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Frequently Asked Questions about NINDS Research Funding


Application Review

  1.   Which Review Group in CSR will review my application?

    All applications are assigned to a scientific review group (SRG) by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). The CSR referral officer will assign the application to one primary and one or more secondary Institutes or Centers (IC) and to one SRG based on NIH referral guidelines.

    Applicants have the right to request primary and secondary assignments in the cover letter which accompanies the application. Information on which scientific areas are covered by the various SRGs is available on the web at Program staff is available for further assistance.
  2.   What can I do if I do not agree with the review of my application?

    NINDS has an established appeals process for applicants who feel that some aspect of the handling or initial review of their grant applications has been inappropriate. The process is triggered when an applicant submits a letter detailing specific concerns about the review of his or her application to the institute/center program director. Detailed information regarding this process can be found in the NINDS Grant Appeals.

    It should be noted that differences of scientific opinion that may occur between investigators and reviewers may not be contested through these procedures. In addition, communications from investigators consisting of additional information that was not available to the reviewers are not considered to be appeals. Finally, appeals of receipt and referral issues regarding applications not yet reviewed should be directed to the Referral Office in the Center for Scientific Review.
  3.   What is the NIH resubmission policy?

    The NIH policy on resubmissions changed several times during 2011 and 2012. The authoritative source of policy on submissions and receipt dates is found at:



NINDS Areas of Research

  1.   What are the resources for learning about the topics in neuroscience research in which NINDS has an interest?

    The mission of the NINDS is to reduce the burden of neurological disease - a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world. The Institute works to achieve this goal by supporting studies in the areas of:

    • Neurodegenerative disorders over the entire life span from birth to the last years of life;
    • The use of molecular genetics to understand neurological disorders, to define healthy function, and to develop better treatments;
    • Information transfer within the brain and how the central nervous system communicates with all other major organ systems;
    • Brain mechanisms underlying higher mental functions and complex behaviors;
    • Repair and regeneration in the mature nervous system;
    • Mechanisms by which non-neuronal cells in the nervous system maintain the delicately balanced neural environment;
    • Clinical trials to develop more effective therapies and prevention strategies; and by sponsoring training programs that
    • Building the foundations for the neuroscience enterprise of the future; and
    • Exploiting the unique environment of the NIH intramural program to create a model collaborative neuroscience community

    The NIH Guide has Program Announcements (PA/PAR/PAS) Requests for Applications (RFA) and Requests for Proposals (RFP) which describe, with more specificity, areas of interest to the Institutes of NIH. Additionally, Program staff of NINDS are always available to speak with investigators, and, in fact, such contacts are encouraged before and during the preparation of an application. In addition to information about the application process and strategies to consider in preparing an application, program staff can provide feedback on the relative "fit" between the proposed research and the program interests of the institute. To determine which Program Director at NINDS has a specialty in your area of interest, review the Program Clusters found on the NINDS homepage.

  2.   What are the differences among a Program Announcement, a Request for Applications, and a Request for Proposals?

    A Program Announcement (PA) is a formal expression of an institute's ongoing interest in funding a particular area of science. PAs define areas that an institute is particularly interested in funding. Applications for grant support may cite a PA, but this is not necessary. A Request for Applications (RFA) solicits applications on a specific topic. A receipt date is specified, and the applications submitted in response to the RFA are reviewed and considered together as a group competing for set-aside funds. The application must cite the RFA to be considered with that group. A Request for Proposals (RFP) solicits contract offerors to come in with their bids and proposals. PAs, RFAs, and RFPs are published in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts.




  1.   Will I receive an award?

    Several factors come into play when NIH institutes and centers (IC) decide which applications to fund. Paramount among them is an application's percentile ranking derived from its priority score, the outcome of peer review. In addition, an IC considers the relevance of the proposed project to its mission and the availability of funds. NINDS sets a payline as a funding cut-off point. All applications with percentiles above this payline are funded, and those with worse percentiles are not funded or deferred for funding until later in the fiscal year. A small number of additional grants are funded through the High Program Priority process. Included with the Summary Statement sent to applicants after the Initial Review is a letter from the Program Director indicating the likelihood of funding.

  2.   What is a "pay line"?

    The payline is a percentile-based funding cutoff point determined at the beginning of the fiscal year by balancing the projected number of applications coming to NINDS with the amount of funds available. Guided by annual budget appropriation, NINDS creates the payline each year as a budgeting tool based on the projected number of grants to be funded within the limitations of our budget. To establish paylines, institutes use an NIH formula and historical data . As the year progresses, NINDS budget staff may change the payline, as the actual amount of funds available becomes better known. If the payline changes during the fiscal year, the change is effective retroactively to all preceding Council rounds. See NINDS funding strategy for current information on NINDS paylines.

  3.   What is the High Program Priority Process?

    The High Program Priority Process is the mechanism used to pay some grants that fall below the automatic payline that have high program relevance. Program staff and Council members are invited to select a small number of grants for each Council round based on: (1) program balance, (2) creativity and innovation, (3) funds already invested, and (4) support for new investigators. All nominations for HPP must be approved by Council in order to be considered for funding. After Council, a panel of NINDS staff selects applications for funding from this approved group, based on monies available.

  4.   Why was my grant reduced to four years, since I have such a high priority score?

    There is a legislative mandate for NIH to fund grants for an average of four years. NINDS calculates the average length of research project grants awarded at each Council and makes adjustments to reach the average length of four years. The Institute will reduce some research project grants recommended for five years to four years. Many factors are considered in making these reductions, including priority score.

  5.   What is a "negotiated reduction"?

    The primary purpose of negotiating an award is to establish the appropriate funding level, resolve identified problems, and agree on specialized terms and conditions of award, if needed. After funding decisions are made and pay lists are developed, NINDS program directors complete their review of each application selected for funding. As a result of this review, program directors may contact applicants to request additional or updated information regarding the applicant's other sources of support or overlap with other projects. Based on an analysis of this information, and after discussions with the project's principal investigator, the Program Director may decide to offer less than the recommended level of funding for an application. As part of its cost management plan, NINDS may have to reduce some awards below an otherwise optimal level to achieve the desired balance between funds available and number of grants that can be awarded. See NINDS funding strategy for additional information.

  6.   As a researcher at an institution outside of the United States, where can I find out about the types of grants I'm eligible for?

    In general, foreign institutions and international organizations, including public or private non-profit or for-profit organizations, are eligible to receive research project grants from NINDS. Foreign institutions and international organizations are not eligible to receive Institutional National Research Service Awards, program project grants, center grants, resource grants, SBIR/STTR grants, or construction grants. For complete information, see NINDS Grants Information for Non-U.S. Scientists and U.S. Scientists at Foreign Institutions.



Clinical Trials

  1.   What is the difference between a pilot clinical trials grant and a clinical trials planning grant?

    The NINDS is committed to identifying effective treatments for neurological disorders by supporting well-executed clinical trials. NINDS supports both pilot clinical trials and clinical trials planning grants. The purpose of the NINDS Pilot Clinical Trial Grant For Neurological Disease is to obtain preliminary data and conduct studies to support the rationale for a subsequent full-scale clinical trial. The NINDS Clinical Trial Planning Grant allows for early peer review of the rationale and design for clinical trials of treatments for neurological disorders and provides support for the development of a detailed clinical trial research plan, including a complete manual of operations and procedures.




  1.   What is an SBIR Fast Track Award?

    Fast track grants are when Phase I and Phase II applications are submitted and reviewed concurrently. The Phase I is identified as a 1 R44, Phase II a 4 R44. If awarded, the Phase I will not show future year commitments. To be eligible for fast-track funding, the applicant must submit both a Commitment Appendix (showing committed funds and/or resources for the commercialization of the product) and a Product Development Plan (concisely providing information about the company, funding history, commercialization, product value, target dates, milestones, market analysis, and patent status).

  2.   Can a firm go directly to a Phase II award without having to compete for a Phase I?

    No. The results of a Phase I are a determining factor in deciding whether there will be a Phase II award.

  3.   How do I determine eligibility of the single, "partnering" Research institution on an STTR?

    Pull the current form 398 for the research institution and check items 10 and 11 on the face page to see how the institution identifies itself. All U.S. nonprofit research institutions, including nonprofit medical and surgical hospitals, are eligible. Also eligible are "federally funded research and Development centers" found at However, laboratories staffed by federal employees are not eligible. Also, the Grants Management Worksheet for each (IMPACII, GM Reports) has the category "KIND OF ORGANIZATION" which appears in the far left column of the GM report. This section provides a narrative description (rather than numeric value as on the PHS 398) of the kind of organization.


Last Modified August 22, 2012