How to Get an NIH Grant

How to get an NIH grant – Overview

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research.

The NIH invests nearly $41.7 billion annually in medical research for the American people. These funds have helped achieve breakthroughs and innovative treatment methods.

These studies have helped people live longer and healthier lives. The NIH fund is crucial to building strong research foundations that boost discovery.

Many applicants who are new to this wonder how to get an NIH grant. This article provides detailed information on the steps needed to apply for one.

How to plan an NIH Grant Application

Preparing and submitting an NIH grant application is a significant undertaking. This is an efficient way for biomedical researchers to provide training and pursue scientific research efforts.

Proper planning, preparation and organization are the keys to an effective NIH grant application.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the steps you need to follow while planning an NIH grant application:

Step 1 – Understand NIH

The first step before applying for an NIH grant is to understand how NIH works. You need to make sure that your application fits the NIH research priorities.

To learn more about the NIH, you can visit this link

Step 2 – Use RePORTER to Identify Your Research Category

Once you have understood the mission of NIH, you can use its RePORTER tool. This allows you to search their database for NIH-funded research projects. It also gives you access to publications that are valuable to researchers while planning an NIH grant application.

By using the RePORTER tool, you can:

  • Explore the different types of projects funded by the NIH in your field of science
  • Identify the correct IC by searching for the IC that funds projects similar to yours
  • Discover the Program Officials contact which is associated with similarly funded research projects
  • Search for collaborators who have received NIH funding to improve your application proposal

To learn further details and how to use RePORTER, visit

Step 3 – Contact NIH

It is highly advised to contact NIH officials before submitting a grant application. They will advise you on identifying relevant support according to your research project type. Contacting program officials can help clarify questions and doubts that you may have.

You can find the list of NIH contacts at

How to apply for an NIH grant?

Let’s take a look at the major steps you need to follow to make a successful application for an NIH grant:

Submitting a grant application

Research institutes and organizations submit grant applications to the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) for peer review. The CSR allows the NIH or one of its review groups to perform the initial review.

The type of grant application mainly decides if it should be allotted to the NIH or CSR. The NIH, through its Center for Scientific Review (CSR) and various Institutes and Centers, reviews a wide range of grant applications, including but not limited to:

  • Research Project Grants
  • Training and Career Development
  • Program Project/Center Grants

Additionally, the NIH issues and reviews applications for Requests for Applications (RFAs), which are special funding opportunities announcing the need for research in specific areas. Organizations follow a similar review process, regardless of whether NIH or CSR conducts the review.

Let’s look at the stages that an NIH grant application goes through before approval:

1 – Initial level of review

A committee of experts recruited from universities and research facilities conducts the initial review at NIH or CSR. A Special Emphasis Panel or a simple standing review committee reviews an NIH grant application.

Either way, there are certain aspects and elements that the review committee looks for in an application. These include:

  • Originality and quality of the proposed science
  • Quality and experience of investigators
  • Quality of research facilities
  • Rigor and reproducibility
  • Human and animal welfare guidelines for a proposed research project
  • Plans to recruit women and minorities (for a project involving human experimentation)

The review helps rate the proposed research project’s scientific feasibility and quality standards.

2 – Next level of review

The advisory council or board of the relevant NIH Institute or Center performs a second level of review after the initial peer review by CSR or an NIH review group. The reviewing committee is made up of eminent scientists and members of the public.

These experts advise the NIH on the appropriateness of the initial review level and identify the proposed research project’s public and scientific importance.

3 – Awards

The proposal is sent to the program administrator once the reviewing committee reviews and approves an application.

They decide the amount of funding to be approved for the selected applicants. Priority is given to the scientific quality of the application, as determined by the initial peer review.

The proposed research project’s relevance to NIH priorities and adherence to the research timeline is also considered at this stage.

Typically, only a fraction of the applicants successfully acquire an NIH grant.

The program administrator manages awards and interacts with principal investigators. This helps to achieve the proposed project goals and ensure compliance with the mandatory procedures and policies.

Each award is also assigned to a grants management specialist. The specialist is responsible for the award’s financial management and assures the recipient’s compliance with government policies regulating research projects.

These specialists have immense knowledge of allowable costs, fiscal accountability, and various budgetary authorities.

Applying for an NIH grant is a complex process. Before applying, check all available information sources on the NIH grant process.

This way, you can prevent errors and decrease the risk of your grant application being rejected.

For more information on the NIH grant application process, we urge you to visit the official NIH website. You will find information, details, and instructions on how to create a favorable application there.


NIH grants fund research projects that have been vital in discovering numerous biomedical solutions. Follow the guidelines and instructions carefully to avoid making mistakes in your NIH grant application.

See Also


Infectious Disease Research Grants

Grants for Mental Health Research

What is HHS

Biomedical Science Research

DHHS Grant Program

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