Understand Due Dates, Preparation Time & Review Cycles

Understand Due Dates, Preparation Time & Review Cycles

As you consider which opportunity best fits your research plans, know that the opportunity you choose will affect your application timing. For investigator-initiated applications, receipt dates vary by activity code (e.g., R01 or R21) and grant type (e.g., new or resubmission).

The NIH Guide announcement for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will give you a receipt date, a deadline for submitting your application electronically.

But note that your institution’s internal deadline is your true key due date, not the NIH date. Even so, the NIH receipt date will trigger other dates relevant to your submission.

For an investigator-initiated application (including some program announcements), you will apply by one of NIH's three standard receipt dates (except for institutional training grants), called cycles 1, 2, and 3.

For example, new non-AIDS R01 applications are due February 5, June 5, and October 5.

Dates for other applications differ by various factors:

  • AIDS and AIDS-related research
  • Activity code, e.g., P series (program projects), U01 (cooperative agreements), or R41 to R44 (small business applications)
  • Grant type, e.g., new, renewal, or resubmission

Find all dates on NIH Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

At NIAID, T32 and T35 training grants have two annual deadlines: January 25 and September 25 for non-AIDS, and January 7 and May 7 for AIDS-related applications.

Here are a few more items you need to know about NIH receipt dates:

  • If a standard deadline falls on a weekend or federal holiday, it moves to the next business day.
  • Under specific emergency situations, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may modify the operating status for federal offices in the Washington, DC, area. Check Snow & Dismissal Procedures for the current operating status. Grant application due dates will move to the next business day when the OPM operating status on the original due date is:
    • Federal offices are closed
    • Open with early departure
    • Immediate departure–federal offices are closed
    • Shelter-in-place
  • Each request for applications has its own (usually one-time) receipt date stated in the FOA.
  • Some program announcements also have their own special receipt dates; read the FOA to be sure.

If you serve on any of the following committees, you can apply for an R01, R21, or R34 any time, regardless of a standard receipt date.

  • The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and other (e.g., NIAID) scientific review groups, including temporary or ad hoc reviewers who served six times or more during the preceding 18 months
  • Boards of Scientific Counselors
  • Advisory Councils
  • Program advisory committees
  • NIH Peer Review Advisory Committee

This policy, called continuous submission, does not apply to RFAs or funding opportunity announcements that have only one receipt date. Read more about NIH Continuous Submission.

Review and award. After the receipt date, it will take roughly 5 to 20 months to go through both levels of review and get an award—three months less for AIDS and AIDS-related research—assuming you succeed on the first try.

If your application is not likely to be funded, you will need to resubmit or send in a new application, leading you back to the start of that long and winding road.

Understanding Review Cycles

It helps to understand the length of the award process, the needs of your lab, and the quirks of the different cycles used for investigator-initiated applications.

For sure, the best time to apply is when your application is ready. The most important success factor is an application that's as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

You can submit an application or resubmission any time, but it helps to understand the length of the application process, the needs of your lab, and the quirks of the different cycles used for investigator-initiated applications.

Read below for our advice on how each application cycle may affect the timing of your award. Then, you can assess what that may mean for your lab, and plan accordingly.

Note: the months listed below are for new non-AIDS R01s; other types, including R01 resubmissions, have different receipt dates. Find them all at NIH Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

Cycle 1—Submit in February

Even with an extremely low percentile, your award will likely be delayed because your application goes to September Council, the first of the fiscal year, when we typically do not have a budget.

The good news: Cycle 1 has the shortest waiting time if you don't succeed and want to resubmit in the same fiscal year. Most PIs do resubmit, so assume you will too. Cycle 1 is the only one that lets you resubmit in the same fiscal year (in Cycle 3) without a rush.

"Without a rush" means you have enough time to revise and resubmit for the next cycle. Keep in mind that you need to receive your summary statement before you may resubmit.

New investigators get summary statements at least a month before their next receipt date, so they may resubmit sooner.

Resubmitting in the same fiscal year is helpful because you know the payline, and you avoid the start-of-year wait. 

Cycle 2—Submit in June

We may still be operating under interim paylines, so you may experience a delay.

New investigators get summary statements in time to resubmit in the same fiscal year (in Cycle 3). For others, the best case is you'll get your summary statement around three weeks before the resubmission deadline, though probably later.

If you resubmit for Cycle 1, you're applying for funding at the beginning of a fiscal year, which almost always delays an award, and the payline is unknown.

If you choose to send a new application on the same topic instead of resubmitting, you probably won't have time to make improvements in time for the cycle 3 receipt date.

Cycle 3—Submit in October

If your score is just outside the payline, you won't have to wait long to find out if your application is one of those NIAID will be paying at the end of the fiscal year.

But if your application is not funded, you will need to resubmit or create a new application for the next fiscal year under an unknown payline. Even if you resubmit for Cycle 1, you will most likely experience further delay, as we just described.

Get Your Application in Early

Get your institution's deadlines from your grants business office well ahead of time, and factor them into your timing.

As we stated elsewhere, your institution's internal deadline is your key deadline, not the NIH receipt date.

Have Questions?

A program officer in your area of science can give you application advice, NIAID's perspective on your research, and confirmation that NIAID will accept your application.

Find contacts and instructions at When to Contact a NIAID Program Officer.

Content last reviewed on August 11, 2016