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NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications

Notice Number: NOT-OD-05-030

Update: The following updates relating to this announcement have been issued:

Key Dates
Release Date: January 27, 2005

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH), (


NIH expects that grant applications will be submitted on time. The standing dates are listed in the application kits and at: These are submission or postmark dates; applications are on time if they are sent on these dates. When these dates fall on a weekend or holiday, they are extended to the next business day. However, Requests for Applications (RFAs) and Program Announcements with Special Referral Considerations (PARs) with special receipt dates applications must be received on the dates designated in the announcement to be on time. This is clearly noted in website above and in the text of each RFA/PAR.

The long standing NIH policy on late applications is stated in the PHS 398 and 416 application instructions. Late applications are generally not accepted. Permission for a late submission is not granted in advance. In rare cases, late applications will be accepted but only when accompanied by a cover letter that details compelling reasons for the delay. While the reasons are sometimes personal in nature, an objective evaluation of their merit requires that some details be provided. It is not sufficient, for example, to state simply that there has been an unforeseen circumstance that delayed submission. Specific information about the timing and nature of the cause of the delay is necessary so that a decision can be made. Only the explanatory letter is needed; no other documentation is expected.

NIH will consider accepting late applications based on the acceptability of the explanation and the processing time required for two different kinds of submission dates:

The windows of time for consideration of late applications have been carefully chosen so that the late applications can catch up with and be processed with the cohort of on-time applications. In all cases, when the regular standing submission date or expedited submission date falls on a weekend or federal holiday and is extended to the next business day, the window of consideration for late applications will be two weeks after that business day.

NIH will not consider accepting late applications for the Special Receipt Dates for RFAs and PARs.

NIH will consider all late applications received within the window of time specified above but will not automatically accept all of them. The reasons for the delay will be carefully considered by the Division of Receipt and Referral at the Center for Scientific review and a decision made. Applications submitted within the window with reasons that are not found to be acceptable will be returned without review. NIH does not expect to accept any applications received beyond the window of consideration.

In the past, late applications have been accepted for reasons such as: death of an immediate family member of the principal investigator, sudden acute severe illness of the principal investigator or immediate family member, or large scale natural disasters. Recent service on an NIH review group that could reasonably be expected to require a time commitment that could have been used to prepare an application is also an allowable reason. Note this does not apply to non-NIH review activities. Examples of reasons that have not led to the acceptance of a late application are: heavy teaching or administrative responsibilities, relocation of laboratory, health problems or personal events for participants other than the principal investigator, attendance at scientific meetings, or having a very busy schedule.

It is important to emphasize that these various examples are just that, examples. No NIH staff member whether in the Center for Scientific Review or any of the other Institutes/Centers has the authority to give permission in advance for a late application. Contacting the Division of Receipt and Referral or any other component of the NIH will not lead to either permission to submit late or an evaluation of the acceptability of the reasons for a delay.

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