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Pre-Award and Award Process

When NIH awards a grant, we are formalizing our partnership with the recipient to ensure compliance with federal laws, regulations and policies. This protects the integrity of the overall scientific endeavor. This page describes what happens between peer review through award for applicants whose applications have been deemed highly meritorious in the scientific peer review process.

Roles and Responsibilities

Timely and effective communication between the recipient and NIH staff is critical throughout pre-award, award, and post award processes. At this stage the following people will work closely together:

  • Grants Management Officer (GMO): The GMO signs the Notice of Award (NoA) and is the NIH official who is responsible for the business management and other non-programmatic aspects of the award. GMOs ensure that the NIH and recipient staffs fulfill requirements of laws, regulations, and administrative policies.
  • Grants Management Specialist (GMS): The GMS works with the GMO on the day-to-day management of the grant. The name and contact information of the GMS assigned to a particular grant appears on the NoA.
  • Program Official (PO): The PO is responsible for the programmatic, scientific, and/or technical aspects of assigned applications and grants. The PO's responsibilities include, but are not limited to, developing research initiatives and research training programs to meet the Institute/Center's (IC) mission; coordinating with Center for Scientific Review and IC Scientific Review Officers and working in partnership with grants management on post-award administration, including review of progress reports, participation in site visits, and other activities.

A summary of Recipients participants' roles and responsibilities appears below:

  • Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR): The AOR, also known as Signing Official (SO) in the eRA Commons, is the designated representative of the recipient organization in matters related to the award and administration of its NIH grants, including those that require NIH approval. In signing a grant application, this individual certifies that the applicant organization will comply with all applicable assurances and certifications referenced in the application. This individual's signature further certifies that the applicant organization will be accountable both for the appropriate use of funds awarded and for the performance of the grant-supported project or activities resulting from the application.
  • Project Director(s)/ Principal Investigator(s) (PD/PI): The PD/PIs are the individual(s) designated by the applicant organization to have the appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program supported by the award. The applicant organization may designate multiple individuals as PIs who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. Each PI is responsible and accountable to the recipient organization, or as appropriate, to a collaborating organization, for the proper conduct of the project or program, including the submission of all required reports.

The PD/PIs are core members of the recipient team responsible for ensuring compliance with the financial and administrative aspects of the award. These individuals work closely within the recipient organization to create and maintain necessary documentation, such as technical and administrative reports, preparing justifications, appropriately acknowledging federal support of research findings in publications, announcements, news programs, and other media, and ensuring compliance with other federal and organizational requirements.

NIH encourages the PD/PIs to maintain contact with the NIH program officer with respect to the scientific aspects of the project and the grants management officer concerning the business and administrative aspects of the award.

Pre-Award Process - Competing Applications

For most grants, NIH uses the project period system of funding. Under this system, projects undergo peer review and are programmatically approved for support in their entirety (generally for up to 5 years) but are funded in annual increments called budget periods. Applications are considered to be competing the year they undergo peer review. The following budget years in the initial budget period are considered to be non-competing.  

Preliminary Review by the NIH Institute or Center (IC)

Once an application has scored well in peer review and is being considered for funding, the IC reviews the application for a number of other considerations, including alignment with NIH's funding principles, review of the project budget, assessment of the applicant's management systems, determination of applicant eligibility, and compliance with public policy requirements.

In anticipation of an award being made, the applicant may be asked to submit additional information, just in time for award.

Collection of Just in Time (JIT) Information

After NIH releases priority scores, NIH sends an e-mail requesting Just-in-Time (JIT) information for grants within the competitive range for possible funding. This notification, sent to the PD/PI, is NOT a Notice of Award, nor should it be construed as an indicator of possible award. JIT information requested include:

PD/PIs must work with their administrative officials to prepare and submit JIT materials. If questions about the JIT process arise, administrative officials can also gain clarification from the grants management specialist assigned to the grant.

Negotiation of Competing Award

The pre-award process involves significant communication between the NIH and the applicant organization and includes negotiation if significant adjustments are required prior to award. Some of the issues NIH staff will be considering during award negotiations include: 

  • Initial peer review recommendations: Peer reviewers may recommend changes to the specific aims and/or modifications to the requested budget. These recommendations are provided in the summary statement. Under these circumstances, NIH staff will include these recommendations in consideration of a potential award.
  • Overlap: Program and grants management staff will review the other support information to ensure there is no overlap with already funded projects.
  • Level of effort: Program and grants management staff will ensure sufficient levels of effort are committed to support the approved project.
  • Overlap: Program and grants management staff will ensure there is no scientific, budgetary, or commitment overlap.
  • Budget/programmatic modification: NIH may reduce the project's budget if sufficient funds are not available to support the application at 100 percent of the recommended level.
  • Determination of Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs: Grants Management staff will utilize the negotiated F&A costs (also known as indirect costs) for each grant. More information on the reimbursement of F&A costs can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Pre-Award Process - Non-Competing Awards

The pre-award process for non-competing continuation awards is a streamlined version of the process for making competing awards. Recipients submit progress reports at least annually; assessment of these reports must be reviewed by NIH grants management and program staff before award of the next non-competing budget period.  NIH program or grants management staff may request additional information to evaluate the project for continued funding. Failure to provide this information will result in a delayed award. Late, incomplete, or inadequate progress reports may result in a delay of continued support.

Award Process

Following review of all applicable information, the IC will determine whether an award will be made, if special conditions are required, and what level of funding is appropriate.  The score given to an application during the initial peer review process is important, but it is not the sole factor determining an IC’s funding decision. Other considerations are portfolio balance, public health needs, programmatic relevance, IC priorities, requirements specified in congressional appropriations, and availability of funds.

Notice of Award (NoA)

The NoA is the legal document issued to notify the recipient that an award has been made and that funds may be requested from the designated HHS payment system or office. An NoA is issued for the initial budget period. If subsequent budget periods are also approved, the NoA will include a reference to those budgetary commitments. Funding for subsequent budget periods are generally provided in annual increments following the annual assessment of progress. This funding is also contingent on the availability of funds. The NoA includes all applicable terms of award either by reference or specific statements. It provides contact information for the assigned program officer and grants management specialist.

The NoA is accessible to authorized users in eRA Commons - see View Notice of Award Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer.

Accepting the Award

The recipient accepts an NIH award and its associated terms and conditions by drawing or requesting funds from the Payment Management System Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer, or upon the endorsement of a check from the US Treasury for foreign awardees.

Compliance with Terms and Conditions of Award

An NoA includes two sections (Sections III & IV) where terms of award are described.

Section III of awards lists standard terms such as:

  • Grant program legislation and program regulation cited in this NoA.
  • Restrictions on the expenditure of federal funds in appropriation acts, to the extent those restrictions are pertinent to the award.
  • Code of Federal Regulations/Regulatory Requirements - 45 CFR Part 74 Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer or 45 CFR Part 92 Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer as applicable.
  • The National Institutes of Health Grants Policy Statement (NIHGPS) in effect at the beginning date of the budget period.
  • The award notice including any special terms and conditions…."
  • A reference to carryover authority when applicable
  • A reference to inclusion or exclusion to SNAP as applicable
  • A reference on the treatment of Program Income
  • A reference to participation in the Federal Demonstration Partnership as applicable.

The NIH Grants Policy Statement, NIHGPS, as a term and condition for all awards contains the legally binding requirements for all grant recipients (See Part II Terms of Award).

Section IV of awards contains Special Terms and Conditions specific to the particular NIH Institute/Center and/or specific to the particular grant. It is important that you pay careful attention to the terms and conditions of an award, particularly any specific to the grant. Unless these terms are carefully reviewed and addressed, recipients may unknowingly violate the terms and conditions of the award. In those cases, NIH may place a restriction on the award, institute special monitoring procedures, or potentially terminate an award.