Determine Project Start Date and Understand Inexact Timing

Funding News Edition: July 21, 2021
See more articles in this edition

There are several reasons you might want to determine the expected project start date that corresponds to a given application due date. You may want to:

  • Time a new project or competing renewal to start as your current project finishes to avoid a gap in funding.
  • Plan when you should begin to hire support staff and order resources and equipment.
  • Determine how many person months you’ll have available to commit to other projects.

You can make an initial assessment of the estimated project start date based on the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) through which you’re applying. Following peer review, once you know your score, you can reassess your expected start date. Ultimately, you won’t know for certain the exact project start date until NIAID sends you a Notice of Award (NOA).

Because a variety of issues can influence the timing of a grant award, as we describe in “Factors Affecting Grant Award Timing” at NIAID’s Funding Decisions and Your Next Steps, you shouldn’t assume we will make your award on the earliest possible start date of initial estimates.

In the FOA

Earlier this year, NIH introduced a Friendlier Format for Key Dates in Funding Opportunities. For newly issued FOAs, a table within the “Key Dates” section lists all application due dates for the FOA and the rightmost column displays the earliest start date that corresponds to each due date.

In older FOAs that remain active, you’ll still go to the “Key Dates” section to find a list of earliest start dates, although you’ll need to trace which start date corresponds to which due date. When a FOA follows NIH’s Standard Due Dates, applications for Cycle I due dates have an earliest start date the following September or December; for Cycle II due dates, April; and for Cycle III due dates, July.

Some notices of special interest (NOSIs) list their own key dates, but most defer to the key dates of the FOA(s) through which the NOSI directs you to apply.

Check Again Following Review

Applications typically undergo first-level peer review several months after the due date. Within 30 days after the review, you should see your summary statement in the eRA Commons. Applications with fundable overall impact scores then go to our NIAID Advisory Council for second-level review, typically about seven months after the initial application due date; expedited second-level review occurs several months earlier for investigator-initiated applications that are within our payline and have no special concerns.

Following review, the Status Information page in eRA Commons will display an updated Project Period Start Date. This is an estimate, albeit a more exact estimate than the general guideline provided within a FOA.

Again, several factors as described in “Factors Affecting Grant Award Timing” can influence grant award timing. Before making an award, NIAID requests certain information, not already included with your application and termed just-in-time (JIT), so we can prepare the NOA. At this point, your time to award largely depends on how quickly you can complete the JIT information and clear any bars to award, e.g., animal welfare or human subjects inclusion concerns.  

Managing the Calendar

NIAID’s fiscal year budget cycle is sometimes a factor that impacts the timing of project start dates, particularly for those applications that score just beyond NIAID’s published paylines. Because NIAID adjusts its paylines throughout the fiscal year, applications near the payline remain under consideration for funding, should we revise a payline upward or elect to commit set-aside funds.

Suppose you send a new application for a Cycle I due date to undergo first-level peer review in the summer and second-level review in September at the October Advisory Council meeting. If the application scores outside our interim payline but within the previous fiscal year’s payline, NIAID may wait until spring, once we have a clearer view of the year’s budget constraints, to process the award.

Your program officer can advise you further in such a circumstance, but in many cases the safest course for an application that scored beyond the published payline, be it interim or fiscal year, is to revise your application and prepare to resubmit in the meantime.

Once you receive an NOA, the cover page will list the official budget period start date (box 19) and project period start date (box 26). You can charge allowable preaward costs incurred up to 90 days before your budget period start date so long as you have your institutional business office’s approval for preaward spending, as explained in our September 5, 2019 article “Caveats To Consider Before Preaward Spending.”

Explore the After You Submit an Application section of our website for much more context on this topic.

Contact Us

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

Content last reviewed on