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NIA career development and fellowship awards: Does my priority score mean I will get funded?

Maria Carranza
Training Officer,
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)
Jamie Lahvic
Program Officer (Training),
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)

We have all been there: As a graduate student, postdoc, or junior faculty member, you have carefully crafted and submitted a fellowship or career development application. Reviewers have finally discussed your application and given it a priority score, and now you sit on pins and needles wondering whether that score will be meritorious enough for NIA to give you an award. We wish we could give you a simple answer, but funding decisions can be complex.

How priority scores affect funding decisions

Priority scores range from 10 (best) to 90 (worst). Applications with low (good) scores are considered more meritorious and have a higher chance of getting funded. Except for a handful of programs that are funded through fixed set-aside funds, NIA considers our overall budget each fiscal year and conditionally sets pay lines throughout the fiscal year.

NIA expects to fund most applications that receive a score at or below (better than) the pay line. However, when scientific concerns are identified in peer review that weaken the case for making an award, a resubmission of the application may be the most effective solution. Similarly, NIA may support a few applications that score beyond the pay lines when those applications focus on high scientific priorities of the Institute.

Different pay lines for dementia and general aging research

Since 2015, NIA has experienced unprecedented budget growth, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research. Congress set NIA’s total fiscal year 2022 appropriation at more than $4.2 billion. Along with increases in the general allocations, this budget includes a $289 million increase over FY 2021 funding for Alzheimer’s and related dementias research. This gives us the flexibility to use different pay lines for funding consideration of projects focused on those diseases versus those on general aging research.

FY 2022 NIA Career Development and Fellowship Applications (Overall Impact Score Based)
Applications General pay line Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias pay line
Parent career development awards 21 35
Parent fellowship awards 30 40

Funding decisions may change over the course of the fiscal year

NIA, like other NIH Institutes and Centers, provides three rounds of funding every fiscal year. Within the constraints described, NIA aims for a balanced distribution of funding in which applications with meritorious priority scores in all three funding rounds are supported. Sometimes there are funds available at the end of a fiscal year in which NIA may fund additional meritorious applications.

NIA strives to balance our career development and fellowship scientific portfolios across degree type, career stage, and research area. Finally, if the decision is made that you will not be funded, always discuss your eligibility with our Training Office and consider reapplying.

We are here to help!

Your NIA program official remains your go-to person for questions about your individual application after submission and review and contact information can be found in your eRA Commons account. Additionally, the NIA Training and Career Development team is happy to answer your questions and invites you to explore the full range of NIA career development and fellowship awards. For questions on NIA priority scores before submission, or to be connected with an NIA program official with expertise in your research field, contact

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