Recognize What You Need To Change Scope

Funding News Edition: August 18, 2021
See more articles in this edition

Transmission electron micrograph of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle

Adding new research related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that represents a change in scope is not automatically approved, despite its pertinence to a declared public health emergency. Such changes still need prior approval.

Credit: NIAID

Once you have a grant award, the research activities you may conduct using NIAID funds are delineated by your award’s scope, which NIH defines as:

The aims, objectives, and purposes of a grant; as well as the methodology, approach, analyses, or other activities; and the tools, technologies, and timeframes needed to meet the grant's objectives. This includes the research or training plan included with the original grant application, along with any approved modifications.

The following actions represent a change in scope:

  • Changing the Specific Aims as approved at time of award
  • Shifting the research emphasis from one disease area to another
  • Changing any aspects of research involving vertebrate animals or human subjects

Several other actions may indicate a change in scope. To be certain, confer with NIAID staff before:

  • Purchasing equipment that costs more than $25,000
  • Applying a new (unapproved) technology
  • Changing key personnel
  • Adjusting any key personnel’s level of effort by more than 25 percent of the originally proposed level of effort
  • Rebudgeting funds in or out of a budget category by more than 25 percent of the total costs of the award

To find a list of all actions that could constitute a change in scope, go to Section of the NIH Grants Policy Statement (GPS).

For a given award, NIAID staff determine scope based on the original application and any negotiated reductions in funding, removal of Specific Aims, bars to award, or other issues. Learn more about negotiated reductions in the section Your Award May Differ From Your Request on Negotiation and Your Initial Award.

Over the course of a grant’s project period, you may adjust the scope of work with approval from NIAID staff, as explained below.

Program and grants management staff review annual progress reports in part to confirm that grantees remain within scope; the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) is not an appropriate mechanism to initially inform NIAID you’ve made a change in scope.

Prior Approval Needed for Changes in Scope

You must obtain NIAID’s written prior approval before changing the scope of your research activities. Start by discussing with your program officer your situation and the changes you are considering. Ultimately, you’ll need approval from your grants management specialist, who will consult with your program officer to assess any proposed changes.

Adding new research related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that represents a change in scope is not automatically approved, despite its pertinence to a declared public health emergency. Such changes still need prior approval.

For additional information, go to our Prior Approvals for Post Award Grant Actions SOP. Keep in mind that submitting a request for a change of scope does not guarantee NIAID will approve it.

How To Request Prior Approval for a Change in Scope

After you’ve had a discussion with your program officer, have your institution’s authorized organization representative (AOR) send a prior approval request to your award’s assigned grants management specialist, copying the assigned program officer, at least 30 days before the planned use of funds.

The email should include:

  • The grant number in the subject line
  • The principal investigator’s name, title, organization, telephone and fax number, and email address
  • The AOR’s name, title, organization, telephone and fax number, and email address
  • Justification for the proposed change
  • SF 424 R&R Guide Modified Scope Template, completed and attached that includes:
    • Modified Project Summary/Abstract Section—If the abstract will be modified, provide the modified abstract in this section. If the abstract will not be modified, state “none” instead.
    • Modified Specific Aims Section—If one or more Specific Aims will be modified, list the complete Specific Aims modification(s) in this section; up to one page is recommended. If the Specific Aims will not be modified, state “none” instead.
    • Modified Public Health Relevance Section (Project Narrative)—If the project narrative will be modified, provide two or three sentences to modify the Project Narrative. If the project narrative will not be modified, state “none” instead.

Keep in mind this important point: the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) is not a vehicle by which you ask NIAID to approve past or planned changes in scope; completing the RPPR’s Section F. Changes is not a substitute for properly requesting prior approval for a change in scope. Informing NIAID through the RPPR of a change of scope that has already occurred, and for which NIAID did not provide prior approval, may result in cost disallowance or other enforcement measures listed in Section 8.5 of the NIH GPS.

During review of annual progress reports, NIAID program and grants management staff confirm that grantees have remained within scope. If NIAID staff approved a change in scope during the previous budget period, state it as a reminder in Section F on Page 1.

To learn more about managing your grant, read the sections Grantees Can Take Many Actions Independently and Some Actions Require Our Approval on our Changes to Project or Budget webpage.

Additional Funding for Ongoing Awards

Grantees can apply for additional support following unforeseen events during the project period, either through an administrative supplement or a competitive revision. Whether you should pursue one or the other is determined by whether you will use the extra funding to conduct research that is in or out of scope.

Award Type Funded Activities Review Process Standard Operating Procedures
Administrative Supplement In Scope Staff Review Administrative Supplements to Grants and Cooperative Agreements SOP
Competitive Revision Out of Scope Peer Review Revision of a Grant SOP

Also see our Supplement Types Awarded to Research Grants SOP. For help determining which supplement type is appropriate to your circumstance or regarding prior approvals for a change in scope, contact a program officer.

Contact Us

Email us at for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

Content last reviewed on