Proposal Planning

Several key issues should be considered before, during, and after your application is written.  We are here to help you!

CALS would like all proposals routed to their office at least five (5) working days prior to submission!

  1. The deadlines for NIH grant applications depend on the grant mechanism. See Schedule of Standard Due Dates. For new R01 applications, February 5, June 5, and October 5 are the due dates. March 5, July 5, and November 5 are the due dates for R01 renewals, resubmissions and revisions. Please note: The deadlines for investigator-initiated applications in response to Request for Applications (RFAs) and some Program Announcements (PAs) may differ.
  2. The review and selection process for applications takes 8 to 10 months. Submit your very best application because reviewers expect you to have taken the time needed to think it through before submitting. For new investigators, there is an opportunity for resubmission of your application in the next review round when there are only minor concerns.
  3. Before you begin writing your grant application, familiarize yourself with the new NIH SF 424 Application Guide for electronic applications and all the requirements and certifications. See NIH Forms and Applications for other types of required forms and applications, including the PHS 398 application. If you are submitting an unsolicited or investigator initiated application in response to a Parent Announcement, or a specific RFA or PA, read the announcement in detail. 
  4. The submission of electronic applications to NIH involves the interaction between two systems: and the NIH eRA Commons. Individual investigators do not need to register with the system; however, you must be a registered Commons user to submit an application or be included as a Senior/Key Person. Commons registration can take up to five days. For more information, see Electronic Submission.
  5. If at all possible, find someone in your institution who can assist you in understanding and completing the application. Ask your colleagues for copies of successful NIH grant applications to get a more concrete idea of what each section should include. Incomplete applications are returned without review.
  6. Establish deadlines for the preparation of the grant application, particularly when collaborating investigators are involved. Be aware of institutional deadlines that could delay your application. Allow time for equipment failures, personnel shortages, etc. 
  7. Reread your application. Have someone else read it. Proofread it again. 
  8. If several people are contributing to the writing, decide who will do the final editing. 
  9. If possible, have objective experts (e.g., successful grantees, an institutional panel) review your proposal. Friends or close associates are rarely as critical as the reviewers on an NIH study section. 
  10. Do not feel inhibited about requesting technical assistance from the funding agency or your, institution. Talk to the program representative who will manage the grant for advice on scientific and technical issues and to the grants management specialist for advice on administrative issues. Your institutional grants office can also be of assistance. Talk to them and find out how they can help you. 
  11. Investigate any special research priorities of funding agencies, and ascertain from the program representative whether your project falls within the scope of an existing initiative (RFA or PA) or an area of special emphasis. 
  12. When submitting a revised application (resubmission), answer all reviewer concerns mentioned in the earlier Summary Statement. Changes you make in the revised application must be described and illustrated, e.g., bracketing, underlining, etc. Regardless of how you feel, don't insult the reviewers. If you differ in your opinion try to courteously convince the reviewers of your point of views. In addition to responding to specific reviewer concerns, review all other aspects of the application to determine whether updating, or improvement is called for or possible. Just because it was not criticized before is no guarantee it will not be criticized in the review of the revised application.