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 the timing of your application. For investigator-initiated applications, due dates vary by activity code (e.g., R01 or R21) and grant type (e.g., new or resubmission).
Get Your Application in Early
The NIH Guide announcement for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will give you the NIH due 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 due 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 due dates (except for institutional training grants), called review and award cycles I, II, and III.
For example, new non-AIDS R01 applications are due February 5, June 5, and October 5.
Due dates for other applications are affected 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 due dates for investigator-initiated grant applications on NIH Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.
Check the FOA for instructions specific to the NIH institute or center. For example, 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:
- Deadlines can be affected by weekends, holidays, and certain emergency or natural disaster situations. Read more about these timing exceptions at Submission Policies.
- Each request for applications (RFA) has its own (usually one-time) due date stated in the FOA.
- Some program announcements (PA) also have their own special due dates; read the FOA to be sure.
If you serve on any of the following NIH committees, the continuous submission policy allows you the flexibility to apply for an investigator-initiated R01, R21, or R34 any time, regardless of a standard due 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 does not apply to RFAs or FOAs that have only one receipt date. Read more about NIH Continuous Submission.
Review and award. After the due date, it will take roughly 6 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. Read more at Options if Your Application Isn’t Funded.
Understanding Review Cycles
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 review cycles used for investigator-initiated applications.
Though we describe the differences in the cycles below for your information, we advise against factoring the review cycle into your decision about which due date to target for an NIAID application.
At NIAID, there is no significant correlation between review cycle and your time to award. We issue awards at about the same pace, regardless of application cycle.
Among NIH's institutes and centers, NIAID has one of the fastest average times to award. As of February 2017, our median time from summary statement to award was about 100 days for all three review cycles.
The review cycle may matter more at NIH institutes other than NIAID, so if you’re reading this and plan to apply elsewhere, get advice from that institute’s program official or the FOA’s agency contact about your timing.
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 I—Submit in February for September Council
Your application goes to September Council, the first of the fiscal year, when we are typically operating under a continuing resolution (CR). The CR usually extends into cycle II as well.
If NIAID is operating under a CR, that won’t necessarily delay your award. NIAID uses interim paylines and we are assiduous about issuing awards using funds from the CR. For example, by December 21, 2016, NIAID had already issued more than twice as many competing fiscal year 2017 grants as any other institute.
Cycle I 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 I is the only one that lets you resubmit in the same fiscal year (in Cycle III) without a rush. By cycle III, you will know our fiscal year R01 payline.
"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.
Cycle II—Submit in June for January Council
At the start of cycle II, we are typically still under a continuing resolution (CR). If so, we’ll continue using the CR funds to award grants.
We are also likely to still be operating under interim paylines. If they are still interim and your application just misses the payline, you’ll have to decide whether to wait and hope for a more favorable payline or revise and resubmit.
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 I, you're applying for funding at the beginning of a fiscal year when 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 III—Submit in October for June Council
We usually have our fiscal year paylines set by June. 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.
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.