Preparing Proposals for National Institutes of Health (NIH)


  1. What the NIH funds
  2. How to find funding opportunities
  3. Research award types
  4. Preparing NIH proposals
  5. Tips & reference materials
  6. NIH reporting

What the NIH funds

Basic, applied and translational research about:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Environmental health
  • Health disparities
  • Substance abuse
  • Communication disorders
  • Nursing
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and aging
  • Child health and human development

How to find funding opportunities

  • Search or browse all current funding opportunities.
  • New Announcements This Week and lists from past weeks.
  • Subscribe to funding announcements via e-mailRSS, or twitter.
  • About 80% of NIH grants are investigator-initiated, meaning that the PI submits a proposal after talking with a program officer, rather than submitting a proposal in response to a specific request for applications (RFA). Contact if you would like to know more about how to send an investigator-initiated application.
  • Appalachian State PIs are eligible to apply for Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA R15), special grants for smaller institutions. AREA proposals have a higher success rate than most other NIH research grants, and AREA applicants compete only against applicants from other small institutions.

Research award types

Each grant announcement includes an Activity Code; these codes stand for different types of grants. R15, R03 or R21 are the research grants most likely to be pursued by smaller institutions like Appalachian:

  • R15: The Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA R15) is designed for universities that receive little NIH funding. Each AREA-funded project is limited to $300,000 in direct costs. Almost all NIH institutes and centers support R15 awards.
  • R03: The NIH Small Grant Program funds short-term works such as pilot studies, feasibility studies, secondary analysis of existing data, development of new technology. These grants are usually limited to two years of funding and direct costs of <$50,000 per year.
  • R21: The NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Awards support early, conceptual stages of project development for exploratory, novel, or high risk/high reward studies. Projects are limited to two years and $275,000 in direct costs. No preliminary data is required in this mechanism.

Preparing NIH Proposals

Deadline Table

The table shows standard due dates for competing applications (note that all AIDS and AIDS-related applications share the same deadlines regardless of activity code).

Parent Packages

Electronic grant applications must be submitted in response to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), and new packages are provided with each new FOA. NIH has developed standard Parent announcements, however, for use by applicants who wish to submit what were formerly termed investigator-initiated or 'unsolicited' applications. Apply using the electronic application package for your chosen mechanism listed in the table at the link above.

New feature - NIH Parent Application Packages: Find application packages pre-populated with Appalachian's institutional data for the following Parent announcements: R01R03R15, and R21 (PDF).

You may also find the following NIH Regional Seminar presentation helpful: "Interacting Electronically with NIH" (PDF, ASU login required).

Page Limits

The standard page limits for most activity codes (award mechanism, i.e., R15 or R01) are listed at the link above. Please note the instructions contained in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) always supersede these standard page limits; therefore, be sure to check the FOA for exceptions.

PHS SF424 (R&R) Application Guide for Adobe Forms Version C Series (PDF)

You may also find the following NIH Regional Seminar presentation helpful: "Budget Building Blocks for Investigators" (ASU login required).

Conflict of Interest (COI)

The National Research Council (NRC) has published a lits of agencies that have officially adopted the Public Health Service (PHS) regulations of the Final Rule on COI in their award terms. The list can be found on the NRC webpage at:

You may also find the following NIH Regional Seminar presentation helpful: "Financial Conflict of Interest" (PDF, ASU login required).

Tips & Reference Materials

NIH Reporting 

  • Reporting for Multi-Year Funded (MYF) awards
    • To prepare a report, please click
    • To submit an MYF progress report, you must:
      • Log into eRA Commons
      • Click on "Status" in the top blue navigations bar.
      • Select the link, "List of Applications/Grants."
      • Find your award number.
      • Click on the "MYPR" hyperlink.
      • Upload a PDF copy of the progress report.
      • Forward to your institution's Signing Official (SO) in Sponsored Programs.
    • The SO then logs into the eRA Commons and forwards the report to NIH.
  • Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR):