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National Institutes of Health

NIH Information

General NIH Information

A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest biomedical research agency in the world.  The NIH provides leadership and direction to programs designed to improve the health of the Nation by conducting and supporting research.  NIH supports research and research training through "extramural" activities (at universities and research institutions nationally and internationally) and conducts research and research training through "intramural" activities (in NIH hospitals at the Bethesda, MD, campus).  

Application Guide Process

  • NIH eRA Commons- an online interface where signing officials, principal investigators, trainees and post-docs at institutions/organizations can access and share administrative information relating to research grants.

Funding Priorities

You can see what NIH has recently funded by searching for awards by location and organization, or by using criteria such as success rates for different programs and institutes.  


NDSU researchers have had success with a number of NIH program types, including the following:

R01 The Research Project Grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. An R01 is an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator's specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH. R01's are very competitive.

R15 AREA The R15 Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) program creates hands-on research opportunities for faculty working with undergraduate students at less research-intensive institutions, usually institutions without a medical school.   AREA awards provide up to 3 years of renewable funding, with a maximum of $300,000 in direct costs for the entire project period.  At the time of application submission, all the non-health professional components of the institution together cannot have not received support from the NIH totaling more than $6 million per year (in both direct and F&A/indirect costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years.  At NDSU, faculty in all colleges except the College of Health Professions are eligible to apply for the R15 AREA program.  

In January 2019, NIH shifted its approach to R15 and introduced the R15 REAP program.

R15 REAP  NIH has created the R15 Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) which is intended to support small-scale research projects proposed by faculty members of eligible institutions to expose undergraduate and/or graduate students at health professional schools or graduate schools of arts and sciences to meritorious research projects, and to strengthen the research environment of the applicant institution.  Eligible institutions must award NIH-relevant baccalaureate or advanced degrees and have received less than 6 million dollars per year of NIH support (total costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years.  At NDSU, faculty in the College of Health Professions are eligible to apply for the R15 REAP program. 

Both AREA and REAP R15 proposals require some institutional statements which are available from the NDSU Research Development Office and can be accessed here:

For R15 applications submitted for due dates on or after February 25, 2019, NIH will rely on an institutional letter verifying eligibility that will be required in the application as part of the letters of support attachment.  NIH has updated the R15 web page and created a resource to assist institutions in calculating eligibility.

R03 The R03 Small Grant mechanism will support small research projects that can be carried out in a short period of time with limited resources. You may request a project period of up to two years and a budget for direct costs of up $50,000 per year.

R21 The R21 Exploratory Grant mechanism is intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of project development.  You may request a project period of up to two years, and the combined budget for direct costs for the two year project period may not exceed $275,000. No more than $200,000 may be requested in any single year. Projects of limited cost or scope that use widely accepted approaches and methods are better suited for the R03 small grant mechanism.

COBRE (P20) NDSU has had three COBRE centers funded by NIH.  Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) support thematic, multidisciplinary centers that augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity. This is accomplished by expanding and developing biomedical faculty research capability and enhancing research infrastructure, including the establishment of core facilities needed to carry out the objectives of a multidisciplinary, collaborative program.  COBRE support is awarded in EPSCoR/IDEA states and comes in three sequential 5-year phases.

Public Access to Research Results

  • NIH Public Access Policy
  • PubMed Central PubMed Central® (PMC) is a free archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine.
  • FAQ's about the NIH Public Access Policy
  • RePORT The Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) provides access to reports, data, and analyses of NIH research activities, including information on NIH expenditures and the results of NIH supported research.


Proposal Preparation & Project Development

Biographical Sketch

Biosketches are required in both competing applications and progress reports. The NIH provides instructions, blank format pages, and samples on the Biosketch webpage, and answers to common questions on the Biosketches FAQ page. 

Other Resources:


Cover Letters

The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) assigns applications to scientific review groups (SRGs), but sometimes an application could be a scientific match for more than one study section. In a cover letter, you can request assignment to a particular study section and explain why you think that study section would be the best fit. Appropriate assignment requests are honored in the majority of cases. Study section descriptions, recent study section rosters and the NIH RePORTER database of funded grants can help you identify an SRG suitable for your application.

Your research might be relevant to the mission of more than one NIH IC. You can use a cover letter to suggest that your application be assigned to a specific IC. The NIH RePORTER database is a good place to investigate the types of research supported by different ICs. Before making a request in a cover letter, you should also consult with program officers at the IC to determine whether your application would be an appropriate scientific match.

 It helps the SRG’s scientific review officer (SRO) assign appropriate reviewers to your application if you describe the scientific expertise needed to properly evaluate it. It’s important, however, that you don’t identify potential reviewers. The very fact that you recommend someone raises a concern about possible bias and usually puts that person in conflict with your application.

If there is someone you feel may provide a biased evaluation of your application, let the SRO know by putting that information in a cover letter. You must explain the conflict; an example would be a longstanding scientific disagreement with an individual. Usually, there’s no conflict when someone works in a very similar area, holds a different scientific opinion or has been on the review panel for a previous application that didn’t do well. The SRO can use his/her judgment in deciding whether your explanation justifies placing that person in conflict with your application.

You need to provide a cover letter when you submit your application late or plan to send video files. Some applications, such as those for conference grants, require pre-approval for submission, so the submitted application must include a cover letter with a copy of the approval letter. For a more comprehensive list of situations that require a cover letter, visit the Create a Cover Letter webpage from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

Who sees these cover letters? Only NIH staff with responsibilities relevant to application receipt, referral and review can see the cover letters; the letters are not shared with other NIH staff or reviewers.

These are some of the major, but not the only, reasons you might want to include a cover letter with your NIH application. For more information on why and how to write a cover letter, see the Cover Letters Help Us Refer and Review Your Application webpage from CSR. Instructions for submitting a cover letter as an attachment to your application are in the NIH SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

NOTE: With revisions to NIH application policies, instructions and forms effective after May 25, 2016, one of the changes is a new PHS assignment request form. This form provides a place to enter the information needed to process a request for a study section or funding institution assignment, as well as information about expertise needed and persons with a potential conflict. The use of this form is required for your request to be brought to the attention of the appropriate review staff. Cover letters should still be used to provide information required for application submission.

 Download this handout | View the original NIH post

Data Management Plan (DMP)

According to the 2003 Data Sharing Policy, applicants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for research for any one year must include a data sharing plan, or state why data sharing is not possible. This policy will be modified to require that ALL researchers develop data management plans that will:
(1) express the investigator’s commitment to sharing their data, which will at a minimum consist of the data underlying any publications, and
(2) include, as appropriate, descriptions of the data to be produced in the proposed study; any standards to be used for collected data and metadata; mechanisms for providing access to and sharing of the data; provisions for protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights; provisions for reuse and redistribution of the data; milestones and timelines for making the data publicly accessible; and plans for archiving and long-term preservation of the data.

Further expectations and guidance are given at the statue, Institute & Center, and Program levels.

More information:

The DMP Tool is a useful resource for developing data management plans.  It includes templates for various funding agencies and examples of plans. 

The NDSU Research Data Working Group website includes additional resources and information on data management planning.


Evaluation Plans & Logic Models

Center proposals or other large multidisciplinary projects typically require a plan for evaluation.  Some program solicitations require an external evaluator to be part of the proposal.  

Resources for developing evaluation plans include:

Resources for using Logic Models in your Evaluation Plan
Logic Model Planning and Development:

Logic Model Examples:

If you are looking for an external evaluator or need some assistance in developing an evaluation plan, please contact the Research Development office at

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

NIH strongly encourages institutions to develop and use IDPs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH awards, regardless of their position title. IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals. Therefore, NIH encourages grantees to develop institutional policies that employ an IDP for every graduate student and postdoctoral researcher supported by NIH awards. Beginning on October 1, 2014, annual progress reports are required to include a description of whether the institution uses IDPs or not and how they are employed to help manage the training and career development of those individuals. 

NIH progress reports using the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) must include a report on the use of IDPs in Section B. Accomplishments, Question B.4. Actual IDPs should not be included.  Instead, grantees will report on whether they use IDPs for all the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers included in Section D. list of Participants. The use of IDPs as well as the manner in which IDPs are used is expected to be determined by the awardee institution, but the RPPR will include a brief description of how and whether IDPs are used to help manage the career development of students and postdocs associated with that award. A similar response is required for all T, F, K, R25, R13, D43 and other awards or award components designed to provide training and professional development opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.


Institutional Information

Sponsored Programs Administration maintains an Institutional Information page which includes: 

  • NDSU authorized organizational representative
  • Official NDSU address for sponsored projects
  • Indirect cost rates
  • Fringe benefit rates
  • Proposal routing procedure
  • Audit reports, and
  • Frequently used numbers: 

    • NDSU's EIN #: 45-6002439
    • DUNS Number: 80-388-2299
    • Congressional District: ND1
    • Cage Code: 40341
    • NDSU's Animal Welfare Assurance #: A3244-01
    • USDA Research Facility Registration #: 45-R-002
    • NSF's Institutional Code # assigned to NDSU: 00 29975 000
    • Human Subjects Assurance: FWA00002439
    • Number of NDSU employees 

ABoilerplate Description of NDSU contains general campus information that can be used or customized as needed.

PTF and Proposal Process

Sponsored Programs Administration provides information on proposal processing for university approval, as well as the Proposal Transmittal Form (PTF) which is required for proposal routing. 

The proposal process at NDSU is detailed in the graphic below: 

Handout: Proposal Submission Flowchart

Reference Letters

Some types of programs, such as fellowships and some career development awards, require the submission of reference letters by the referee. The NIH provides guidance  on selecting a referee, instructions for referees, and details of the reference letter submission process on the Reference Letters webpage. 


Rigor and Reproducibility

Scientific rigor and transparency in conducting biomedical research is key to the successful application of knowledge toward improving health outcomes. The NIH provides information designed to assist the extramural community in addressing rigor and transparency in NIH grant applications and progress reports:  

Program Officers

Clarification of roles at NIH for program officer (PO), scientific review officer (SRO), and grants management specialist (GMS)

Tips for Contacting Program Officers

Congratulations on making the important step to visit with a grant program officer.  Statistics show that making a personal connection with your program officer will increase your chances of getting funded immensely.  Following are some tips, based on past experience, to help make your visit as successful as possible.


  1. Identify a program officer.
  2. Prepare a concept paper / abstract.
  3. Make contact with the program officer. 
  4. Talk / meet with the program officer.
  5. Follow up after the meeting.


To plan for the visit, prepare a brief 1-2 page concept paper that you can hand to the program officer at the beginning of the meeting. You should be ready to discuss a specific proposal. The format is flexible, but include:

  1. Overall goal and objectives of the proposal.  SMART objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  2. Describe the problem to be addressed. Use Heilmeier’s Catechism -
  3. Refer to your unique personnel, resources, collaborations, whatever strengths will stand out in your proposal
  4. To the extent possible, use the agency’s format, style, and terminology.
  5. For the title of the concept paper, use an eye-catching newspaper-like headline (think of benefits and potential impact of proposal).  This is not going to be the same as the title of your subsequent formal proposal. 
  6. Use headings, color, and institutional branding, and employ meaningful graphics to assist in telling your story.
  7. Ask others to review and provide feedback.


  1. Well before meeting, send an email to introduce yourself.  Attach your concept paper & biosketch in agency format.  Ask to set up a ½ hour meeting. Try to avoid peak review panel season if possible, a busy time for them.
  2. Prior to the meeting, confirm the date, time and location. 
  3. Be on time.  At the meeting, listen closely for his/her advice and recommendations. Program officers will sometimes be willing to advocate for your proposal or refer you to other programs if appropriate, or even find other pockets of funding at times.  This type of ‘inside information’ can be invaluable to you.
  4. Plan to keep the meeting within the planned time constraints, but take your cue from the program officer.
  5. To keep communication open, follow up with a thank you note to the program officer, including a brief written summary of the conversation.  Also share this with university administrators and any collaborators.


  1. Do your homework on the grant agency beforehand so you have a good understanding of how it works.
  2. Though 1-on-1 is best, if a face-to-face ‘live’ meeting is not possible, Skype, Facetime, or even a phone call is a good alternative, better than no contact. Proposals are too much work to be submitted as ‘a shot in the dark.’
  3. Customize questions. For NSF, ask about ideas for broader impacts. For NIH, ask which study section to target.  
  4. Do NOT ask who is on the review panel, but it’s appropriate to ask about the types of expertise of reviewers who will be on the panel.  Do NOT ask if a Congressman can help or provide a letter of support.  Do NOT ask for a copy of a funded application, or if a particular person got funded - that information is available elsewhere.  
  5. DO ask how proposals from early career applicants are handled, if applicable to you.   For other appropriate questions to ask program officers, as well as other good advice, see Can We Talk? Contacting Grant Program Officers 

Download this handout

General Proposal Writing Tips

Some general proposal writing resources are listed below in both print and video format.

Print Resources

Video Resources

  • Proposal Development (a 3-part webinar recording: use your NDUS sign-on - same as Peoplesoft.  Google or Firefox browser recommended)

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Last Updated: Monday, June 17, 2019 12:04:05 PM
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