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RFAs, PAs, and Solicitations Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

Where can I find basic information on requests for applications, program announcements, and solicitations?

For basic information on NIAID's initiatives—RFAs, PAs, and solicitations—go to these SOPs:

For more information, see Choose Approach and Find FOAs in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Where can I find RFAs, PAs, and solicitations?

NIH publishes most institute initiatives—requests for applications (RFA), program announcements (PA), and solicitations—in the NIH Guide. RFAs and PAs are also published as funding opportunity announcements in

Find contract solicitations at, the Federal Business Opportunities site.

To find NIAID's active initiatives, go to NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

How does NIAID develop initiatives?

Go to these resources:

Where are PAs and RFAs reviewed?

For most program announcements, the most appropriate study section in the Center for Scientific Review will conduct the initial peer review. Potentially, many review committees could review applications responding to a single program announcement.

However, program announcement with special receipt, referral and/or review considerations (PAR) are an exception. Most PARs are reviewed by special emphasis panels in institutes.

Requests for applications are usually reviewed by the lead institute sponsoring the RFA. At NIAID, one or more special emphasis panels may review the applications. For more information, see Peer Review at NIAID questions and answers.

Do RFAs and PAs have set-aside funds?

Requests for applications always come with funds set aside to pay for the awards, and applications responding to an RFA compete only with each other for funding.

A minority of program announcements have set-aside funds—they are called program announcements with set-aside funds (PAS). PAs that do not have set-aside monies are funded as investigator-initiated grants, usually within the NIAID payline. For payline information, go to Paylines and Funding.

Do RFAs and PAs often have special requirements?

Yes. Always read the NIH Guide announcement carefully to see what area of research it defines and any special requirements for applicants, including review criteria.

Are RFAs more competitive than PAs?

This topic is complex. For advice on the competition and how your strengths may suit an initiative, contact the program officer listed in the announcement.

Do PAs have special receipt and expiration dates?

As investigator-initiated research, program announcements typically follow NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications. They expire after three years unless the institute decides to extend them.

See Choose Approach and Find FOAs in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

When a program announcement expires with no reissue, do I have any recourse for funding?

That depends on the program announcement's (PA's) activity code. If NIAID supports a parent PA of the same activity code, you can rewrite your application, removing references to the expired PA, and submit it as a new application to the parent PA.

Otherwise, you should contact a program officer to discuss alternative funding opportunities based on your research interests.

For more perspective, check out the National Institute on Aging's blog post "What Does It Mean When a Program Announcement Expires?"

Am I better off applying for an investigator-initiated award or responding to an RFA?

Since this topic is complex, read Choose Approach and Find FOAs in the Strategy for NIH Funding for advice.

For RFAs, will the reviewers have expertise in my field?

For every request for applications, NIAID assembles a panel of experts to review the applications received in the scientific areas defined in the RFA. Depending on the number of applications received, NIAID may have more than one panel conducting the review.

When responding to an RFA, you have the advantage of an audience that is fluent in the particulars of your field, which also makes them savvy readers of your application.

For more information on initiatives, read Choose Approach and Find FOAs and Choose Approach and Find FOAs in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

For RFAs, are there other checks for my application?

Yes, if you respond to an RFA, NIAID staff perform an administrative check and review your application for its responsiveness to the announcement.

May I respond to an RFA with an application that's pending initial peer review?

No. NIH will not accept an application in response to a request for applications that is the same as a new, revised, or renewal application pending initial peer review in the same Council round unless you withdraw the pending application.

Can I find out the number of applications submitted for an RFA?

No. That information is confidential.

What happens if I respond to an RFA or solicitation and one of the reviewers has a conflict of interest?

NIH and the institutes follow standard procedures to prevent program officers, peer reviewers, or advisory Council members who may have a real or apparent conflict of interest with an applicant from reviewing your application. See the Conflict of Interest in Peer Review SOP for details.

Some items required by the RFA do not agree with the generic form instructions. Which should I follow?

Special requirements in a request for applications always take precedence over generic form instructions.

Am I required to send a letter of intent if one is requested in the RFA?

No. A letter of intent is not required or binding and does not affect the review of a subsequent application. NIAID staff use letters of intent to estimate initial peer review workload, assess potential conflicts, and begin planning reviews.

If my application responding to an RFA is not funded, may I submit it again as investigator-initiated?

Yes. To find out how to do this, read Option 3: Repurpose the Application in Part 6 of our Strategy for NIH Funding.

Be sure to follow the due date and instructions in the funding opportunity announcement.

If my investigator-initiated application is not funded, may I submit it again in response to an RFA?

Yes. See the question above.

Where can I find more questions and answers about funding opportunities?

See Peer Review at NIAID and NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project (P01) Applications questions and answers.

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 April 04, 2016

Last Reviewed July 10, 2015