NINDS Funding Strategy Fiscal Year 2021


The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

Budget Information

NINDS supports and conducts research on the normal and diseased nervous system, which also includes the training of neuroscience investigators. Approximately 90% of the overall budget of NINDS is used to fund extramural research through a variety of funding mechanisms. Each year, NINDS establishes a funding strategy based on the appropriations received from Congress that communicates our final budget, percentile payline, and new and ongoing grant funding policies.

On December 27, 2020, Congress authorized H.R. 133 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, resulting in a full year appropriation for NINDS and NIH.  

Learn more about new policies in the NINDS Funding Strategy for fiscal year 2021 (FY21). The policies outlined in this strategy are for this fiscal year, unless otherwise stated.

Congress directs the investment of NINDS funds along the following lines, with specific appropriations set for BRAIN, 21st Century Cures, and HEAL:
















21st Century Cures










Total NINDS Appropriation





Note: “FY” stands for fiscal year. Dollars are in thousands.

In developing this Funding Strategy, NINDS consulted with the NINDS Advisory Council to carefully consider how to achieve the institute’s mission while balancing its multiple priorities. The institute established general guidelines for funding, allowing for necessary adjustments throughout the year to reflect directives from Congress and the NIH, as well as emerging program priorities.

For an example of past expenditures, see this graph of FY19 Total Extramural Research Expenditures.

The policies outlined in this strategy are for the current fiscal year, unless otherwise noted, and represent the NINDS plans for FY21.

Competing Applications

The table below describes the paylines for different categories of competing applications (i.e. new and renewal). The paylines apply to the following types of  investigator-initiated applications: R01, R03, R15, and R21. Applications with scores within these paylines will be funded with rare, NANDS Council-approved exceptions.


General Pay Line

All Investigators


Early Stage Investigators (ESIs)*

25% (only R01s)

* Note: For an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) submitting Multi-PI Applications, all PIs on the application must be ESIs to receive the payline advantage.

In addition, Alzheimer's disease and Alzheimer's disease related dementia (AD/ADRD) applications submitted via the parent R01 or the NINDS R21 funding opportunity announcement will share an extended payline with NIA as described in the NIA Funding Strategy.

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) (Public Law 111-375) is intended to stimulate scientific research to develop effective therapies to treat or prevent AD/ADRD. The ADRDs include frontotemporal, Lewy body, vascular, and mixed dementias. In FY21, NIH received $300 million in additional appropriations targeted for AD/ADRD research. For more information on research on AD/ADRD visit the NINDS Focus on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias page.

When NINDS receives a budget from Congress, only a portion of that appropriation is available to support new grant awards.  As grants are typically awarded for four or five years, much of the money received is used to support outyear commitments that NINDS has made to grants awarded in preceding years.  NINDS is committed to supporting investigator-initiated research and prioritizes maintaining its payline. However, the payline is under pressure due to:

  • An increase in the number of applications we have been receiving
  • A significant increase in the size of budget requests
  • Limited growth in the NINDS budget to accommodate the first two factors. 

 Click here to see how the payline tracks with success rate in recent years.

  • We fund applications beyond the payline (select pay) to ensure the health of the neuroscience research community as a whole and to advance our mission to seek fundamental knowledge about the nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of illness due to neurological disorders for all people.
  • We rely on peer review assessment of the scientific merit and have an Institute process that examines applications within the select pay zone, approximately 10 points of the payline.
  • Select pay applications must be approved by Council and the IC Director and are dependent upon the availability of funds in a given year.
  • This policy enables NINDS to support a small number of meritorious investigator-initiated applications that do not meet the Institute payline, but are of high quality and focused either on topics of high general programmatic significance and/or meet the holistic goals for the Institute as outlined in the NINDS Strategic Plan.(pdf, 1134 KB)

To advance our mission NINDS supports a scientifically vibrant and diverse research workforce, which includes individuals from different career stages with a broad range of skills, perspectives, and backgrounds. To this end, we support:

  • Applications that bring diverse perspectives to excellent science (either tools or skills to the neuroscience community)
  • Early stage investigators (within 10 years of terminal degree) to at least equalize their R01 success rates with those of established investigators
  • Bridge awards to investigators without significant other lab support to sustain an outstanding research program and prevent the loss of unique resources/infrastructure

Criteria for considering select pay:

  • Investigator has a track record of doing rigorous research
  • Project is responsive to an important scientific opportunity or gap
  • Project addresses an important public health need
  • Project brings needed inclusive excellence to a research environment by enhancing the contributions of underrepresented groups to neuroscience and science leadership
  • Project is aligned with specific NINDS strategic objectives or legislative/executive priorities
  • Project brings an outstanding investigator into a new research area
  • Project has potentially high impact and offers an exceptional chance to elevate a field of neuroscience within the NINDS mission

When an application is funded, NIH agrees to provide funds over several years (for example, the typical NINDS R01 award is funded for five years).  Therefore, investigators request payment for the next budget period (usually, every year), but these requests do not compete with other applications. NINDS will pay FY21 non-competing continuation awards at their full committed level as shown in the Notice of Award and will restore any cuts made in non-competing awards paid earlier in this fiscal year.

Policies that apply to competing applications

Modular applications

As noted in NOT-NS-21-053, all competing applications approved beginning with the 2020 September/October Council meeting will be funded in accordance with the NINDS FY20 funding strategy with one important exception: NINDS will no longer apply administrative cuts to modular awards issued after the September 2020 NANDSC meeting. NINDS recognizes that while the modular budgetary cap of $250K in direct costs has not increased since the program began in 1999, the cost of doing research has increased significantly. In January 2020, NINDS reduced the administrative cuts on modular grants from 12.5% to 6%, and beginning with FY21, modular grants will not receive any automatic reduction from the Council-recommended direct cost levels.

Non-modular applications

NINDS is continuing its longstanding policy of applying competing administrative reductions of 17.5% to non-modular R01s applied to IRG and NANDS Council budget recommendations. Investigators and recipient organizations should carefully consider this NIH guidance when developing budgets (see for R01 submissions. Cuts are not applied to other activity codes, to R01s with Direct Cost budgets below the modular cap, or to R01s funded via select special programs (e.g. AD/ADRD, BRAIN, HEAL, AIDS, COUNTERACT). 

In accordance with the NIA Funding Strategy for AD/ADRD research, NINDS is awarding the study-section recommended amount of support for AD/ADRD applications within the Alzheimer's allocation but with adjustments as deemed appropriate by staff.

In September 2012, NIH implemented a general policy whereby Advisory Council members were instructed to provide additional consideration of new and renewal applications from investigators who receive $1 million or more in direct costs of NIH funding to support Research Project Grants (RPGs).  In 2019, NINDS adopted an update to this policy which requires investigators with more than $1M DC in NIH funding (inclusive of their pending applications) to obtain percentile scores of half the current payline (i.e.7%ile  for FY21).

Inflationary increases for future year commitments for competing and non-competing research grant awards issued in FY 2021 are not permitted.

Additional Funding Policy Information

NINDS allocates limited resources to support administrative supplements. These awards provide additional funds to an existing grant to pay for activities within the scope of the grant that were unforeseen when the new or renewal application was submitted. In addition, NINDS uses supplemental funds to provide immediate short-term support in response to natural disasters or national health emergencies and for other high priority topics, including:

    • Diversity supplements are funds added to an existing grant to increase the participation of scientists from underrepresented groups in biomedical research
    • Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship is a competitive supplement awarded annually to support outstanding mentors in their efforts in advancing the careers of students and postdoctoral fellows in their laboratories

Please note that NIH now requires that all supplement applications be submitted electronically. 

NIH will support research projects with large budgets when appropriate but needs to consider such awards as early as possible in the budget and program planning process. Therefore, applicants must obtain permission from NINDS program staff before submitting any application requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs (for any year) at least six weeks prior to submission. (For more information, see NOT-OD-02-004.) Investigators with clinical research applications over $1,000,000 must contact NINDS staff at least three months prior to the next submission deadline.