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NCCIH Research Blog

Expedited Concurrence Speeds Review of Qualifying Applications

August 3, 2023

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Activities

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

It can be a long road from submitting your application for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to hearing whether your application is funded. One estimate is that it can take about 8 months (or longer—in some instances, up to 20 months) after an application’s due date to receive an award (per the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). 

Q: Why do the processes take that long? 

A: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), as part of NIH, must do our due diligence to fulfill our charge to fund the most meritorious science. So, we take steps to ensure that:

  • We invite experts in the field to conduct a fair, unbiased review of the applications under consideration (this is the first level of review). 
  • The National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health (NACCIH) oversees the first level and provides a second level of review. 
  • We communicate with applicants and their associated grants offices to ensure that any obstacles to a timely award are resolved expediently. 

NCCIH constantly evaluates our processes, including whether we can shorten any timeframes without sacrificing process quality. 

Q: What is expedited concurrence? 

A: NCCIH has recently adopted use of an NIH process called expedited en bloc concurrence (EC) for the NACCIH. “En bloc” means actions that the Council takes on a group of applications, rather than on individual applications, presented for review. EC allows for an accelerated timeline and provides our staff with the opportunity to make awards meeting specific circumstances more quickly. 

Q: How can one qualify for EC? 

A: All grant and cooperative agreement applications (except those from foreign organizations) can qualify if there are no concerns noted in review that could create an administrative bar to award. Within that pool, NCCIH selects and sends through EC those that are considered highly meritorious—i.e., having a score within NCCIH’s published funding zones—and clearly relevant to our mission

Q: What happens during EC? 

A: The power to review applications is delegated to a subgroup of NACCIH members designated to act on behalf of the entire Council. If, by a given deadline, there is electronic or written concurrence by a minimum of two Council members and no votes for nonconcurrence, the application is considered approved by the Council. As soon as the Council executive secretary certifies the review as complete, NCCIH staff can then begin working on potential funding actions. At NCCIH, EC is generally conducted 6 to 8 weeks before the next scheduled Council meeting. 

Q: Do you have any tips for applicants about EC?

A: I recommend aligning your application as well as you can with the NCCIH mission and the focus area of the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO). Read the entire NOFO very carefully (we have noticed that this is not always done). Talk to NCCIH program staff early while you are planning your application. Apply early so you will have time to make any corrections if needed. NCCIH appreciates your interest and every application that we receive!

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