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 may be sponsored by one or more NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs).

Occasionally, they 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.

RFAs have set-aside funds and a targeted number of awards. Applications received in response to RFAs are usually peer reviewed by special emphasis panels managed by NIAID Scientific Review Program.

All RFAs are published in the NIH Guide and They 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), NIAID Council, and the NIAID Executive Committee to approve a concept.
  • Work with your program division coordinator, the Office of Strategic Planning, Initiative Development, and Analysis (OSPIDA), 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 OSPIDA.
  • Review and respond to comments and questions submitted by OSPIDA and the Initiative Development Team. Return the document to OSPIDA 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, view them in IMPAC II.
    • 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.
    • Determine which applications are nonresponsive, taking 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

  • Get current RFA templates from OSPIDA.
  • Provide appropriate RFA template files to program officers.
  • Submit completed draft RFA to OSPIDA for Initiative Development Team's assessment. 

Research Initiative Committee

The NIAID principal deputy director chairs the RIC.

Members include the deputy directors for Science and Management Operations and the Division of Clinical Research (DCR) and directors of the Office of Strategic Planning, Initiative Development, and Analysis; Division of AIDS; Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation; Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; Division of Intramural Research; DEA; DCR; and the Vaccine Research Center.

Ex officio members include representatives from the Budget and Financial Management Branch, Mission Planning and Integration Branch; Strategic Planning and Evaluation Branch, OSPIDA; Referral and Program Analysis Branch; and others as assigned by division directors.

RIC performs the following functions:

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

Office of Initiative Development Staff

  • After RIC 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).
  • Coordinate review of the draft RFA by the team.
  • 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 DEA Office of the Director approval and posting to the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM).

Office of Extramural Research Policy and Operations Staff

  • Work with OSPIDA 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 OSPIDA 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 for more details on your role.
  • Enter the RFA into the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) to allow other ICs the opportunity to comment before the RFA is published.
  • Ensure that the final draft RFA submitted by OSPIDA 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 DEA director. See sample memorandum for use of a cooperative agreement in an RFA.
  • Enter the RFA in the Funding Opportunity Announcement Module (FOAM) for Office of Extramural Research approval and publication in the NIH Guide and
  • Coordinate, negotiate, answer any review edits by the NIH Guide.
  • Monitor project plan core date milestones in RIMS and revise as necessary.


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

RFAs—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

If you have knowledge to share or want more information on this topic, email with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.


Concept Development SOP

Early Notification SOP

NIAID Funding Policy and Process SOP

NIAID Initiative Publication Approval Chart

Research Funded by NIAID

Phasing of Initiatives SOP

Research Initiative Committee SOP

Research Initiative Management System (RIMS)


Content last reviewed on April 7, 2016