Assignment of Grant Applications

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institutes of Health


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All grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health for funding undergo two separate stages of review:  [1] initial peer review, whose objective it is to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of the application; and [2] review by the National Advisory Council, which advises the Institute Director on programmatic priorities and balance.



Grant applications are first examined by scientific staff in the Division of Receipt and Referral (DRR), which is part of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR).  Referral staff have access to the entire application and use as much information as available to make assignments.  The DRR makes three decisions regarding an application:

  1. Is the application appropriate for the NIH or other Public Health Service agencies?
  2. Which initial review group is best suited to evaluate the technical and scientific merit of the application?
  3. Which Institute’s or Center’s (I/C) mission is most appropriate for funding an application?

In most circumstances, submitted applications are well within the scope of NIH and the Public Health Service.  Consequently, the two most important decisions are the determination of the initial review group and which I/C is most appropriate for funding an application should it receive a meritorious review.



An I/C is always identified for primary assignment for funding an application.  The assignment decision is based on the mission and interests of each I/C.  Due to the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of science, there are many instances when an application overlaps the scientific mission of more than one I/C due to shared interests.  Under such circumstances, DRR will make a primary assignment to the I/C whose referral guidelines are closest to the objectives of the application.  Other I/Cs may receive secondary assignments.  When more than one I/C receives a secondary assignment, there is no rank order established among the secondary I/C assignments.

 If an I/C with a primary assignment does not fund a grant application, I/Cs with a dual assignment are not required to award the application.  Secondary assignment does not significantly increase the chance of obtaining an award.  According to data from CSR, the frequency of a secondary assignment leading to a change in primary assignment and a subsequent award is less than 2 percent.



Investigators may include a cover letter (submitted as a pdf file if the application is submitted electronically) in which they may suggest the I/C that they believe is most likely to be interested in the proposed science.  They may also make suggestions regarding the important scientific areas that need to be addressed by reviewers and the possible review groups that, in the investigator’s opinion, would adequately review the application.



Additional information regarding the overall NIH grant application referral process can be found at the CSR site entitled Submission and Assignment Process.



Last updated: October 25, 2007


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