentiles?

NIH uses percentiling to make R01 scoring equivalent across study sections and to counteract "score creep," the tendency of peer reviewers to assign increasingly better scores to their cohort.

Percentiles rank applications relative to others scored by the same CSR study section during one year (three review cycles).

Is the denominator for calculating percentiles based on all applications reviewed by a study section or on all scored applications?

NIH has always included the applications that are not discussed when calculating percentiles.

Since the number of not discussed applications varies by study section, including them affects the percentile distribution and makes percentiling fair across study sections. For more information, see How Percentiles Are Determined in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

For R01s, should I pay closer attention to the percentile or the overall impact/priority score?

Since overall impact/priority scores can cluster in a narrow range at a single peer review meeting, percentiles help indicate the spread of applications for a study section and are usually better indicators of funding. Read more in Percentiles Indicate Relative Rank in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What is selective pay, and how does it work?

Selective pay enables NIAID to fund a small number of programmatically important R01 grant applications with percentiles beyond the payline. Program officers nominate selective pay applications to the Institute's main advisory Council for recommendation; investigators cannot apply for it.

In choosing applications, we look at relevance to our mission, scientific merit, and whether an investigator is new.

For more information, go to:

What is an R56-Bridge award?

High-Priority, Short-Term Project Awards (R56-Bridge) can provide interim support up to study section-recommended levels if your R01 application just missed the payline. These funds can help keep your research going while you revise your application.

You don't apply but must be nominated by NIAID program staff. In choosing applications, we look at relevance to our mission, scientific merit, and whether the investigator is new.

For more information, go to:

Does NIAID target applications from new investigators that fall outside the payline?

Yes. NIAID has two primary ways to fund applications from investigators who are new whose percentiles missed the payline: selective pay and the R56-Bridge award. For more information, see the questions above.

Why does NIAID make programmatic reductions to application budgets some fiscal years?

When our annual appropriation is not sufficient to allow us to fund applications at Council-recommended levels, we may have to reduce budgets after examining each PI's needs.

For more information on administrative reductions for the current fiscal year, see our financial management plan on Paylines and Funding. For background information, read the Financial Management Plan SOP.

Does Council perform another scientific peer review of applications?

No. Read more at What does Council look at during second-level review? on our NIAID Advisory Council questions and answers page.

How does funding differ at the end of the year?

Throughout the year, NIAID uses the payline as a cutoff to fund applications. However, at the end of the year, NIAID uses the money left in the budget to fund applications in the gray zone (see glossary term at right).

For more information, see When We Defer a Funding Decision in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Why may NIAID decide to defer my application's funding until later in the fiscal year?

NIAID defers some applications until later in a fiscal year because if we paid too many applications at the beginning of a fiscal year, we could end the year with too little money to fund better applications that come in later.

Find out more in When We Defer a Funding Decision in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

If my application is not discussed, can it ever get funded?

Yes. Many excellent applications are not discussed, usually due to intense competition within the study sections they're assigned to.

You have several possible paths to funding—for more on that, read Options if Your Application Isn't Funded in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

If my application is not recommended for further consideration (NRFC), can it ever get funded?

No. Though NIH allows you to revise and resubmit, an application that gets tagged NRFC likely has such fundamental problems that you'd need to create an entirely new application to fix the flaws. Contact your program officer to discuss your next steps.

Where do I find information about success rates?

For data, go to Success Rates on NIH's RePORT Web site. Also see Research Project Success Rates for NIAID.

How can I determine how much money NIH grants through R01s for a specific disease?

You can get this information from NIH RePORT. Select your own parameters such as disease keyword and activity code (e.g., R01) using the advanced NIH RePORTER Query form.

NIH also offers a report of funding by disease area, Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC), but that information doesn't differentiate between research supported by R01 and other activity codes.

How long does it take to receive an award?

For most R01 applications, you will receive your Notice of Award within six to eight weeks after the Council meeting or earlier if it underwent expedited second-level review. This could take longer if the study section had human or animal concerns or you have a complex grant type. To see more dates, go to R01 Planning to Award Timeline by Review Cycle.

For more information, see How Long to Get the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What should I do during a lean budget year?

Here are a few tips to help sustain you in a lean budget year.

Modest expectations. One approach is to scale back your plans. When applying to renew your grant, don't increase your budget by more than 20 percent since you're not likely to get a larger budget.

If this strategy can meet your needs, you won't waste time planning a big expansion but will design your research for funding close to the previous level.

Keep the ball moving. With smaller budgets, you should try even harder to submit your renewal in plenty of time to send in a revision if you need to. Lower paylines will translate into more resubmissions for many investigators.

Stay real. Although we understand that PIs expect to be funded at the study section-approved levels, this is not always possible. Funding is always dependent on budget constraints.

Unfortunately, budget cycles are inevitable. During both lean and fat years, we have to live within our means, as difficult as this may be.

Will my annual budget change over the course of my award?

NIAID may make yearly adjustments to noncompeting awards. It may build a small percentage into future year commitments to reflect inflation. Or when budgets are tight, we may lower the committed funding level using an average programmatic reduction.

We announce the adjustment each year in the Financial Management Plan on Paylines and Funding.

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 February 04, 2014

Last Reviewed February 29, 2012