Applicant Guidance: Next Steps
"Your application was reviewed; what to do next..."
This site provides guidance on what to do after your application has been reviewed. (Visit our Peer Review Process page to learn more about our review process.)
Step 1: Wait for the summary statement to be available through your Commons account, which will include the reviewers’ critiques of your application and numerical scores for each of (at least) five review criteria. Even an application that was Not Discussed at the review meeting will receive a summary statement with critiques and criterion scores from each of the assigned reviewers.
The summary statement is usually available in your eRA Commons account within 30 days of the review of the application. If a month has passed since the review meeting and your summary statement is not available in your account, you may contact the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) listed for the application under the “Status” tab of your Commons account.
Step 2: After reading the summary statement, you may want to discuss the critiques and your options with the Program Officer (PO) assigned to your application.
The PO may be able to provide guidance on the following issues:
The likelihood of NIH funding the application
Further discussion of the reviewers’ comments (the PO may have been present at the review)
Whether to submit a new or resubmission application
What to address in your next submission
The acceptable bases for appealing the peer review process
The contact information for the PO is at the top of the face page of the summary statement. Most POs prefer that you contact them by email and schedule a time for a phone call, giving him/her time to read your summary statement. The PO may receive inquiries from hundreds of applicants, and may not be able to respond to yours immediately. If a reasonable amount of time has passed without a response, first check your commons account in case the assigned PO has changed since the summary statement was released. Then, check the website for the NIH Institute or Center (IC) where your application is assigned, and contact another PO in the same organizational unit (Branch, Division or Center).
Contacting the PO to “sell” your application or to express differences in scientific opinion related to the reviewers’ comments will not affect the likelihood of funding.
Your overall impact score is the average of the 1 to 9 scores of each voting reviewer, times 10. If you receive a numerical score you are probably in the top half of applications reviewed by that section since about half of the applications in a study section typically are discussed and receive an overall impact score (see the website on the Peer Review Process for more information about scoring). Those applications in the lower half do not receive an overall impact score. The critiques of these applications are not discussed at the review meeting, and the summary statement indicates "SRG Action: ++". Although not discussed, they do receive critiques and criterion scores provided by the assigned reviewers. Your application has a primary assignment to one of the NIH ICs, and may have one or more secondary assignments (which means the application could be considered for funding by either IC – see question B.3 for more information regarding primary and secondary IC assignments). Some ICs publish their payline on their website. The payline is the impact score or percentile ranking at which the likelihood of funding goes from high to low. Having a score less than or equal to the payline is a good indication, but not a guarantee of funding; check with the PO indicated on the summary statement. Also, some ICs may skip applications within their payline or reach beyond the payline to fund an application to maintain mission focus, balance portfolios or limit redundancy.
The paylines, which are published by some of the ICs, apply only to the current fiscal year, which includes three cycles, and runs from the beginning of October to the end of September. Most applications reviewed during the summer for cycle I are considered for funding in the following fiscal year. There may be a gap between the beginning of the fiscal year and determination of the payline. So, if you get the score for your application during the summer, there may be a delay of several months before you can determine whether the score is within the payline, and the start of funding for awards made for cycle I may be delayed beyond December. If there is no published payline, the PO may be able to provide information on the likelihood (not a guarantee) of funding.
While all reviewers are instructed to justify their numerical scores with appropriate text, variability exists among reviewers in the extent to which they describe the strengths and weaknesses of the scored criteria.
All applications are reviewed by three (or more) reviewers thus providing you with multiple viewpoints of the scientific merit of your application. All discussed applications also have a resume and summary of the discussion included in the summary statement. Thus, even if one of the critiques provides a relatively scant written justification of a criterion score, there may be sufficient information in the rest of the summary statement for you to make informed decisions about your resubmission. Your PO also can help in interpreting your summary statement and he/she may have listened to or attended the review meeting.
There are several reasons why the overall impact score is not necessarily the arithmetic mean of the scores for the review criteria. Reviewers are instructed to consider each of the review criteria but are not told how to “weigh” them. Other factors may affect the score (e.g. a vertebrate animal or human subjects concern), which should be reflected in the summary statement. Also, the criterion scores are provided by the assigned reviewers prior to the peer review meeting and the overall impact score is obtained following discussion of your application at the meeting, and represents the average score of all voting panel members (often 20-30 scores) multiplied by 10. Following the discussion at the meeting, the assigned reviewers are reminded to revise their critiques and criterion scores to reflect their final impact scores, but don’t always do so, contributing to disconnect between the criterion scores and overall impact score. For more information, see NIH scoring system and procedure.
Generally, your application is likely to be awarded if it receives an impact score or percentile ranking that is less than or equal to the payline of the assigned primary IC. However, some ICs may skip a few applications that are within the payline in order to maintain mission focus, balance portfolios or avoid redundancy in funded projects. You may track an application within your eRA Commons account. If your application has been through Advisory Council review and has been selected for funding by the IC, it will be marked as “To be Paid” in your eRA Commons account. Keep in mind that it may take several months between the initial peer review meeting and when you know with some certainty whether the application will be funded, (see the answer to question A.1 above for more information). Questions about the likelihood of funding and the funding status should be directed to the PO listed on the summary statement.
You may not receive the full requested budget when the application is awarded. ICs take into consideration several factors when determining the amount of the award, including the budget recommendations from the review panel, as indicated in the summary statement, along with the published funding plans of the ICs (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/financial/index.htm#strategies). There may be administrative budget reductions and possible reductions in the number of years of the award, which vary by IC.
This is not common, but under certain circumstances the primary assignment of the application can be changed after initial peer review. If the primary IC does not intend to make an award, the secondary IC can request primary assignment in order to fund the application, if they determine the project to be important to their mission. However, in most cases the secondary IC will not necessarily accept transfer of your application, even if it scored within their payline. Visit the CSR website for more information about the application assignment process.
The availability of the JIT link in the Commons or the receipt of an email JIT request should NOT be construed as an indicator of a possible award. JIT request e-mails are sent automatically to the PI/PD for most grant applications receiving a numerical impact score of 40 or better.
If the score of your application is within the payline, you should gather the relevant information as suggested by the JIT email, upload, and submit it to NIH. You also may be contacted by the grants specialist to collect additional information needed to prepare the award. If your score is beyond the payline, or if your application is assigned to an IC that does not publish a payline, it is not necessary that you submit the JIT until you are contacted by a PO or grants specialist. If you have some indication that your application will be funded, promptly submitting the JIT may speed up the award process. Additional information about JIT can be found at these sites (NOT-OD-101, Just-in-Time, Prepare your JIT).
Sometimes comments by reviewers in your summary statement might seem unfair, or might indicate that the reviewer misunderstood your application. Usually, the best strategy is to diplomatically address all of the reviewers’ comments in the Introduction of your Resubmission application (see question C.5 for more about Introductions).
However, you may appeal the review process if there is evidence of bias or conflict of interest on the part of one or more of the reviewers; lack of appropriate expertise within the study section; and/or factual error(s) made by one or more of the reviewers that could have altered the outcome of the review substantially. A difference in scientific opinion(s) is NOT grounds for appeal.
You should resubmit the application when you can address the weaknesses described in the summary statement. Often, additional preliminary data are needed to address the criticisms. Therefore, you may need to skip a due date or two and plan on including the results from additional experiments. Note that the standard due dates for resubmission applications are often later than those for new applications. An application can be resubmitted up to 37 months after the original application’s due date; after that, it will be considered a new application and should not refer to the previous review. However, as the time increases between the original application and the resubmission, reviewers may expect more preliminary data, as evidence that the investigator is productive and committed to the project. Alternatively, you may discuss with your Program Officer the possibility of submitting a new application rather than a resubmission application.
This issue should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Read the summary statement carefully and note weaknesses that you could address in a reasonable length of time. Discuss the critiques with your collaborators, colleagues, and/or senior researchers/mentors to get their suggestions. Talking to the PO may be helpful, since s/he may be able to interpret the critiques and analyze them with you objectively. The PO also can discuss your options going forward. It is possible for an application that carefully addresses the reviewers’ comments to go from being “not-discussed” to receiving outstanding scores upon resubmission.
Resubmission applications usually are assigned to the same study section and IC as the original application but you can request a change by submitting a cover letter with the resubmission application following the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. It is a good idea to consult with your PO and/or SRO to discuss whether a change would be appropriate.
The Division of Receipt and Referral (DRR) at CSR is responsible for assigning applications to ICs and in some cases to Scientific Review Groups (SRGs). DRR usually accommodates requests if appropriately justified and requested well before the review meeting date, but reserves the right to make the final decision. ICs websites describe mission interest which can help applicants match topics of research to the appropriate funding component. The CSR website provides information regarding the focus of expertise of each of the standing study sections.
You may direct referral questions to the CSR Referral Office (301-435-0715).
The introduction of your resubmission application should address all of the weaknesses described in the summary statement. If you disagree with a reviewer’s statement, explain why, and provide additional information. Avoid responses that could be seen as argumentative. Ask a colleague to read the reviewers’ critiques and your responses prior to resubmission, to confirm that you have addressed the critique in a way that is informative and non-confrontational.
Generally, the introduction is limited to one page unless otherwise specified in the FOA or Table of Page Limits. For example, an exception is made for R25, Ts, Ds and some K applications, to allow a 3 page introduction to the resubmission application.
Identifying individual changes in the text of the specific aims, research strategy and other application attachments is no longer required (NOT-OD-15-030). It is sufficient to outline the changes made to the Resubmission application in the Introduction attachment. The Introduction must include a summary of substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application. It must also include a response to weaknesses raised in the Summary Statement.
For most RFAs that have a single receipt date, all applications will be considered new. Some RFAs have multiple receipt dates and allow resubmission applications to the same RFA (designated with the grant number suffix “A1”). The text of each RFA should clearly state which types of applications are allowed (new, resubmission, renewal, revision). This can be a complicated issue, and it is best to contact the program official listed in the RFA.
If the application is not successful through the RFA and is subsequently submitted to a different RFA or to a program announcement (such as the standard “parent” announcement), then it is considered a new application. If your application was submitted previously to a PA and you want to now submit it to an RFA, it is considered a new application. If you submit a new application to a PA and then submit to an RFA, you can subsequently resubmit to the PA as an A1. For more information on submission following an RFA review, see policy notice NOT-OD-09-100.
In most cases, two or more applications that have scientific overlap in the experiments proposed are not allowed in peer review at the same time, even if one is to an RFA and the other(s) to a PA/PAR/PAS. There are exceptions to this rule. NIH allows subprojects of Program Project Grant applications to be submitted as research applications (R01, R03, R15, R21, etc.) in the same cycle. In most cases, a second application for the same project should not be submitted until after the summary statement for the original submission has been released. See more information on overlapping applications.
Yes, your resubmission application can have a different title than your original application. However, if there is a significant change in the content and scope of the proposed research, it may be best to develop a new application (see NOT-OD-10-080). Consult with your program official for further guidance.
A PD/PI can be added to or removed from the resubmission application. It is best to explain these changes in the introduction of your application. A change of PD/PI also needs to be noted via a checkbox in the application.
Resubmission applications may be submitted for an appropriate due date up to 37 months after the application due date of the initial application. Any application on the same topic that you submit more than 37 months from the initial receipt date is considered a new application; it should not refer to the previous review(s) and must be submitted on the appropriate due date for new applications. (See related policy notice.)