[Occasionally, we like to revisit posts from days gone by that either (1) are always relevant, or (2) are the subject of recent questions received by our office.  In today’s From The Vault, we look at part six of a seven part series on The NIH proposal process.] 


Today’s post is one in a series exploring the process of preparing and submitting an NIH proposal. 

Part I – Overview/Regular Research Grants

Part II – Regular Research Grants

Part III – Program Project/Center/Training Grants

Part IV – Fellowship/Career Transition Awards

Part V – Initial Review of Submissions


Second Review of Submissions

If your initial review by the Scientific Review Group produced positive results, your application will next go to an Advisory Council or Board, which is made up of scientists from the extramural research community, as well as public representatives.  NIH program staff members will evaluate your application based on its overall impact score, its percentile ranking, and the summary statements, and compare it against the needs of the Institute or Center (IC) from which you are seeking funding.  A report is provided to the larger Advisory Council or Board, who will provide a further review and advise the IC Director as to how to decide on a particular application.  Ultimately, it is the IC Director who makes the final funding decisions, based on the recommendations of staff and Advisory Council or Board.

What’s Next?

If you are funded, congratulations!  Be sure to read your Notice of Award carefully to ensure familiarity with the prescribed terms and conditions, and work with your friendly neighborhood Office of Research Administration to address any questions that arise.

If, however, you are not funded, do not despair.  With sequestration and related budget cuts, it is getting more and more difficult to receive awards, so the competition is only getting fiercer.  That being said, there are seven relatively common errors that prevent a first submission from being awarded:

1. Weak impact (or lack thereof)

2. The significance of the research isn’t obvious, or simply is weak

– It lacks focus or is too ambitious

– The hypothesis is unclear or flawed

– The feasibility is not properly supported

3. Poor writing

4. The experience of the Applicant is weak or doesn’t show exhibit the proper expertise

5. The research environment is deficient

6. The approach to the research project is flawed

7. The applicant chose the wrong grant mechanism for his project