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About Research Grants, Contracts, & Types of Funding Announcements

Learn the basics about extramural funding instruments and announcements before you decide which funding mechanism best fits your needs.

Funding Instruments

  • Grant: Financial assistance mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity. A grant is used whenever an NIH Institute or Center (IC) anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during performance of the financially assisted activities.
  • Contract: An award instrument used to acquire by purchase, lease, or barter, property or services from a non-federal party for the direct benefit or use of the federal government. For a contract, the government establishes detailed requirements to meet its perceived needs and decides on the entity to meet those needs.
  • Cooperative Agreement: A financial assistance instrument under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the federal agency and the recipient during performance of the contemplated project or activity. These agreements are similar to grants, but federal staff have substantial scientific or programmatic involvement.

Types of Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)

Solicited: NICHD-Initiated Topics

  • A Request for Applications (RFA) is used to invite applications on a narrowly defined, targeted area of research designed to answer a focused question or set of questions for which there is a clear gap in knowledge.
    • RFAs usually solicit applications for a one-time competition on a specific topic.
    • RFAs describe initiatives within a well-defined scientific priority area to stimulate research on that topic.
    • A certain number of awards receive set-aside funds.
    • RFAs usually have only one application receipt date unless they are reissued.
    • Visit the Active FOAs for current RFAs for the NICHD.
  • A Program Announcement (PA) is used to invite applications that address broader areas of research to stimulate ongoing interest in a set of topics within a programmatic theme.
    • PAs often reference a research area that represents a new, ongoing, or expanded interest and/or high-priority program for ICs.
    • Generally, PAs have no set-aside funds. In many cases, applications submitted in response to PAs are considered investigator-initiated in that the applicant has responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed project.
    • Visit the Active FOAs for current PAs for the NICHD.
  • A Program Announcement with special Review considerations (PAR) is similar to a PA, but a PAR goes through specialized handling of application receipt, assignment (also called referral), and/or review.

Unsolicited: Investigator-Initiated Topics

With this type of project, the investigator comes up with the research project idea, submits a grant application, and initiates and manages the research within an area that is relevant to the NIH. The majority of NIH grants are unsolicited.

The NICHD accepts investigator-initiated applications using several broad NIH Parent Announcements.

Comparison of FOAs

The table below provides a quick comparison of the features of different types of FOAs.

Feature RFA PA PAR
Does NICHD sets aside funds for these projects? Yes No No
Is there a special application receipt date? Yes No Varies
How long is it active? Until receipt date 3 Years Until final receipt date, usually 3 years
Does it have a special assignment or referral? Yes No Varies
Does it require a special review panel? Yes No Varies

Other Information

To learn what specific mechanisms the NICHD uses to support extramural research, visit the Types of NICHD Funding Mechanisms section.

More specific information about funding is available in the Grants Process section.​

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012

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