Announcer: From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, this is All About Grants

Megan: From the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health, I’m Megan Columbus and welcome again to All About Grants. Today we’ll be talking about timing your application submission. With me today I have Dr. Sherry Stuesse from the Center of Scientific Review. Sherry was a faculty member who competed for NIH grants for some 25 years before she moved to NIH’s Center of Scientific Review, first serving as a scientific review officer and now as a referral officer. So she brings to us a good mix of an understanding of academia and review and the intricacies of receipt and referral, which is an important part of this. So one of the things it will be important for any applicant to do is to look for a funding opportunity announcement, and they can get that funding opportunity announcement through the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts or from Grants.gov, which is that federal portal for finding opportunities for grants across the federal government. When would you suggest that somebody start looking for that funding opportunity announcement?

Sherry: I would say anywhere from two months to about six months before they get ready to apply, because they need to know that there is something out there, that there’s interest in the research that they’re doing, and they need to know that there is some sort of an announcement, which is appropriate. So it’s a good idea to call your program officer at the institute that you think is most appropriate for your research and to talk to them about what’s out there and what might fit with your research.

Megan: So Sherry, when would you suggest that applicants should submit their application?

Sherry: When they’ve already picked a funding opportunity announcement they have a due date, and the Division of Receipt and Referral accepts applications starting about a month before the due date. If you submit earlier than that, just any time you’re ready, that’s not advisable because the funding opportunities change, NIH regulations change, and so we don’t hold applications in some sort of box or barrel and then release them. You submit within a month of the due date, but before the due date. The reason you submit before the due date is so that you have a little bit of time to look at your application and to reject it if you want to. You would have two days to reject it and then resubmit it.

Megan: The other thing that’s important for investigators to remember is the importance of coordinating with their office of sponsored research or their business office at their institution. Because those internal deadlines are often times before the application due date by as much has two weeks. What happens if I miss my deadline that I’m targeting? Are there other options for me?

Sherry: A given type of funding opportunity announcement may have multiple due dates, like every four months if it’s a general funding opportunity announcement, but if it is a special request, one-time request for funding, what we call an RFA, there may just be one deadline and if you miss that deadline that’s it for an RFA.

Megan: But if you miss the deadline for an RFA, which is a “request for applications,” then you could go find a parent funding opportunity announcement, which is one of those broad, NIH-wide, generally, announcements and look to see if the institutes that you’re interested in receiving funding from might be listed on those parent announcements.

Sherry: You can do that, but the name “parent announcement” is somewhat of a misnomer for everything except the R01 applications because for all the other, well I should say the R01 applications and the SBIR, the small business applications, all the rest of the parent announcements have some institutes that don’t take part in them.

Megan: Often times when you look at the funding opportunity announcement it says “standard dates apply” and you’re taken to a table of due dates and those show the application due dates for any given activity code or type of NIH grant program. It also shows the review dates, the council dates, and the first date you might expect an award. Could you just give kind of a feeling for what that timeline is?

Sherry: The timeline is about 9 or 10 months for any given application. Reviews generally occur about three or four months after the application is submitted. It takes about a month to get the summary statements all out. And then there’s a second level of review, which is done by the councils at the institutes. The councils don’t all meet on the same dates, but they generally meet, say, in May or in October or in January or February. And you have to figure that this whole process probably takes nine or 10 months and then there have to be the final decisions on funding, which occur at the institute, which can take another month or two.

Megan: I know that one thing that people get a little frustrated about is we don’t tell them immediately that they’re not getting funded. They find if they get an award, but they don’t find out if they’re not getting funded. And my understanding is that’s because they could be funded at a future time over the next year. And so we don’t send out that notification. What do you suggest that people do after they receive their summary statement?

Sherry: Well, eventually they do find out one way or the other, but often institutes are a little bit conservative in their funding at the beginning of the year because they’re not quite sure how much money they’re going to have. So if you think you might be close to the payline, and you’ve talked to your program officer and they’ve told you that’s possible, then you just have to wait to see if it gets funded or not.

Megan: The payline being the line at which the institute expects to have enough money to pay those grants.

Sherry: To pay those grants that are better than that line.

Megan: One of the questions that we frequently receive has to do with whether the cycle in which applicants submit those applications have an effect on whether they get funded or when they get funded. Can you speak to that at all?

Sherry: I think there’s no advantage to submitting in one particular cycle versus the other because at the end of the year a given institute will have funded at a certain level. So they may be a little more conservative at the beginning of the year especially if a budget hasn’t been passed. But there is no advantage of one cycle versus the other overall.

Megan: Because those applications that might be on the cusp, like right on the payline…

Sherry: They will be held for consideration later on in the year.

Megan: Well, thank you for joining us today. This has been helpful. For NIH and OER this is Megan Columbus.

Announcer: To search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts click on the “Funding” tab of the OER website at grants.nih.gov. And search for “standard submission dates” on the OER website to view submission dates by cycle and type of grant program.