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Research and Funding Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, you'll find answers to frequently asked questions about NIA research and funding. Click on a question below to find the answer, or browse this page. 

Q1. Where can I find information about NIA grants and funding opportunities?

Information about extramural research opportunities and how to apply for NIA funds can be found at www.nia.nih.gov/research. More information on applying for National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants can be found at www.grants.nih.gov.

Q2. I’ve never applied for funding from NIH. Where can I learn about the process?

You can learn about NIH’s research mission, how to apply, features of successful applications, and more on the NIH grants site: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide.html. Additional helpful hints, including sample applications are available from the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID, another NIH Institute).

Q3. What should I do if I cannot find a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) dealing with my topic?

Most NIH applications are investigator-initiated, not responding to a specific, tailored FOA.  Since the grants.gov website requires every applicant to enter an FOA number, investigator-initiated applications typically cite one of the “parent” FOAs, which can be found here: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/funding/funding_program.htm (in the chart called Research Grants, look for the "See parent FOA" link for each grant type (e.g., R01, etc.))

Simply citing an FOA does not guarantee that your application will be assigned to a particular Institute, nor even that it will be accepted by NIH.  If you are unsure, check with a Program Officer or Program Director whose portfolio most closely aligns with your research interest (listed under each NIA division).

Q4. When should I contact an NIA Program Officer?

Program Officers are your primary source of information for scientific, funding and programmatic matters, and they can advise you regarding:

- The relationship between NIA’s research priorities and your research area

- Potential application topics

- The appropriate FOA through which to apply

- Investigator-initiated research: topics of interest and new scientific directions

- Additional information about an initiative such as a request for applications or program announcement

- Requirements for special areas such as human subjects and vertebrate animal research

- The appropriate study section to request in your cover letter

So, the best times to contact NIA Program Officers are:

Before you submit your application

After you receive your Summary Statement and Impact score. Applicants should wait to receive their summary statements before contacting NIA Program Officers. Summary statements are generally released about one month after review.

During the award:

  • When you have findings with public impact
  • Following natural disasters or other emergencies that will affect your research progress
  • When issues arise from population tracking enrollment

Q5. Where on my grant application (in eRA Commons) can I find my program officer?

Answer: As soon as an application is assigned to an Institute, the NIH electronic system assigns a default program administrator to it to ensure that an applicant has an immediate contact at the Institute. NIA’s default contact is the director of the Division of Extramural Activities, Dr. Robin Barr. After NIA program coding is complete – usually about 4 weeks after assignment – your particular program administrator will be assigned.

You can find information on NIA program officers, their contact information and research portfolios on the Division pages.

Q6. Where does NIA share funding policy updates and analysis?

Answer: Funding policies are published on the Division of Extramural Activities webpage. Researchers interested in aging research and NIA funding opportunities should subscribe to the NIA blog, Inside NIA, for updates on NIA’s funding policies, priorities, and budget. https://www.nia.nih.gov/research/blog.

Please note: Applications submitted for the October Council meeting are subject to the following fiscal year’s funding policy. (e.g., FY2017 funding policy applies to October 2016 Council).

Q7. What will happen if I cannot get a faculty appointment before the end of my K99 award?

A K99 awardee can ask for a no-cost extension on the K99 for an additional year. If the awardee does not secure a job within the year of the no-cost extension, then this third year represents the terminal year for the K99. As stated on the Q & A page for the “Pathway to Independence" (K99/R00) program: “The application for the extramural independent scientist R00 phase of the award must be submitted no later than 2 months prior to the proposed activation date of the R00 award by the R00 phase grantee organization. However, to avoid potential problems in activation, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIH program officials as soon as plans to assume an independent position develop, and not later than 6 months prior to the termination of the K99 phase of the award, to discuss plans for transition to and the application for the R00 phase. This is especially important if the applicant has any question about the acceptability of a specific independent position for the R00 phase of the award. As part of the application, the K99 awardee must submit an offer letter from the organization supporting his/her tenure track appointment.” The goal of the K99/R00 program is to provide an uninterrupted level of research support from the K99 to R00 for the newly independent investigator.

Q8. Should I write a cover memo with my application?

It is a good idea to write a cover memo if you have discussed the application with a Program Officer from the NIA and she or he feels it would be relevant to NIA program emphases.

If you want to point out to the Assignment & Referral Officer particular types of expertise that would be needed for appropriate scientific review that may not be obvious from the abstract, please use the PHS Assignment Request Form. Do not include reviewer suggestions in a cover memo.

Applicants should use the new assignment request form if they choose to:

  • request assignment to an institute/center for funding consideration
  • request assignment to a particular study section for initial peer review
  • identify individuals they do not think should review their application
  • identify scientific areas of expertise needed to review their application

Q9. How can I make sure that NIA will accept my application?

While nothing can guarantee that the NIA will accept your application, a good strategy is to contact Institute staff before you submit anything. For some large applications requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for at least one year, Institute permission is required for NIH to accept the application. Although Institute permission is not required for other applications, contact NIA staff to ascertain interest in the work that you want to pursue. This is the best way to avoid the dispiriting experience of getting an unreviewed application back from the Center for Scientific Review.

Q10. Does NIA publish its pay lines? If so, where can I find it?

The latest pay lines for NIA-funded research, including research on Alzheimer’s disease, can be found on the NIA Funding Policy page: /research/grants-funding/nia-funding-line-policy-fy-2017 .  Our weekly blog, Inside NIA, also regularly provides news about pay lines.

Q11. Where can I find information on training opportunities from NIA?

NIA offers a number of training and career development opportunities for students and early- and mid-career investigators. Learn more here at our training and career development page.

Q12. How can I collaborate with intramural researchers at NIA?

NIA’s intramural research program (IRP) has three main focus areas: Neuroscience, Aging Biology, and Translational Gerontology. IRP scientists conduct research in disciplines ranging from basic science to clinical research and epidemiology. Learn more about IRP’s research, and connect with investigators by visiting the IRP webpage.

Q13. Where can I find research resources and data from NIA?

You can find research resources including data sets, rodent ordering information, information on the interventions testing program, and more on our Research Resources webpage.

Q14. How can I access data produced by the Intramural Research Program?

There are several ways for investigators to access data generated by the IRP. The most effective way is to directly contact the lead investigator for the study of interest. Most human and non-human genomic data that is generated by the IRP is publicly available in data repositories such as Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGAP), Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) or Sequence Read Archive (SRA). For some population cohort studies, genomic data is not publicly available due to various restrictions that are specific to each study. For these studies, a procedure is put into place where investigators can submit a research proposal that is revised and approved by a designated steering committee to gain access to the data. Information for some of the IRP funded cohort studies can be found at the following websites:

- Baltimore Longitudinal study on Aging: https://www.blsa.nih.gov/

- SardiNIA study: https://sardinia.nia.nih.gov/

- Health, Aging and Body Composition study: https://healthabc.nia.nih.gov/

- Healthy Aging in the Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study : https://handls.nih.gov/

Q15. What are NIA’s strategic directions and how will they impact my application?

The NIA’s Strategic Directions are a set of research priorities identifying areas where it is critical to close gaps in knowledge and break down barriers to research progress on aging and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The Strategic Vision helps with priority setting, decisionmaking, and the allocation of resources for implementing new approaches.  The NIA Strategic Directions can be found at https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/strategic-directions-2016/introduction

NIA’s Strategic Directions guide future Institute-solicited research, leading ultimately to new FOAs, scientific workshops, and other activities. The main goal is to capitalize on the most promising research avenues, prepare the workforce for the future, and identify areas where new technologies can considerably aid the scientific process.

While the NIA’s Strategic Directions may stimulate and inspire individual researchers, it is not intended to replace or restrict investigator-initiated ideas. Study proposals submitted by individual researchers remain the principal way through which NIA supports scientific development.

How do NIH/NIA grantees obtain CMS data?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a contract with the Research Data Assistance Center (ResDAC) to facilitate data access requests. The ResDAC website (www.resdac.org) provides all of the necessary information on how to obtain Medicare and/or Medicaid data for researchers, including requests for both restricted and limited datasets as well as public use files (PUF)/non-identifiable files. CMS data are used to complete the specific aims of an NIA grant. Read more about obtaining CMS data for your research