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NCCIH Research Blog

How You Can Help Your Application Move Successfully Through Review: Part I

April 27, 2022

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Activities

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

In the Office of Scientific Review (OSR) at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), we are often asked whether we have any tips on how to create an application that may be more likely to move through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) review process successfully.

We have developed some recommendations over the years. I’ll start with some general ones:

  • It’s extremely important to read and follow all the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), and relevant notices in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often it is not done. 
  • Be sure to submit all the required information, application components, and attachments. One tip: If you do a text search in the FOA for words like “must” or “should,” this will help you recheck what is required to be included. 
  • You will benefit if you submit your application well before the deadline. This allows you the chance and time to address any issues that may arise during the validation processes of and the NIH Center for Scientific Review’s Division of Receipt and Referral. 
  • Read and make sure you are clear on the FOA’s review criteria, which state the elements reviewers will be asked to evaluate. You will need to address these elements in your application.
  • Does your topic or application fall within NCCIH’s areas of scientific interest? It must do so if you want NCCIH to be your funding Institute or Center. If you aren’t sure about the fit, check our strategic plan or contact the NCCIH program director who handles your topic area. 

In Part II, I will discuss how to help your application meet three key requirements assessed by NCCIH in its administrative review: 

  • Completeness
  • Responsiveness
  • Compliance with all requirements outlined in the FOA and in NIH policies (e.g., in Notice Number OD-15-095 on compliance)

We know that submitting an application to NIH can be daunting, especially if you are new to the process. NIH and NCCIH have developed resources to help everyone who applies or is considering it, and OSR staff can help as well. As always, we look forward to your applications.


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