MERIT Awards and Extensions SOP

This standard operating procedure (SOP) includes the following sections: Purpose, Procedure, Contacts, and Links.

Some links will work for NIAID staff only.


To enable NIH Institutes to give investigators with stellar records of research accomplishment a five-year award with the possibility of extending the initial award for up to five additional years without undergoing another IRG peer review. The MERIT extension application undergoes only NIAID and Council review.


Program staff nominate outstanding investigators for Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Awards (R37), which are approved by spring Council. Each year, NIAID issues about 15 new MERIT awards. Investigators may not have more than one MERIT award at a time.

MERIT awards may be transferred to a different grantee organization but may not be transferred to a different principal investigator. If the grantee organization wants to change PI, NIAID will convert the grant from R37 to R01 and remove it from MERIT procedures.

MERIT Awards

Principal Investigators

  • When you receive a nomination letter from a grants management specialist, sign and return it no later than the due date requested.

Program Staff

  • Recommend R01 awardees who
    • Have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity
    • Have outstanding records of scientific achievement as leaders of one or more investigator-initiated research projects
    • Work actively in a research area of special importance or promise
  • Prepare support documents for submission to Council. Check with your program division coordinator for deadlines.
  • Scientific division directors make their final recommendations for MERIT award nominations once a year at spring Council.

Grants Management Specialists

  • After spring Council, get a list of MERIT nominations from the Grants Management Program (GMP) MERIT coordinator.
  • Send letter informing PI of MERIT nomination. GMP staff can see the MERIT Award Nomination Letter.
  • When PI signs and returns the letter, change the activity code from R01 to R37 and issue a revised Notice of Award.
  • For more detailed instructions, GMP staff can see the GMP MERIT Awards and MERIT Extensions SOP.

MERIT Extensions

Principal Investigators

  • Following your grants management specialist's instructions, submit an abbreviated application between 16 and 19 months before the project period end date of your MERIT award. Send completed PHS 398 and the following items:
    • Progress report of up to eight pages.
    • One-page abstract of the Research Plan for the entire extension period of three to five years.
    • Include a budget for the entire extension period. Budget may not be more than 20 percent higher than the last Type 5 and must use the same format (i.e., modular or categorical) as originally reviewed.

Grants Management Specialists

  • Receive a list of MERIT extensions from your coordinator by the end of April, July, and November each year. The list will include extensions for awards that end in roughly 21 months.
  • Send a letter to PIs informing them that the MERIT extension application is due between 16 and 19 months before the project period end date of the MERIT award. GMP staff can see the MERIT Extension Application Request Letter.
  • MERIT Coordinator sends a copy of the MERIT extension application to the following:
    • Center for Scientific Review, which creates a new IMPAC record.
    • Program officer, who prepares the extension application for Council.
    • Program division coordinator (listed below), who serves as the scientific and administrative contact.
  • For more detailed instructions, GMP staff can see the GMP MERIT Awards and MERIT Extensions SOP.

Program Staff

  • Review MERIT extension applications to make sure nominees are in their fourth year of funding.
  • With your scientific division director's approval, recommend extension of all MERIT awards for that Council round.
  • For each nominee, present a MERIT extension worksheet to Council for approval. Include the following information:
    • A budget level and time period of three to five years.
    • The summary statement from the initial application.
    • The first five pages of the MERIT extension application. If the budget page is not in the first five pages, provide all pages through the budget page.
  • After Council, inform MERIT nominees of approval or disapproval. Refer to the MERIT Extension Notification Letter.


Program Division Coordinators

Use the contacts listed above for questions about your specific situation. If you have a general question or a suggestion to improve this page, email the Office of Knowledge and Educational Resources at


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