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NCCIH Research Blog

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

June 2, 2022

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.

Martina Schmidt, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Activities

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

In Part I of this blog post, I offered some general tips from the Office of Scientific Review (OSR) at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Here in Part II, I provide some ideas on meeting several major requirements for which applications are administratively reviewed before they enter the larger review process. 

The first requirement is compliance. This is a must, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may withdraw any application identified during the receipt, referral, and review process as noncompliant with instructions outlined in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, and notices in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts

Some examples of noncompliance that we have seen are: 

  • The application does not conform to the required format—e.g., it exceeds stated page limits, or is being submitted as “new” while containing elements of a resubmission or renewal.
  • The proposed budget exceeds the stated limit(s). 
  • “Foreign institutions” are included in the application, but they were excluded in the FOA. (For the definition of “foreign institution,” see Section 1.2 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement.) 

Second, our staff checks for completeness. For example, certain attachments or other information might be requested in the FOA and omitting them would make an application incomplete. 

Third, we check an application for responsiveness to the stated goals of the FOA if you are responding to one of the following three types of opportunities: 

  1. A request for application (RFA). 
  2. A program announcement that (a) has special receipt, referral, and/or review considerations (a PAR) and (b) includes a “nonresponsive criteria” section.
  3. An announcement with set-aside funds (a PAS) that, like number 2 above, includes nonresponsive criteria.

If your opportunity of interest is a PAR or PAS, please see NIH Notice NOT-OD-20-114, which informed the research community of changes in NIH’s handling of these applications. To me, its two major takeaways are for applicants to: (a) examine the areas of scientific interest highlighted by the issuing Institutes, Centers, and/or Offices so they can target/focus their application appropriately, and (2) determine whether the PAR/PAS has a section on “Applications Not Responsive to this FOA.” If that section is included, read all the text carefully.  

We know that submitting an application to NIH can be a daunting process. I encourage you to not be intimidated. You’ll be off to a good start if you:

  • Read all materials and instructions carefully.
  • Find the requirements and decide how you will meet them. 
  • Recheck your work before submission for any oversights, omissions, or errors.
  • Submit early. If any errors are detected, you may have time to submit a corrected application before the deadline. 

We look forward to receiving your application and assisting with any questions you may have. 

For More Information

Grants Process Overview—Learn about the steps required for an application to proceed from planning and submission through to award and closeout. 


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