Release Date: May 18, 2015
Category: Scientific Grant Writing
Author: Sonia M., Ph.D., E.L.S.
Your NIH program officer can be a great resource to help guide you through the NIH grant application and funding process. Knowing how your program office can help you, what resources they can provide, and how to best contact your program officer can make the complex NIH application and funding process a little more manageable.
If you do not already know your program officer, there are several ways to find the appropriate program officer for your proposal. The funding opportunity announcement will typically identify a program officer, so if you are applying to a specific RFA or PA, you should contact the program officer listed in that announcement. If you are not applying to a specific RFA or PA, you can search the specific institute’s website to find the program officer in your area. You can also search RePORTER (projectreporter.nih.gov) for similar funding research opportunities and contact the program officer for that grant. Don’t worry if you are unsure exactly who is the correct program officer to contact because if you do not contact the correct person, they will generally refer you to the correct program officer.
It is generally best to contact your program officer by email rather than by phone. This ensures that you do not “miss” them if they are not at their desk and allows the program officer time to thoughtfully consider your question(s) and their response as well as consult with colleagues if necessary. If you are asking specifically about an aspect of your proposed research, the NIH recommends also sending your current Specific Aims draft to provide more information about your project; it is fine to include even a rough draft of the aims because your program officer will not be part of the grant review process, and the grant reviewers will not have any access to correspondence you send to your program officer.
When you email the program officer, make sure that you clearly explain your question and provide your contact phone and email address so that they can return a response. If you haven’t received a response within approximately 1 week, the NIH recommends sending a follow-up email.
There are a few circumstances in which you are required to contact your program officer for approval prior to applying for a grant (i.e., applications requesting more than $500,000 in direct costs per year or conference grants, R13 or U13). However, even if you are not required to contact your program officer for your grant application, they can be a very good source of information.
The following are some examples of the types of information or guidance that your program officer can:
In a very competitive funding environment, any advice or additional information can help improve your chances of funding. While NIH program officers cannot edit or pre-review your grant application, they can provide a wealth of information to ensure your application will be of interest to the committee reviewing it and that you have understood and followed all of the instructions accurately.
For more information, the following websites can provide helpful information:
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