Grant Application Overview

Navigating the NIH Funding Process

As an introduction, please review the NIH grants website, which:

  • Helps you navigate the overall grants process
  • Gives helpful tips for submitting a successful application
  • Describes the steps required for an application to proceed from planning and submission through to award and closeout.

Note that:

  • Section 5 of every funding announcement describes the review process and states the criteria by which the application will be reviewed
  • Applications from foreign institutions or international organizations will be evaluated and scored during the initial review process using the standard review criteria. 

Understanding Peer Review

The core values of peer review(pdf, 626 KB) drive the NIH to seek the highest level of ethical standards, and form the foundation for the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the NIH peer review process. The NIH dual peer review system is mandated by statute in accordance with section 492 of the Public Health Service Act and federal regulations governing "Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects" (42 CFR Part 52h). NIH policy is intended to promote a process whereby grant applications submitted to the NIH are evaluated on the basis of a process that is fair, equitable, timely, and free of bias.

 The first level of review is carried out by a Scientific Review Group (SRG) composed primarily of non-federal scientists who have expertise in relevant scientific disciplines and current research areas. Initial peer review meetings are administered by either the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or one of the NIH ICs with funding authority as specified in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA). The second level of review is performed by Institute and Center (IC) National Advisory Councils or Boards. Councils are composed of both scientific and public representatives chosen for their expertise, interest, or activity in matters related to health and disease. Only applications that are recommended for approval by both the SRG and the Advisory Council may be recommended for funding.  Final funding decisions are made by the IC Directors.

Learn more about the peer review process

In addition, there are some elements of the grants process that are unique to NINDS.

Application Review by NINDS Scientific Review Branch

Most grant applications are reviewed by the NINDS Scientific Review Branch. The Scientific Review Branch provides unbiased and expert peer review of grant applications and contract proposals, and provides advice and assistance to the NINDS extramural programs.

NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) is one of the NIH components that manage the scientific review groups (SRG) that evaluate investigator-initiated applications. The initial step of the peer review process takes place in SRGs that are managed by the various NIH Institutes and Centers.


Resources and Tools

NINDS's Building Up the Nerve:  NINDS’s podcast, Building Up the Nerve, provides an introduction to the grant cycle from NINDS staff