Get a Speedy Response From Your Program Officer

You're trying to get a hold of your program officer but are having no luck. What should you do? We provide suggestions here as well as a few key points to keep in mind.

Ask Yourself Two Questions

  1. Do I have the right person? Check your Commons account to make sure the program officer for your grant award or application hasn't changed. The name on a summary statement or Notice of Award might not be for the person currently assigned, so your call or email may have to be re-routed, which causes delays.

    Note: If you call and find that the number doesn't work, try 1) emailing someone in the same area as your program officer; see division links below or 2) phoning your program officer's division using its main number. Someone there should be able to direct you to the person you're trying to reach.
  1. Do I have the person I need? Before you email or leave a voicemail for your program officer (or even after while waiting to hear back), ask yourself: Am I certain he or she is the person I need to answer my question or resolve my issue? Remember, you should reach out to him or her for scientific, funding, and programmatic matters related to NIAID funding. Learn more about Contacting Program Officers and Grants Management Specialists.

Contact someone other than your program officer for issues, such as

  • Administrative elements of your grant award, i.e., negotiation, reporting, budgeting, and management: check with your grants management specialist.
  • Questions about a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO): touch base with the scientific/research contact listed in the NOFO. Keep in mind, however, that this contact might have to refer your question to a program officer likely to be assigned your application.
  • A specific topic or service covered on an NIAID website: look for contact information for the people who coordinate the activity in question.

Know That Certain Times Are Busier Than Others

Program officers are always busy, but they're likely to be busier at certain times of the year. During these periods, you may need to wait a bit longer than usual for a response.

For instance, right after NIH publishes a NOFO, program officers—not just the scientific/research contacts listed—get inundated with inquiries, which take time to address.

Also, during the last quarter (July-September), program officers are busy meeting internal deadlines for end-of-fiscal-year activities and attending study section meetings, so they may not be able to answer you immediately.

If, however, you are trying to resolve a bar to award or other pressing issue that affects your getting funding, your program officer should be in contact with you as soon as possible. In such cases, it's a good idea to copy your assigned grants management specialist on your email so he or she can do what's needed on the grants management end.

Get a Response and the Information You Need

Help your program officer provide a timely response by following these tips:

  • Be crystal clear
    • When emailing or leaving a voicemail
      • Provide your grant number or NOFO number.
      • Fully explain why you are getting in touch.
      • Clearly describe what you want—and when you need it. If it's urgent, say so.
        • Give a time frame in your email subject line so messages are read in a timely manner. For example, “Urgent question for R15 application due June 25.”
  • Follow up, provide alternate contact info
    • If you emailed, follow up with a phone call, and vice versa.
    • Give additional email addresses or phone numbers, if you have them, so your program officer has other ways to get in touch with you.

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