NIH or NIAID? Know the Difference

Funding News Edition:
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For those of you new to NIH research, here's a quick orientation to the distinction between NIH and its Institutes and Centers (ICs).

NIH is made up of 27 ICs, each with a specific research agenda; often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. NIH Leadership sets policy and IC leaders decide how best to implement that policy for their areas of science.

As you can see from this newsletter's masthead, this IC is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). NIAID’s extramural program divisions are the Division of AIDS; Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation; and Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Terminology: Who Are "We"?

When you see the word "we" used in this newsletter or on its associated website, we are speaking as representatives of NIAID rather than on behalf of all of NIH.

Correspondingly, when we discuss NIH-level policy or decisions, we specify "NIH" in our text.

We recognize that many readers are funded by other ICs, so keep in mind that your funding IC may follow policies or procedures that differ from what we describe for NIAID.

Now that we have defined “we,” the following two examples should be easier to explain.

NIH Versus NIAID: Funding Strategy and Paylines

NIH sets a fiscal policy for grant awards every year and issued the most recent one in a January 29, 2021 Guide notice. The notice sets certain rules, but ICs set their own funding strategies for how to use their appropriated funds. We post NIAID's funding strategies on our Financial Management Plan webpage.

For certain types of grant applications, we set funding cutoff points called paylines. Paylines are IC-specific and not all ICs have paylines. You can see ours at NIAID Paylines and get emails about paylines through Quick Subscribe. Our practice is to set interim paylines early in the fiscal year (FY) at a conservative level, then later in the year adjust them to become final FY paylines. Keep in mind that applications submitted this spring for the September 2021 Council round are for FY 2022 and do not fall under the currently posted FY 2021 paylines.

We fund according to our paylines for unsolicited applications in response to program announcements and most notices of special interest. For solicited applications from requests for applications (RFA) or program announcements with set-aside funds, we don't use paylines. Learn more about Unsolicited, Investigator-Initiated Research and Solicited, NIAID-Requested Research on our website.

NIAID also sets a special R01 payline specifically to support new investigators. The new principal investigator R01 payline is currently set at the 18 percentile for FY 2021.

Learn more about who qualifies as a new investigator under NIH’s definition and how that status benefits you at NIAID's Information for New Investigators.

NIH Versus NIAID: Locus of Review

Initial peer review is one key area where the NIH versus IC distinction matters. Depending on the type of expertise required, peer review meetings are run by either NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or an NIH institute, such as NIAID. CSR largely conducts reviews in its chartered study sections, with reviewers that serve multiyear terms in respective study sections. In contrast, IC reviews are largely conducted using special emphasis panels with reviewers who serve only for a designated meeting.

Find your funding opportunity announcement's locus of review by checking Section VII. Agency Contacts. The organization shown for the listed peer review contact will usually be the one to handle the review.

Our review staff typically coordinate the review of applications for program project grants, cooperative agreements, career development awards, institutional training grants, conference grants, investigator-initiated clinical trial planning and implementation awards, the Loan Repayment Program, and applications responding to RFAs. Learn more at NIAID Review.

NIH's CSR coordinates review of investigator-initiated grant applications for all other award types, including fellowships, as described at CSR Review.

Any Questions?

If you have a question inspired by our newsletter or webpages, we can give you an NIAID-specific answer or point you in the right direction. Email

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