Frequently Asked Questions Related to Grant Applications

General Questions

Does NIH have a website with frequently asked grants-related questions?

Yes, NIH's Office of Extramural Research has a FAQs website with links to questions and answers on a wide range of topics related to grant applications, such as award policies, clinical trials, electronic Research Administration (eRA) Commons, human subjects, peer review, reporting, and more.

Early Stage Investigators

I have never applied for NIH funding. What do I need to know to start the process?

Although there is a Principal Investigator(s) for grant applications and awards, research grant applications are submitted by institutions and awards are made to institutions. The sponsored projects office at your institution may be a good place to start to understand more about the grant application submission process. The NIH Grants & Funding page has links to resources for researchers and administrators.

NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) are regularly posted in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, and you can subscribe to receive the NIH Guide. All funding applications submitted to NIH must be submitted in response to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). You can see how your research idea fits with available FOAs; some FOAs have a specific topic, and others are open to any topic within NIH’s mission.

In addition, investigators are encouraged to contact EGRP Program Directors for advice on grants-related issues from pre-submission through the end of an NCI grant. Investigators may also wish to subscribe to receive periodic updates from EGRP on funding opportunities relevant to cancer epidemiology and updates on NIH grants policies.

How can I tell if NIH considers me an Early Stage Investigator?

The NIH Early Stage Investigator (ESI) policy states that to qualify as an ESI, the PD/PI must be within 10 years of completing their terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent) and they have not successfully competed as a PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award. Once a PD/PI enters the date of their terminal research degree and/or end of post-graduate clinical training in the Education section of their eRA Commons Personal Profile, their ESI status and End of Eligibility Date will be displayed.

I am currently (or have been) a lead investigator for a Project (but not the PI) on a multi-component NIH Program Project (P01). Can I still be considered an early stage investigator?

Yes. Only those who have previously competed successfully as PIs for a significant independent NIH research grant are excluded from consideration as Early Stage Investigators. View the NIH definition of an Early Stage Investigator.

I was assigned to lead a Research Project Grant (R01) as the PI during a non-competing year of the grant because the previous PI changed institutions/retired. Can I still be considered an Early Stage Investigator (ESI)?

Yes. The ESI definition states that the individual must not have previously competed successfully as a PI for a substantial NIH independent research award. Therefore, you may still quality as an ESI if all other aspects of the ESI definition are met.

I never had an R01. Will I lose my eligibility to be considered an “Early Stage Investigator” if I am a PI of a grant application with a multiple PI approach?

If an ESI is assigned a PD/PI role for a multiple PI application, the individual will lose their ESI status when the award is made.

What is the difference between an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, and other NIH grant mechanisms?

The NIH Director's New Innovator Award (DP2) addresses two important goals: stimulating highly innovative, high-impact research; and supporting exceptionally creative early career investigators. Applicants must meet the definition of an Early Stage Investigator (ESI).

Answers to more FAQs related to ESI eligibility, extension of ESI status, and identification of applications from ESIs are available on NIH’s website.

Preparing, Submitting, and Tracking an Application

What is a Notice of Special Interest (NOSI)?

A NOSI is a standard, formal format for NIH Institutes to share and update their research priorities. Each NOSI describes aims in a specific scientific area and points to one or more funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that investigators can apply to for support. The use of NOSIs represents a major change in how NIH Institutes and Centers communicate their research priorities to the research community and thus fill scientific gaps.

How does a NOSI work?

NOSIs describe specific topics of interest or areas of research and direct applicants to one or more active funding opportunity announcements (often a parent announcement), so that investigators may submit applications for the initiative described.

A NOSI is not an FOA and is listed as a notice in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Applicants should read NOSIs carefully for any special requirements related to that specific announcement. See NOT-OD-19-107 for additional information about NOSIs and where to direct general questions about them.

Most NOSIs require applicants to include the notice number in the Agency Routing Identifier field (4b) of the SF424 (R&R) form so NIH can assign and track applications and awards for the described initiative. It is critical that applicants adhere to this notice instruction. The notice number must be included in the Agency Routing Identifier field (field 4b on the SF424 R&R form) at the time of application submission.

Investigators considering a grant application that falls within the scientific areas of interest of the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) are welcome to contact EGRP’s scientific program directors to discuss how research ideas fit within the strategic priorities of EGRP, the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, and the National Cancer Institute.

I submitted my grant application to a PAR that has expired. Can I submit my amended application to another PAR?

Yes. If the original A0 application was submitted to a PAR, the A1 application may be submitted to any other PAR that accepts resubmissions, provided eligibility and other requirements are met. Note that the A1 application will be reviewed using the review criteria in the current FOA, not the criteria in the FOA used for the A0 submission.

This does not apply to expired RFAs.

If a PI submits an application as an R21, then submits as an R01, will the R01 application be considered a resubmission (A1) or a new submission?

It will be considered a new submission (01) because of the change in grant mechanism. The PI could include a cover letter with the application noting that the scope was expanded and thus a change to R01, although this is not necessary. For more information, see NOT-OD-18-197 and an NIH webpage on Resubmission Applications.

As a non-appointed temporary member of an NIH Study Section, am I eligible to submit my application under the continuous submission policy?

Reviewers who have served on at least six qualifying NIH study sections during an 18-month period starting January 1 of one year and ending June 30 of the following year are eligible for Continuous Submission under the Recent Substantial Service option. For FOAs with non-standard receipt dates, the NIH Late Receipt Policy may apply – see NOT-OD-15-039. View the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts Notice NOT-OD-20-060. Additional information about the Continuous Submission policy is available on

Can I submit an application under an NIH Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) if I’ve already submitted the same or similar investigator-initiated application to NIH, and it is currently pending review?

The NIH will not accept any application in response to an FOA that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial merit review unless the applicant withdraws the pending application. Before a resubmission application can be submitted, the PD/PI must have received the summary statement from the previous review. Following an unsuccessful resubmission (A1) application, applicants may submit the same idea as a new (A0) application for the next appropriate receipt date. The subsequent new application need not demonstrate substantial changes in scientific direction compared to previously reviewed submissions and must not contain an introduction to respond to the critiques from the previous review. For more on this topic, see NOT-OD-18-197 in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. This does not preclude the submission of an application already reviewed with substantial changes, but such application must include an "Introduction" addressing the previous critique.

How can I request that my application gets reviewed in a specific study section?

Investigators cannot request a specific study section. However, investigators can include in a cover letter some suggested study sections which may be appropriate to review the application. The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) retains the responsibility for making the final determinations concerning assignment of applications to a study section at CSR. The CSR Assisted Referral Tool can help investigators identify appropriate study sections.

Award Management and Reporting

Can I modify the aims on my NCI-funded grant?

A change in the specific aims approved at the time of award may constitute a change in scope. The Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) now requires that PIs request prior approval from NCI if those modifications result in a change of scope. This could be a change in specific aims, objectives, purpose, approach (including change from the approved involvement of human subjects), adding a foreign site, change in the type of research, or significant rebudgeting. View more information on requesting a change in aims.

What happens to a grant when a Principal Investigator wants to change institutions?

When a PI moves to a new institution, the grant can be transferred to the new institution (domestic or foreign), but prior approval is required from the original institution and NCI. The current institution must be willing to relinquish the grant and the new institution must be willing to accept the grant. Remember, grants are awarded to institutions, so when you leave, your institution must agree to relinquish the grant before you can take it with you.

In reviewing a request to transfer a grant, NCI will consider whether there is a continued need for the grant-supported project or activity as well as the impact of any proposed changes on the scope of the project. NCI will also consider the length of time, the percentage of funds, and the amount of work remaining in the project period.

If the proposed change involves moving an award from a domestic to a foreign institution or between foreign institutions, the PI should contact their assigned NCI Program Director (PD) immediately, as additional NCI approvals are required.


  • Request the transfer early. A change of recipient organization request must be made before the anticipated start date at the new organization and preferably several months in advance. If requesting a transfer in the middle of a budget period or at the end of the Federal fiscal year, recipients should contact NCI for guidance on the timing and preparation of the change of institution application.
  • The original institution must relinquish ties to the grant. A request for a change of recipient organization must be submitted by the Office of Sponsored Research of the original institution to NCI’s Office of Grants Administration (OGA).
  • The new recipient must apply to receive the remainder of the grant. The proposed new recipient institution must provide NCI’s OGA with a change of institution application (aka; transfer application or Type-7).

Acceptance of a relinquishing statement by NIH/NCI does not guarantee approval of a transfer request.

Once NCI approves the transfer:

  • NCI will complete the change of recipient organization by issuing a revised notice of award (NoA) to the original recipient reflecting the revised budget/project period end dates.
  • Concurrently, the new recipient will receive the NoA reflecting the direct cost balance reported on the relinquishing statement plus applicable facilities and administrative (F&A) costs. NCI does not pay additional costs caused by a transfer, such as salary changes.

For more Information, see the Change of Principal Investigator SOP for instructions; PA-18-590: Change of Grantee Organization (Type 7 Parent Clinical Trial Optional), NIH's eRA Commons webpage, Change of Institutions/Relinquishing Statements FAQs, and NIH Grants Policy Statement (Change in Scope).

What should I do when a grant may have unobligated funds at the end of a budget period?

Carryover is the process by which unobligated funds remaining at the end of a budget period may be carried forward to cover allowable costs in the next budget period. Investigators with unobligated balances should contact the NCI program officer (program director) for their grant. For more information, see the NCI webpage with information about carryover requests.

One of the publications listed on my progress report is not in compliance with the public access policy. What should I do?

The NIH Public Access Office manages the publication compliance policy. You should get in touch with them ( as soon as possible to resolve the issue. Awarding of your grant may be delayed until the issue is resolved. Keep in mind that if an NIH award’s only contribution to a publication is a shared resource, awardees should not list the publication in section C.1 of an RPPR or in the progress report publication list of a competitive renewal application. See NOT-OD-16-079 for additional information.