Revise and Resubmit an Application

Revise and Resubmit an Application

epiHere we cover factors to consider for revising and resubmitting an application, then rules for resubmitting, and finally our advice for resubmission applications.

Before committing to a resubmission, you may want to assess your other Options if Your Application Isn't Funded as well.

Table of Contents

Considerations for Resubmissions

You probably want to jump right into your resubmission, but first check your original funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to confirm it hasn't expired, you still meet eligibility requirements, and NIAID (or your chosen institute) still participates.

If the announcement has been reissued or updated, make sure you're aware of new deadlines, eligibility criteria, forms, and instructions, all of which may have changed since your previous application.

If you applied to a program announcement (PA), program announcement with set-aside funds (PAS), or program announcement with special receipt, referral and/or review considerations (PAR), you may resubmit to the same or a different PA, PAS, or PAR. But you'll still want to check your new FOA for the information we just mentioned.

Should You Wait for the Summary Statement?

You may want to begin revising even before you get your summary statement since waiting may cause you to miss the next receipt date.

While you must address all the reviewers' comments from your summary statement, you can start adding new data or making other improvements to the application.

Just keep in mind that you'll still have to wait for your summary statement before you resubmit, and you may have to revise your application further based on what reviewers note.

New Investigators: Don't Hurry

NIH has special rules to help new R01 investigators resubmit for the next receipt date by posting their summary statements sooner and letting them resubmit later than established investigators.

If you qualify for this benefit, don't take it unless you're certain you've addressed reviewer comments in your summary statement. Rushing to submit a subpar application won't help you get funded.

Waiting to strengthen your application will give you the best chance of succeeding in the long run.  

Choose Your Path

Your resubmission can take one of two paths: revise and request the same study section or revise and request a different study section. Keep in mind you might not have a study section choice for some funding opportunity announcements, e.g., PARs.

Revising and Requesting the Same Study Section. If your reviewers were enthusiastic about your idea and found fixable problems, revising and requesting the same study section is usually the way to go. This route is the most common one and works well when the points of contention are limited.

Reviewers look at the application in the context of their critiques, so the approach is effective if you can readily answer their concerns.

Be aware that your application may still face some new reviewers who may raise different issues.

Revising and Requesting a Different Study Section. If your reviewers were not enthusiastic about your idea, reassess the study section.

Do you have a sense that no matter what you wrote your reviewers wouldn't have appreciated it? That's a clue that your application and the study section were a poor fit.

But be careful not to assume that the reviewers were the problem—first thoroughly size up the application's faults that they identified.

To gauge whether the study section may have been unsuitable, use the roster attached to your summary statement to view the committee members' names, and check out their publications. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Did the reviewers' expertise fit your topic?
  • Were they knowledgeable about your methods?
  • Did they understand the rationale for your research?

If the verdict is no for any of the above, the study section may not have been the best fit. Talk to colleagues and mentors to get their take and before you decide whether to request a new study section, keeping the following points in mind:

  • You have no guarantee of anyone's presence at the meeting—including past reviewers—because participants rotate on and off, and NIH uses ad hoc reviewers.
  • You'll still have to address reviewer critiques from the first review even though that critique came from a different study section. Your new study section sees the summary statement and expects you to make appropriate changes.

Cautionary Notes About Resubmissions

Consider the following words of caution:

  • Use the most recent version of the FOA and forms, even if it's not the one you used originally.
  • Do not resubmit until you can send in the strongest possible application that effectively addresses all the reviewers' comments. We can't stress the point enough.
  • If a significant amount of time passes before you can resubmit, reassess the science and consider submitting a new application instead of a resubmission, particularly if the science has evolved.

Don't launch into your resubmission until you've read our instructions and advice below.

Rules for Resubmitting

Resubmissions have several unique rules. For example, you must address all your reviewers' points and highlight their comments in the introduction and usually in the Research Plan (unless too much has changed).

Though you may be able to start revising before you get your summary statement, you'll need the summary statement for your discussion with your program officer and to address the reviewers' feedback in the application.

When you start revising, discuss the reviewers' points one by one.

Enhance your application in any way you can—even in areas your reviewers did not question, for example, by adding new data.

When you resubmit, you're playing by new rules:

  • Rule 1: You have just one opportunity to resubmit.
  • Rule 2: You must apply within 37 months of the original application's receipt date.
  • Rule 3: You must create a one-page introduction that addresses all your reviewers' issues that are stated in your summary statement. Reviewers will look for their comments and check that you revised accordingly.

You may also enhance the rest of your application by adding any new information and data you wish.

Here's how to proceed:

  • Highlight your reviewers' comments in your introduction and the body of your application, usually in the Research Plan. But if changes are so extensive that most text would be affected, explain them in the introduction only.
  • Make sure your introduction does the following:
    • Summarizes the substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application.
    • Responds to major weaknesses raised in the summary statement.
  • Note that identifying individual changes by using brackets, indents, or change of typography in the text of Specific Aims, Research Strategy, and other application attachments is no longer required, though NIH will continue to accept applications that contain the specific mark-ups.
  • Include any new preliminary data you have, and strengthen the application where possible—even in areas your reviewers did not question.
  • Download new forms, and scan the funding opportunity announcement to see if anything has changed.

Even if you take all these steps, you have no guarantee of success for several reasons:

  • Reviewers are not wedded to their critiques.
  • New reviewers may disagree with previous comments or raise new criticisms.
  • Because a summary statement is not an exhaustive critique of your proposal, it may not list all concerns reviewers had (plus issues they may have raised had the discussion continued).

That said, many people get funded after revising, and usually a resubmission can't hurt you.

Many resubmissions score better than the initial application, though, of course, there's no guarantee. For example, our data show that in FY 2012, R01 resubmissions were 2.5 times more likely to get a better score than a worse one.

Even if your resubmission scores slightly worse, that probably won't affect the funding chances of an earlier application. If you've submitted two applications, NIAID can still fund the earlier one.

eRA Commons will keep both versions of your application active. You'll see the "MAA" (Multiple Active Application) flag in the Commons. When one application is funded, NIH automatically withdraws the other.

Resubmission Timing

If you are on a list for possible selective pay or end-of-year funding, resubmit—don't wait to see what will happen.

You may be able to start revising right away, but take the time to do the best job you can.

You only have one opportunity to resubmit, so make it your best shot. Do not resubmit until you can send in the strongest possible application that effectively addresses all the reviewers' comments. Get advice from your program officer and experts in your institution before proceeding and again after you prepare your resubmission.

Some people begin revising even before getting the summary statement because waiting may cause them to miss the next receipt date. (Note that new investigators get summary statements at least a month before their next receipt date, though as of 2010, less than 13 percent were able to apply for that date.)  

You could start revising before you get your summary statement if you have promising new data or other improvements you want to include.

Then after you get your summary statement, add to the revisions you've already made to address peer reviewer concerns.

We strongly recommend that even if your application scored just above the payline or is on a list for possible selective pay or end-of-year funding, don't wait to see what will happen. Start revising as soon as you can and resubmit when ready, keeping in mind the caveats noted above and in the next section below.

Read more about timing at Timelines and Due Dates.

When Not to Resubmit Quickly

Sometimes waiting has little impact on the timing of an award.

Don't rush. It's better to wait for the next receipt date than send an application prematurely. And if you need additional preliminary data or new data is imminent, wait until you have it before resubmitting.

Sometimes waiting has little impact on the timing of an award.

  • For Cycle 1 receipt dates (September-October Council), you often have to wait several extra months before you get an award because the Institute does not yet have a budget for the following fiscal year.
  • If you wait to submit for the Cycle 3 receipt dates (May Council) instead, you could lose just a month or two before you actually get an award.

Tips for a Strong Resubmission Application

Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Capitalize on your strengths and throw out or revise the parts reviewers felt were weak. Check again that your Specific Aims line up with your hypothesis.

Respond point by point to the reviewers' comments and suggestions, stating how you dealt with all the criticisms in the summary statement. Your program officer may be able to advise you as you consider application changes.

  • Introduction. If possible within your introduction's one-page limit, address comments point by point. Be sure your introduction at least does the following:
    • Summarizes the issues and criticisms and respond in as much detail as possible.
    • Summarizes the substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application.
  • Research Plan and elsewhere in the body of your application. Update as needed to respond. If you're cramped for space, don't drop important details in favor of making space to address reviewer comments.

Be respectful even if you disagree.

  • If you disagree, explain why, and provide additional information if possible.
  • Even better, change your proposal. For example, if reviewers don't like an approach, propose a different one, even if you don't agree.

Identify changes. To identify substantial scientific changes, do the following:

  • Outline them in your introduction, summarizing substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application as well as responding to major weaknesses raised in the summary statement.
    • Note: Identifying individual changes by using brackets, indents, or change of typography in the text of Specific Aims, Research Strategy, and other application attachments is no longer required, though NIH will continue to accept applications that contain the specific mark-ups.

Add new findings and your own improvements. You aren't limited to revising only items mentioned in the summary statement.

  • In the Preliminary Studies/Progress Report, add any new findings you've gotten since the previous application.
  • Don't hesitate to make other changes. Strengthen the application as much as you can.

See what worked for others. We offer two samples R01 resubmission applications that scored well.

Spot The Sample

See what worked for our two resubmission Sample Applications:

Notice how they approached the reviewers in their applications and how it reflects our advice above:

  • Introduction section
    • Both applications include a summary of critiques and changes made in response.
    • The applicants used formatting and sectioning to highlight key points and make it easier for reviews to read the text.
  • Research Strategy Section
    • They made the corresponding changes are described in the introduction.
    • Through applicants are no longer required to mark their changes, Drs. Li and Samulski used underlining to show reviewers where the text had changed, while Dr. Faubion used yellow highlighting.

If you decide against resubmitting or your resubmission application doesn’t work out, you may want to assess your other Options if Your Application Isn't Funded.

 

 

Have Questions?

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.

Content last reviewed on October 25, 2017