Understand Scope and Why It Matters for Managing Your Grant

Funding News Edition: January 22, 2020
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Shifting a grant's research emphasis from one disease area to another is a change in scope that requires NIAID's prior approval.

Credit: NIAID

Once you have a grant award, the research activities you may conduct using NIAID funds are delineated by the scope of your award. Which begs the question: What is scope?

NIH’s definition of scope is:

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.

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 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.

Prior Approval Needed for Changes in Scope

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

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
  • Changing the principal investigator

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
  • Rebudgeting funds in or out of a budget category by more than 25 percent of the total costs of the award

For a list of all actions that could constitute a change in scope, see Section 8.1.2.5 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement

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

For help determining which is appropriate to your circumstance, contact a program officer. Also see our Supplement Types Awarded to Research Grants SOP.

To learn more about managing your grant, including reporting requirements and actions you can take without NIAID’s prior approval, read the section Grantees Can Take Many Actions Independently on Changes to Project or Budget.

Contact Us

Email us at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

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