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Last Updated: 10/28/16

Application Guidelines

The information below applies specifically to NCI. Although the procedures and policies of other Institutes are similar, there are some differences. Applicants to other Institutes should check with a program staff member in the Institute of interest. All applications be in response an FOA or Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact CIP program staff before submission of an application, particularly for new investigators, or if the investigator is responding to any NCI program announcements as described below.

The principal investigator (PI) initiates an application. Two to three weeks may be needed for preparation of a small project application, whereas complex proposals may require as much as a year. An investigator may submit an application on any topic of his or her choosing.

Budget requests for direct costs for NCI support competing continuation (type 2) R01, U01, and P01 applications cannot exceed an increase of 10% over the direct cost award level in the last non-competing (type 5) year. Change in Allowable Requested Budget Levels of Renewal (NOT-CA-08-026) supersedes the previous notice of 2001(NOT-CA-01-016)

PAs describe continuing, new, or expanded program interests for which grant or cooperative agreement applications are invited. There are usually no set-aside funds for PAs. They are reviewed with a study section with the Center of Scientific Review (CSR). PARs, however, are normally reviewed with NCI by ad-hoc study section. Investigators interested in applying are strongly encouraged to contact program staff well in advance of the submission date

RFAs are issued to invite grant applications in a well-defined scientific area to stimulate activity in priority areas. There is usually a specific amount of set-aside funding for an RFA. RFAs are normally reviewed by an ad-hoc study section within NCI. Investigators interested in applying are strongly encouraged to contact program staff well in advance of the submission date

RFPs are issued to invite grant applications under a contract basis for a well-defined scientific area to stimulate activity in priority areas. Procedures for contract applications are more complex than those for grants and have specific review criteria that include the expectation of deliverables. There is usually a specific amount of set-aside funding for an RFP. RFPs normally have a two-tier review system organized within NCI. Investigators interested in applying are strongly encouraged to contact program staff well in advance of the submission date

Program announcements and requests for applications are published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. PAs, PARs and RFAs relevant to biomedical imaging can be found in the Funding Opportunities section of this Web site.

The PI, by signing the grant application, accepts responsibility for the scientific conduct of the project and submission of progress and any other required reports. The organization is, in turn, legally responsible and accountable to the NIH for the performance and financial aspects of the grant-supported activity.

Policy requires applicants to seek agreement from Institute/Center staff at least 6 weeks prior to the anticipated submission of any application requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year (not to include indirect costs of consortium/contractual agreements). If the requested dollars are significantly greater than $500,000, then approval should be sought even earlier.

Allowable direct costs may include:

  • Salaries and fringe benefits of principal investigators and supporting staff.
  • Expenditures for project-related equipment and supplies.
  • Fees and supporting costs for consultant services.
  • Expenses for travel beneficial to the research.
  • Inpatient and outpatient costs for research subjects, but not routine clinical costs.
  • Necessary alterations and renovations.
  • Publications and other miscellaneous expenses.
  • Contract services.
  • Costs for consortium participants.
  • Under the modular grant application and award procedures, applicants request total direct costs in $25,000 increments up to $250,000 in any year of a project. For some PARs and RFAs, modular grants are not permitted.

There are three review cycles or "rounds" annually for investigator-initiated applications. Applications are evaluated for:


Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?


Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?


Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?


Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?


Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

Review Timetable:

About 6 to 8 weeks after the review, applicants will receive their summary statements along with their priority score and percentile rank. Applicants may revise and re-submit an application one more time. New investigators are encouraged to seek advice from established NIH awardees, and take advantage of courses, workshops or other materials that teach the art of producing successful applications.