Notice of NIH Special Council Review of Research Applications from PDs/PIs with More than $1.0 Million Direct Costs in Annual NIH Support

Notice Number: NOT-OD-12-140

Key Dates
Release Date: August 20, 2012

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

This Notice announces a new Special Council Review (SCR) policy to help NIH effectively manage resources. The policy will require NIH Institute and Center (IC) Advisory Councils to perform additional review of grant and cooperative agreement applications from Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) [PD(s)/PI(s)] who receive $1.0 million per year in direct costs from active NIH awards. This policy does not represent a cap on NIH funding.


During May 2012, NIH IC Advisory Council meetings piloted Special Council Review procedures to provide additional review of grant and cooperative agreement applications from PD(s)/PI(s) who receive $1.5 million per year in total costs to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators. NIH piloted the SCR procedure and further refined the policy based on the feedback received from this pilot. The main change from the pilot is that the threshold was changed from $1.5 million total costs to $1.0 million direct costs from active NIH awards.


In September 2012, NIH will be implementing a general policy whereby Advisory Council members will provide additional consideration of new and renewal applications from well-supported investigators who currently receive $1 million or more in direct costs of NIH funding to support Research Project Grants (RPG). RPG for the purposes of this policy is defined as: R00, R01, R03, R15, R18, R21, R22, R23, R29, R33, R34, R35, R36, R37, R55, R56, RC1, RC2, RC3, RC4, RL1, RL2, P01, P42, UA5, UC1, UC2, UC4, UH2, UH3, UM1, U01, U19, U34, DP1, DP2, DP3, DP4, and DP5. These RPGs are generally investigator-initiated research projects rather than NIH’s other grant programs which include support for investigator training and development and center grants. 

In addition to the common R01 grant program, grants which contribute to the threshold include consortium/subaward costs, some 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.  Multi-PD/PI projects are also proportionally included in determining the $1 million threshold for a specific PD/PI. Finally, competitive revisions are included in determining the threshold.

Some RPG applications pending Council review will not require SCR.   These exclusions include:

This policy recognizes the need to provide flexibility so that IC-specific variations may be developed in consultation with individual Councils. Council members will receive a list of competing applications that will be considered for funding from PD/PIs that meet 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 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 applications, Council 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 recommendations also will 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 more targeted than other RPGs and so may not be appropriate for SCR. 

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