Requests for Applications (RFA) SOP

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

Some links will work for NIAID staff only.


To solicit grant applications focused on defined, high-priority, and high-opportunity areas of science relevant to the NIAID mission.


A request for applications (RFA) is one of three types of initiatives—together with program announcements (PA) and solicitations—NIAID develops with recommendations from its main Advisory Council.

See the Concept Development SOP for more information on concepts and initiatives.

RFAs are formal statements that solicit grant or cooperative agreement applications in a well-defined scientific area to accomplish specific program objectives and indicate the estimated amount of funds set-aside and a targeted number of awards. For cooperative agreements, RFAs also describe the responsibilities and obligations of NIH and awardees. 

RFAs may be sponsored by one or more NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). All participating ICs must commit funds to the initiative. 

Occasionally, RFAs are sponsored in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, other sister agencies such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or foundations outside of government.

Many RFAs include criteria that would make an application nonresponsive to the initiative (i.e., out of scope). NIAID staff can evaluate applications for initiative responsiveness before peer review and withdraw them if they are nonresponsive. For more information, check the Withdrawal of a Nonresponsive Application SOP.

Applications received in response to RFAs are usually peer reviewed by special emphasis panels managed by NIAID's Scientific Review Program. This review typically includes RFA-specific criteria, considerations, and questions. 

All RFAs are published in the NIH Guide and They almost always have a single receipt date, which is stated in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).


Program Officers

  • After developing a concept for an RFA, work with your program division coordinator to enter the initiative into the Research Initiative Management System (RIMS).
  • Check the NIH Guide and the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) to see if there is overlap with RFAs from other institutes and get ideas to develop your RFA. See the Early Notification SOP.
  • Get approval and recommendation from your division, the Research Initiative Committee (RIC), and/or the NIAID Executive Committee (ExCom), and NIAID's Advisory Council to approve a concept. Do not submit an RFA for publication without NIAID Advisory Council approval. 
  • Work with your program division coordinator, the Office of Initiative Development (OID), and the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) to create a project plan that schedules all steps needed to proceed from concept to award. See the Phasing of Initiatives SOP.
  • Prepare the first draft of the RFA using the template file your program division coordinator provides. Pay close attention to detail and formatting.
  • Forward the draft RFA to your program division coordinator for internal division review.
    • For RFAs using a cooperative agreement activity code, include the cooperative agreement justification memo. Get a current template memo from your program division coordinator or OID. See examples and additional information on the Cooperative Agreements Staff Portal
  • Review and respond to comments and questions submitted by OID and the Initiative Development Team, including the chief grants management officer (CGMO) and program division coordinators. Return the document to OID for final review. Contact your program division coordinator for details about your division's internal process.
  • For RFAs that involve collaborations with other agencies or foundations outside the government, include a scanned PDF of the memorandum of understanding or interagency agreement signed by the NIH IC director or designee.
  • After grant applications arrive, use eRA Modules and Services to check if they are responsive to the RFA.
    • Work with the scientific review officer (SRO) to perform a programmatic and administrative review to make sure applications respond to the RFA objectives and requirements.
    • When determining which applications are nonresponsive, take SRO input into account. 
  • Advise institutions to withdraw nonresponsive applications. For details on this process, see the Withdrawal of a Nonresponsive Application SOP.

Program Division Coordinators

  • Participate in developing the project plan for the RFA. 
  • Get current RFA templates from OID.
  • Provide appropriate RFA template files to program officers.
  • Submit completed draft RFA to OID for Initiative Development Team's assessment. 

Research Initiative Committee and/or NIAID Executive Committee

  • Review division-proposed concepts and discuss options for cross-divisional and cross-institute collaborations.
  • Approve concepts to be presented to the NIAID main Advisory Council and developed into RFAs.

Office of Initiative Development Staff

  • After RIC or ExCom approves an initiative, draft a project plan for initiative development that includes:
    • Phasing of the initiative for the pre-team meeting
    • Submitting the initial draft to Development Team
    • Reviewing the subsequent draft by the Initiative Development Team
  • Assemble an Initiative Development Team.
  • Work with the Team and the Office of Extramural Research Policy and Operations (OERPO) to determine phasing for preparing and publishing the initiative and for receipt, review, and award of applications.
  • If needed, schedule an initiative planning meeting with the Team before the initiative is written. 
  • Provide current RFA templates to program division coordinators.
  • Provide guidance to program staff and Team members during all stages of RFA development.
  • Inform OERPO when the draft RFA is ready for posting to the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM). This will start the Shared Interest period. For more information, check the Early Notification SOP.
  • Coordinate review of the draft RFA by the Team.
  • Provide a draft of the RFA to the CGMO for review and approval before publication in the NIH Guide.
  • Review and consolidate Team comments and return to program for response.
  • Work with program and the Team to finalize the RFA.
  • Send the RFA to OERPO for final policy review, formatting, and posting to the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) and NIH Guide publication.

Office of Extramural Research Policy and Operations Staff

  • Work with OID and the Initiative Development Team to set the core project dates, which include dates for the final draft submission to OERPO, submission to the NIH Guide, and award.
  • Work with OID to develop the phasing from publication to award, including receipt and review dates.
  • Provide guidance to program staff during all stages of RFA development. See the Phasing of Initiatives SOP.
  • Enter the RFA into the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) to start the Shared Interest period and allow other ICs the opportunity to participate in the initiative. 
  • Ensure that the final draft RFA submitted by OID to be considered for publication in the NIH Guide is formatted according to the most recent RFA guidelines and templates.
  • For cooperative agreements, include a PDF of the cooperative agreement justification memo signed by the CGMO. Refer to the Cooperative Agreements Staff Portal for templates and additional information.
  • Enter the RFA in the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) for Office of Extramural Research approval and publication in the NIH Guide.
  • Coordinate, negotiate, and answer any review edits by the NIH Guide.
  • Monitor project plan core date milestones in RIMS and revise as necessary.

Chief Grants Management Officer


Applicants with questions should read Contacting Program Officers and Grants Management Specialists.

Contact for NIAID Staff, Office of Initiative Development

Contact for NIAID Staff, Office of Extramural Research Policy and Operations

Program Division Coordinators

Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIDS

Contact for NIAID Staff—DAIT

Contact for NIAID Staff—DMID

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


Concept Development SOP

Early Notification SOP

NIAID Funding Policy SOP

NIAID Initiative Publication Approval Chart

Research Funded by NIAID

Phasing of Initiatives SOP

Research Initiative Committee SOP

Research Initiative Management System (RIMS)


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