Notice of NIH Piloting of Procedures for Special Council Review of Research Applications from PD(s)/PI(s) with More than $1.5 Million Total Annual NIH Support

Notice Number: NOT-OD-12-110

Key Dates
Release Date: May 18, 2012

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)


This Notice announces NIH’s intent to pilot procedures for investigator-initiated grants and cooperative agreements in consideration of managing resources during austere times. During May 2012 NIH Institute and Center (IC) Advisory Council meetings, Councils will discuss and pilot-test procedures for the additional review of grant and cooperative agreement applications from Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) [PD(s)/PI(s)] who already receive in excess of $1.5 million per year in total costs to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators. The feedback from this pilot will help NIH further refine policies for managing limited grant resources.


In October 2011, NIH launched a dialogue with the research community about various ways of managing NIH resources in austere times. This pilot is a result of the consideration of various funding scenarios. 

It is important to note that the Special Council Review does not represent a cap on total NIH funding for any one investigator. NIH recognizes that some of the most productive investigators are leading significant research teams and programs that may require over $1.5 million/year of NIH awards to be sustained. NIH also recognizes that some types of research, for example large complex clinical trials, may commonly trigger this review but may also be recommended for funding.

General Overview of Special Council Review (SCR) Procedures:
During the current round of May IC Council meetings, NIH will be piloting the procedures whereby Council members will be asked to provide additional consideration of new and renewal applications from well-supported investigators who currently receive more than $1.5 million in Research Project Grants (RPGs). These RPGs are generally investigator-initiated research projects rather than NIH’s other grant programs which include support for investigator training and career development and center grants.  In addition to the common R01 grant program, the RPG level includes cooperative agreements (example: U01) and subproject costs where an investigator is a sub-project leader on a Program Project Grant (P01) or other multi-project RPG award.  Multiple PD/PI projects are also proportionally included in determining the $1.5 million level for a specific PD/PI.

Some RPG applications will not require SCR.  These exclusions include applications in response to Requests for Applications (RFA), which use a single round of competition to address a targeted research objective of IC(s) and are separately considered for funding.   P01s and other multi-project RPGs will generally not require SCR unless all of the PD/PIs and sub-project leaders are at or above the $1.5M level. Multiple PD/PI projects will also not require SCR unless all of the PDs/PIs are above $1.5 million.

IC Council members will receive a list of all applications under consideration for award from PDs/PIs above the SCR threshold along with a justification of the IC’s recommendation to consider for funding or not consider for funding. In assessing these applications, Council members will be asked to recommend consideration of funding for applications that afford a unique opportunity to advance research which is both highly promising and distinct from the other funded projects from the PD/PI.

When applied to renewal (Type 2) applications, Council members may also assess the value of continuing a productive project and the contribution of this project to the research program of the PD/PI and his/her ongoing collaborations.  These considerations will also recognize that some types of research require higher levels of support than others (e.g., clinical trials and population sciences) and that some RPG mechanisms are used for purposes which are targeted to specific areas of need and so may not be appropriate for SCR. 

Additional details and a list of frequently asked questions related to these procedures will be provided if NIH determines it will issue and fully implement the SCR policy.


Questions about this Notice should be directed to:

Grants Information
Office of Extramural Research
National Institutes of Health
Phone: 301.451.0088
TTY: 301.451.0088

Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices

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