Grant Application Basics
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Grant Application Basics

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What Does NIH Look For?

The NIH provides financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. This assistance supports the advancement of the NIH mission of enhancing health, extending healthy life, and reducing the burdens of illness and disability. While NIH awards many grants specifically for research, we also provide grant opportunities that support research-related activities, including: fellowship and training, career development, scientific conferences, resource and construction. Learn more about the types of programs NIH supports. We encourage:

  1. Projects of High Scientific Caliber

    NIH looks for grant proposals of high scientific caliber that are relevant to public health needs and are within NIH Institute and Center (IC) priorities. ICs highlight their research priorities on their individual websites. Applicants are urged to contact the appropriate Institute or Center staff to discuss the relevancy and/or focus of their proposed research before submitting an application.

  2. NIH-Requested Research

    NIH Institutes and Centers regularly identify specific research areas and program priorities to carry out their scientific missions. To encourage and stimulate research and the submission of research applications in these areas, many ICs will issue funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) in the form of program announcements (PAs) and requests for applications (RFAs). These FOAs may be issued to support research in an understudied area of science, to take advantage of current scientific opportunities, to address a high scientific program priority, or to meet additional needs in research training and infrastructure. To find an FOA in your scientific field, search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts which includes all funding opportunities offered by NIH, or to search across all Federal agencies.

  3. Unsolicited Research

    NIH supports “unsolicited” research and training applications that do not fall within the scope of NIH-requested targeted announcements. These applications originate from your research idea or training need, yet also address the scientific mission of the NIH and one or more of its ICs. These “unsolicited” applications should be submitted through “parent announcements (PAs)”, which are funding opportunity announcements that span the breadth of the NIH mission.

  4. Unique Research Projects

    Projects must be unique. By law, NIH cannot support a project already funded or pay for research that has already been done. Although you may not send the same application to more than one Public Health Service (PHS) agency at the same time, you can apply to an organization outside the PHS with the same application. If the project gets funded by another organization, however, it cannot be funded by NIH as well.

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Who Is Eligible for an NIH Grant?

Each type of NIH grant program has its own set of eligibility requirements.  Applicants can find eligibility information in section III of each funding opportunity announcement (FOA).  While the principal investigator (PI) conceives and writes the application, NIH recognizes the applicant institution as the grantee for most grant types.

Individual Eligibility

NIH supports scientists at various stages in their careers, from pre-doctoral students on research training grants to investigators with extensive experience who run large research centers. NIH is committed to supporting New and Early Stage Investigator (ESIs).  Reviewers give new and early stage investigators special consideration, and NIH has programs targeted specifically for these populations.

Generally, PIs and other personnel supported by NIH research grants are not required to be U.S. citizens; however, some NIH programs/mechanisms have a citizenship requirement. Any citizenship requirement will be stated in the program announcement (PA) or request for applications (RFA).

Institutional Eligibility

In general, domestic or foreign, public or private, non-profit or for-profit organizations are eligible to receive NIH grants. NIH may limit eligibility for certain types of programs, such as limitations on the participation of foreign entities or programs for which only small businesses are eligible applicants.

Foreign Eligibility

In general, foreign institutions and international organizations, including public or private non-profit or for-profit organizations, are eligible to apply for research project grants. Foreign institutions and international organizations are not eligible to apply for Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants, program project grants, center grants, resource grants, SBIR/STTR grants, or construction grants. However, some activity codes, such as program project grants (P01), may support projects awarded to a domestic institution with a foreign component. For purposes of this policy, a “foreign component” is defined as performance of any significant element or segment of the project outside the United States (U.S.) either by the grantee or by a researcher employed by a foreign institution, whether or not grant funds are expended. Proposed research should provide special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions in other countries that are not readily available in the U.S. or that augment existing U.S. resources.

Foreign applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Eligibility section of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to determine whether their non-domestic (non-U.S.) entity (foreign organization) is eligible to respond to that particular FOA. Additional information on grants to foreign institutions, international organizations and domestic grants with foreign components is found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

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The Next Step

For more information on Planning your Application, Finding a Funding Opportunity, and other steps in the grants process, see Grants Process Overview.

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This page last updated on February 6, 2012
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