International Awards—Part II. Foreign Projects

Funding News Edition: March 16, 2023
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In the second of our three-part series on international awards, we focus on elements that applications from foreign institutions must consider. For those who may have missed our first installment, see International Awards—Part I. Determining Eligibility.

If you plan to apply for research with international involvement, we advise you to make sure you have a competitive idea that's also important to your field. Find Funded Projects and More Using NIH Databases to learn about NIH databases and how to search them.

Be aware of the following:

  • Foreign applications need to propose talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions not in the United States, e.g., access to a unique study population. 
  • Foreign applications have an extra review step: reviewers assess whether comparable work is being done in the United States. If it is, research being conducted at a foreign site may not be seen as a strength in the grant application during review.
  • Reviewers also consider the relevance of the proposed research to the NIAID mission and evaluate whether there is a need for the research and the applicability to the U.S. population (e.g., studying emerging infectious diseases in other countries prevents them from coming into the United States).

Also note that it is important to clearly demonstrate what you, as a foreign collaborator, are bringing to the collaboration that a domestic collaborator may not be able to bring. As noted in Part I of our series, check eligibility requirements in Section III. Eligibility Information of the relevant notice of funding opportunity (NOFO). It can tell you what degree of foreign involvement is and is not allowed, which can decide whether an application goes forward for review or is returned as nonresponsive.

Keep in mind:

  • If you submit from a foreign institution and the NOFO states that non-domestic entities are not eligible to apply, the application will be deemed nonresponsive and not reviewed.
  • If you include collaborators from a non-domestic institution in your application—even if you are based at a U.S. institution—ensure that the NOFO indicates that foreign components are allowed. If they are not, the application will be deemed nonresponsive and not reviewed.
  • Involvement of foreign institutions is a non-scorable additional review consideration taken into account by the reviewers, but only for applications from foreign applicants; foreign components are not assessed as part of this consideration.
  • Both the research environment and investigators are scoreable criteria. Also, the significance and/or research plan can include points that the foreign institution adds to the application that are not available in the United States.

For additional information, see our International Applications webpage.

Tune in next month for our final installment: Collaboration with Domestic Recipients (Subawards).

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