About Funding Gaps

About Funding Gaps

Avoiding a Funding Gap

As long as you have accomplished enough to build a strong case for renewing your grant, apply early. That way, you have time to revise and resubmit without risking an interruption in funding.

If your renewal application succeeds, NIH will time your renewal to begin when your current grant ends.

Apply for Another R01

Keep trying for other R01s. Having multiple grants active at the same time means you can sustain your lab even if you lose one grant.

Most funded projects generate unexpected findings in the course of pursuing funded aims that can form the basis of a distinctly new project.

As long as your applications are scientifically distinct from your funded research, pursue as many applications as your time, preliminary data, and resources allow.

Give Yourself Multiple Streams of Funding Heading

Consider three other ways to get NIH funding.

Spin off your research into a small grant (R03) or an exploratory/developmental grant (R21) while you're working on your current grant. These two-year awards will keep money flowing into your lab to pursue new research or gather preliminary data for an R01 application.

An R03 is ideal for pilot projects, secondary analyses of data you've generated, and/or developing new research methods or technology.

An R21 is designed for exploratory and innovative research, but many investigators find success using them to pursue one or two Specific Aims from an unsuccessful R01 application.

Contract with NIH. NIH needs a variety of technologies, research materials, and services to carry out its activities, such as running intramural labs and clinical trials and providing data, reagents, and other benefits to the public. It has to buy from somebody—and that somebody could be you.

Search for "National Institutes of Health" on FedBizOpps https://www.fbo.gov for a list of NIH's open solicitations. If your lab can fill any of those needs, submit a proposal in response to one of those solicitations.

You will probably compete with biotech companies and small businesses, but don't let that discourage you. NIH reviews all proposals according to the evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation—meaning as long as you demonstrate you can meet the requirements of the solicitation, you stand a chance of being selected.

Collaborate. You can get NIH funding through different types of collaborations.

  1. Respond to a request for applications (RFAs) issued by an NIH institute or center. These RFAs often provide support for specific research areas in the form of cooperative agreements. While you would be working more closely with NIH program staff during the course of the project, as compared to an R01 grant, you will get funding for a research partnership that meets an NIH priority.

    How do you find cooperative agreement opportunities? Look for RFAs that carry activity codes containing a "U" (e.g., U01, U19, UH2) on your institutes Funding Opportunities List and the NIH Guide.
  2. Lead one component or core of a multiproject application, e.g., a program project (P01). You wouldn't be a PI, but you would be responsible for conducting meaningful research.
  3. Seek supplemental funding to join another researcher's project. If you have a pilot study or a small project that dovetails with another PI's research, talk to that PI about requesting supplemental funding to incorporate your work into his or her grant.

    For projects that fit within the scope of your collaborator's grant aims, have your collaborator request an administrative supplement. He or she can do this any time of year, though there will be some institute-specific requirements your collaborator will have to meet. For example, your collaborator's grant cannot be in its first or last year of award.

    For projects that expand the scope of your collaborator's grant, wait for an opportunity for your collaborator to apply for a revision of his or her aims through a funding opportunity announcement that targets your area of research.
  4. Consult for other scientists, especially NIH-funded PIs.

    NIH-funded PIs frequently include consultants in their grant proposals, who are paid to contribute a certain amount of effort to the project in exchange for the specialized expertise they provide. Consider lending your time and expertise to somebody else's research.

    Seek out other researchers within your institution, at conferences, and through publications, and formalize these consulting relationships with letters of collaboration.

    Check with your institution's business office about whether it has rules or restrictions about consulting for other PIs. NIH will pay for consultants if they're budgeted in the application and do not have a substantive role (e.g., performing experiments).

Losing Your NIH Funding: How to Survive a Gap

If You Lose Funding, You Have Options

If NIH is your sole source of funding, losing your grant is devastating. This may mean laying off staff, taking a pay cut, or shutting down your lab.

Before having to take those painful steps, consider some other options.

Find institutional support. Talk to your department chair and business office about whether your institution has options to help you through a lapse in funding.

Support eligible doctoral students and postdocs using NIH training (T), career development (K), and fellowship (F) grants. If you can get support for these junior researchers using training and career development grants, do it.

Submit your unfunded renewal as a "new" application. Identify the parts of your previous proposal that are still relevant and can move the field forward, and improve your previous application as much as possible. When you apply, check "new" application and avoid any mention of previous attempts.

Find non-government funding sources. Look for nonprofits, endowments, and foundations that support scientific research. Though only a few organizations can match NIH in scope, duration, and amount of support, you may be able to get some money to continue your research while you try for another NIH grant. Institutional Advancement provides a list of Foundations and Other Funding Sources on this website that offer nonfederal funding opportunities, presented as upcoming monthly due dates. Establish contacts and connections to get more advice and direction from people who have a good perspective on what these organizations, and NIH, are looking for.

Understand Potential Consequences of the Suggestions Provided Above

As a few of these suggestions come with qualifiers.

Take heed before leading a component or core of a multiproject application. When you apply for a multiproject grant, your goals, methods, and aims must sync well with other projects, remain synced for the duration of your grant, and demonstrate synergy.

Too often, PIs submit separate projects on a high-level shared theme (e.g., inflammation). Reviewers will score your application poorly if they don't see how your combined projects would make a bigger impact than each project alone.

Be mindful of effort commitments. Remember as you balance multiple avenues for funding that your effort level cannot exceed 100 percent. However, you can apply for multiple awards with total effort levels that exceed 100 percent, allowed because you are not likely to get every grant you apply for. If multiple applications are funded, your effort will be adjusted to be no more than 100 percent during award negotiation.

Cooperative agreements: shared responsibility between you and an NIH Institute. Expect institute staff to play a large and substantive role in the design and conduct of your research.

Contracts are a commitment. When you contract with an NIH institute, you enter a legally binding contractual agreement to deliver a product or service at a certain time at a certain cost. In return, NIH pays you according to the terms and conditions of the contract.

Grants are a commitment, too — but you're committing to research aims that yield biomedical research discoveries. On a contract, you're committing to produce a defined deliverable at a specific time.