We offer the following guidance when considering or preparing NIAID multiproject research applications. For P01, also check our P01 Program Project Grants guide.
Table of Contents
- Contact NIAID Early If You’re Considering a Multiproject Application
- Features of Multiproject Grants
- Your Options for Opportunity Type
- May You Submit a Multiple PI Application?
- Contact NIAID and Obtain Preapproval
- Option to Submit Simultaneously as an R01 Application
- Advice for Writing a Multiproject Application
- Highlight Synergy in Your Application
- How a Multiproject Application Is Reviewed
- Avoid Common Pitfalls
- Prepare for Electronic Submission
- ASSIST Form Order and Interface
- Act Now to Avoid Future Problems
While still in the planning stage, contact a program officer in the NIAID division that would support your work if funded. We strongly encourage consultation with NIAID staff at least 10 weeks (15 weeks for P01s) before the application due date for any NIAID multiproject application.
- Division of AIDS
- Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation
- Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
You may also need the division's approval before applying. More on that at Contact NIAID and Obtain Preapproval below.
When you apply, follow all NIH and NIAID instructions for multiproject grants in the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO).
- Read the NIH Guide announcement associated with the NOFO as it may have unique instructions that take precedence over others.
- Do not submit an application that proposes a clinical trial unless the NOFO explicitly states that it accepts clinical trials.
- If you have questions, contact the program officer listed in the announcement.
Multiproject grants share the following features:
- At least two interrelated research projects (unless stated otherwise in the NOFO) related to a theme with each capable of standing on its own scientific merit but complementing one another.
- Collaboration and interaction among projects and investigators to achieve a common goal.
- Synergy among projects.
- One grantee institution that will be legally and financially responsible for the use of funds.
- Support as needed for shared resources—core resources or facilities—that provide services or resources to at least two research projects.
You may apply for a multiproject grant in one of the following two ways:
- Respond to a request for applications (RFA) for a program project or cooperative agreement.
- Submit an investigator-initiated program project application using the NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project Applications (P01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) NOFO.
NIAID accepts investigator-initiated applications for P01s only.
Multiproject funding opportunities come in several forms:
- P01—multidisciplinary, long-term program headed by a PI or PIs who bring in other investigators to conduct research projects and share resources. For an investigator-initiated application, go to the NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project Applications (P01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) NOFO.
- P30—a center core grant that supports shared resources and facilities for a multidisciplinary research team or group of investigators focusing on a common research topic.
- P50—specialized center award that supports a multidisciplinary group of investigators who share a common research topic.
- Cooperative Agreements
- U19—award for multidisciplinary projects that require substantial involvement from NIAID staff. Find our description of Substantial Staff Involvement at Determining When to Use a Cooperative Agreement.
- U54—support for research and development from basic to clinical, including ancillary supportive activities that create a multidisciplinary focus on a disease or a biomedical problem. Centers may also serve as regional or national resources for special research purposes.
- UM2—support for large-scale centers with complicated structures that cannot be appropriately categorized into an available multicomponent activity code, e.g., clinical networks, research programs, or consortiums.
For most NOFOs, you may submit a multiple PI application, unless specified otherwise, for the overall program.
Unless the NOFO you are responding to explicitly states that it accepts clinical trials, do not submit an application that proposes a clinical trial.
Some NIAID-specific opportunities don't give you a multiple PI option, so read the announcement carefully.
A note about investigators at foreign institutions: They may be one of the PIs as long as the NOFO allows it. NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project Applications (P01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) do not. However, if a foreign investigator is here on a visa, then he or she may serve as one of multiple PIs.
For information and guidance, read Multiple Principal Investigators.
All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate NIAID program division before planning an application. In most cases, you will need our approval 10 weeks (15 weeks for P01s) or more before the application deadline.
Before tackling the arduous task of preparing an application, touch base with a program officer early on to
- Receive input about using the multiproject approach.
- Get feedback on your research idea and learn whether we are likely to approve your submitting the application.
- Learn about any division-specific guidance.
Discuss Approval of Your Idea
You must have an NIAID program division approve its acceptance of your application if you're planning to submit any program project (P01) application (new, resubmission, or renewal) that is both investigator-initiated and requests $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year.
This big grant policy applies even if none of the individual projects requests $500,000 or more.
While you may ask for up to $499,000 without approval, we strongly encourage you to contact NIAID if your application comes anywhere close to that level for the following reasons:
- If you ask for $499,000 in the first year, the grant out years could be more than $500,000, even if you don't request an annual increase.
- We may not have money to fund applications close to $500,000. NIAID funds few big grants each year because they strain the budget and compromise grant numbers, which Congress monitors.
You must submit the same application that the program division approved. If you do need to change the application after that approval, talk to your program officer and inform the scientific review officer about the changes.
See our Big Grants SOP and the NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project Applications (P01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) NOFO for more information.
To maximize your chances of funding success, we strongly encourage you to use a component research project for a separate R01 application at the same time.
Should you decide to go this route, keep the following points in mind:
- Your component project should be able to stand alone as an R01.
- We will review your R01 application independently of your multiproject application.
- If your R01 project depends on resources from the multiproject core, include those resources in your R01 application and any associated costs in the budget.
- If both the multiproject and R01 applications are fundable, you will not have the option to withdraw from the multiproject grant.
- This policy preserves the scientific integrity of multiproject grants.
- Please be aware of this policy before making a commitment to participate in a multiproject grant.
Consider the following questions when writing a multiproject application. To be a strong candidate, you should be able to confidently answer "yes" to each of the following questions.
- Did I check the literature to make sure the research I'm considering has not been done before, or it has been done but the methods were judged to be inadequate?
- Have I shown that I know the gaps, discrepancies, or roadblocks in my field?
- Does my program have a central focus and coherent direction, with good synergy and integration among components?
- Have I shown why a multiproject coordinated approach is required or uniquely advantageous?
- Do I have sufficient preliminary data to support my project?
- Have I given an account of published and unpublished results, indicating progress made?
- Have I provided a summary of the importance of my findings in relation to my Specific Aims?
- Is my research innovative?
- Do my projects create synergy?
- Are the Research Plans driven by a strong, well-defined hypothesis or hypotheses?
- Are the Research Plans well developed so they create strong projects?
- Do the projects have sufficient details and focused experimental approaches?
- Do the Research Plans address potential problems, propose alternative approaches, and describe contingency plans?
- Do the Research Plans consider the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed approaches?
- Do the Research Plans explain the procedures, situations, and materials that may be hazardous to personnel?
- Have I fully articulated the significance of my work and that of my team and how it will move the field forward?
- Do I have biosketches for all key personnel in my application?
- Does each biosketch include all required sections: personal statement, positions and honors, contribution to science, and research support?
Investigators and Institutions
- Have I explained how my institution can give me the support that I need to do my work?
- Do I have sufficient expertise to lead the project?
- Are the other investigators qualified to perform the research they will be conducting?
- Have I made sure that all project leaders have enough time to devote to their projects?
- Are my team and I using collaborators or consultants to fill gaps and improve in expertise and resources?
- Does my description of resources show adequate equipment, space, and support staff to conduct the research?
- If I seek cofunding—e.g., from a company or professional association—did I state this in my application and provide letters from the other sources of support to confirm the arrangement?
- Have I described how each core supports at least two projects?
- Did I describe the administrative infrastructure and explain how it will further the overall program's goals?
- Have I stated the roles and responsibilities of the administrative core leader and functions of the core?
- Have I included a detailed description of the facilities, approaches, and support for each project supported by the core?
- Have I created an adequate management structure and committed an appropriate amount of time and effort for the coordination of the program?
- Have I provided information for scientific meetings in which the project leaders can interact?
- Have I included the plans for prioritizing the core's services?
- Do I have sufficient expertise to direct each core?
- Have I shown how the core will add to the central focus of the overall program?
- Have I clearly described an adequate management structure and allocated an appropriate amount of time and effort to coordinate the program?
Overall Program Coordination
- Have I explained the significance of the overall program goals?
- Have I shown how the proposed studies will move the field forward?
- Have I described synergy among the projects?
- Does my plan address each PI's role and responsibilities and the team's governance and organizational structure?
- Have I addressed the need for any formal consortium agreements?
- Is each PI leading a project?
- Have I listed all the sites where my work will take place and stated which facilities are completing which parts of the project? Have I fully described coordination among them?
- Have I made provisions for data management and coordination?
- Have I described how the program is cohesive and has a common theme?
- Have I explained how the projects are coordinated and integrated into the common theme of the program?
- Have I described how the whole program is better than the individual projects (paying special attention to synergy)?
- Is the writing clear and concise?
- Have I labeled all materials clearly so peer reviewers can easily find information?
- Did I use an approved font?
- Did I follow page limits?
- Did I put all items in the correct section?
Pay special attention to synergy as described in multiproject notices of funding opportunities. Your multiproject application leverages synergy to address aims that could not be accomplished without the structure of a program.
Heed these words from NIAID staff knowledgeable about what it takes to put together a compelling multiproject application:
"In the context of a multiproject application, synergy entails enhancement of scientific knowledge, ideas, and outcomes obtained through the cooperative interactions of the individual projects and cores."
"The proposed merger of complementary skills, perspectives, and resources has the potential to produce outcomes greater than would otherwise be achieved. For example, the outcomes resulting from conducting the proposed research as a program will exceed the outcomes from conducting separate research activities as single research projects or cooperative agreements."
"Examples of synergy include, but are not limited to: sharing preliminary data, samples, reagents, pathogens, human subject population(s), technologies, research approaches, data management/analytical tools, and model organisms, which may impact the direction of science and research outcomes in the program."
"To highlight program synergy, describe in the Overview section how the individual components (projects and shared resource cores) will be coordinated and work together to address the overall goals and aims of the program. Include a schematic overview of the interactions and collaborations among the components (projects and cores), and indicate collaborations among members and relevant publications coauthored by members of the program."
One special emphasis panel will evaluate your entire application, assessing two major aspects: 1) the overall program as an integrated research effort and 2) each research project and core component.
Peer reviewers will discuss the overall program considering the five NIH standard review criteria and the overall application review criteria with an emphasis on interaction, collaboration, common programmatic theme(s), and synergy. During the overall program discussion, reviewers will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the projects and cores, considering the five standard review criteria, as these strengths and weaknesses relate to the overall program. Following the overall discussion, reviewers will conduct brief discussions of individual projects and cores.
When scoring the overall program, reviewers consider each project and core, synergy among the projects, and impact—the likelihood for the program to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved.
When evaluating synergy, reviewers determine how convincingly the applications describe the added value gained by conducting the proposed research as a program rather than through separate research efforts.
Here are the main points for the scoring of multiproject applications, also summarized in the table below:
- The overall program gets criterion scores. Research projects (other than in investigator-initiated P01s) get criterion scores; cores do not.
- The overall program and each research project receive an overall impact score of 1 to 9.
- For investigator-initiated program project (P01) applications, all cores receive overall impact scores of 1 to 9.
- For multiproject applications submitted in response to an RFA, cores get one of the following:
- Overall impact score of 1 to 9
- An Acceptable or Unacceptable rating
Scoring for Multiproject Applications and Their Components
|Score Type||Overall Program||Research Project||Core|
|Criteria||Yes||Yes, except for investigator-initiated P01s||No|
|Overall impact score 1 to 9||Yes||Yes||Yes for investigator-initiated P01s; option for other NOFOs|
An application is recommended for "no further consideration" if peer reviewers deem that fewer than the required minimum number of research projects (two, unless stated otherwise in an announcement) have substantial and significant scientific merit. NIAID will not award such applications or consider a strong project for a separate award.
For more information on peer review of multiproject applications, read the NOFO.
Below is a list of common mistakes that cause reviewers to give applications weaker scores:
- Low impact on the field or otherwise weak project.
- Lack of synergy and integration between the components (pay special attention to these factors).
- Lack of program coordination.
- Lack of innovation.
- Insufficient expertise for the work proposed or failure to use expertise of people recruited to participate.
- Insufficient preliminary data.
- Failure to describe the significance of the proposed work.
- Insufficient experimental detail and unfocused experimental approaches.
- Lack of hypothesis-driven studies.
- Lack of convincing rationale for some of the aims.
- Failure to address experimental pitfalls and alternative approaches.
- Over commitment of program director or project leaders.
- Incomplete cores lacking a description of the facility, approach, or project support.
- Failure to demonstrate progress for a renewal.
- Failure to include a multi-PI plan (for multi-PI applications).
- Improper formatting, sloppy presentation.
You will submit your multiproject application electronically—but you won't apply through Grants.gov.
Instead, you'll use the NIH Application Submission System and Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST). With ASSIST, you can
- Use the same login and system requirements as Grants.gov.
- Log in with your eRA Commons credentials.
- Delegate responsibilities to users outside your institution.
- Grant or deny access to any application component without affecting access to other components.
You can access ASSIST directly from the eRA Commons and vice versa. Or, you can log in directly to the ASSIST portal using the link above.
ASSIST puts application components in the following order:
- Overall component that describes the entire application and how each of the components fit together.
- Data summaries.
- Additional component types, in alphabetical order. Components of the same type are grouped together and presented in the order you create them.
Go to Multiproject Application Images for annotated samples.
Also get used to the electronic interface. To help you prepare, NIH created a "test environment" where you can experiment. For a link to the test environment and instructions how to use it, read "Playing” With ASSIST—Applicants.
Make sure you’re registered in the eRA Commons and your settings are correct. While anybody with an institutional role can log into ASSIST, only the following people may submit an application using ASSIST:
- Signing Official (in eRA Commons)
- Authorized Organizational Representative (in Grants.gov)
If your institution uses its own submission software, check that it submits multiproject data correctly to ASSIST.
For a multiple PI application, each PI must be registered in the eRA Commons.
Submit well ahead of the due date to
- Fix potential submission problems, such as a duplicated application section, omitted or "flip-flopped" components in between sections, or an unrecognized special character.
- View the application and verify content.
NIH won’t accept error corrections to the application after submission.
Here are more NIH resources on multiproject applications and ASSIST:
- eRA Training-ASSIST—user guides, presentations, and webinars.
- Submitting Multiproject Applications Using ASSIST—part of NIH's Frequently Asked Questions about applying electronically.
Annotated SF 424 (R&R) Multiproject Form Set—gives you field-by-field tips to prepare you for successful submission of your application.