Before you try to apply for funding, see if and how you and your research may fit in at NIH. Your research must fit the NIH mission and goals and fit an NIH Institute or Center. Your institution must also qualify for support.
Then you must determine whether you would qualify for independent support or a different kind of award. NIH has awards for scientists at different career levels with different research needs.
Steps To Evaluate Your Qualifications
Step 1: Fit NIH Mission and Goals
Find out whether NIH supports your research area. It must fall within NIH Mission and Goals to be funded by NIH. NIH seeks fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
Step 2: Fit an NIH Institute or Center
Once you've established that NIH is the right spot, look for an institute that would be appropriate to your work. For scientists seeking NIH funding, fitting in is complex.
NIH is made up of semiautonomous institutes and centers; while their mission areas are well defined, they often overlap. So it is possible that multiple institutes may be suitable for your application. Some may have a stronger interest in your research than others.
Try NIH's Matchmaker tool to find the best matching institutes and contacts. In the form, add scientific text such as an abstract, then choose the Similar Program Officials button (for contacts) or the Similar Projects button (for funded projects).
Is your area of science a good fit for our Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)? NIAID conducts and supports basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. Read more about NIAID at Mission and Planning.
Step 3: Make Sure Your Institution Qualifies for Support
NIH typically makes grants to institutions, not directly to individuals. Most types of institutions—including universities, small and large businesses, state and local governments, and foreign institutions—qualify for most research grants.
For most grants, NIH has eligibility requirements for the institution only. (Exceptions include fellowships and career awards.)
When you select a funding opportunity, check the Eligibility Information section of the opportunity’s NIH Guide notice to confirm that your institution qualifies.
Step 4: Determine Whether You Qualify for Independent Support
When applying for an independent research grant such as an R01, you'll need demonstrable expertise in a scientific field, an area of science like AIDS or TB vaccines or a technology, such as imaging or bioinformatics.
Your qualifications lay the foundation for your grant-seeking efforts: whatever you write in your application is immaterial unless your reviewers deem you able to complete the work you propose.
For an independent research grant, reviewers expect you to meet the following criteria:
- Hold an advanced degree appropriate to the research (in most fields, this means a Ph.D. or M.D.)
- Have a level of position at which your institution allows employees to apply (often assistant professor or higher)
- Have a publication record (first or last author) in respected journals or a history of overseeing projects in the field in which you are applying. Reviewers expect you to show that you are ready and able to lead.
- Work in a research institution that has the resources—equipment and lab space—you will need and that has committed space for the project. A bench in someone else's lab is not enough.
You may want to discuss your qualifications and application plans further with an NIH program officer in your area of science. For NIAID program officers, find contacts and instructions at When to Contact a NIAID Program Officer.
After Evaluating Qualifications
If you answered yes to Steps 1 to 3 above, you qualify to apply for NIH and NIAID grants. Here’s what to do depending on your answer to Step 4.
If You’re Ready for Independent Support
If you plan to apply for your first independent R01 research project or equivalent grant, see our Information for New Investigators.
More experienced investigators may proceed to Understand NIAID Research Priorities.
If You’re Not Ready for Independent Support
If you are not ready for independent support, you have a couple of alternatives: 1) become part of someone else's grant or 2) apply for a training or career award.
1. Conduct Research as Part of Another Grant
- If you are interested in serving as a consultant or collaborator or being part of a multiproject application, see our Build Your Team information.
- Another avenue is to ask principal investigators in your institution to include you as an investigator on their application.
- Could you hitch onto an existing grant through a research supplement? See Research Supplements.
2. Training and Career Awards
NIAID supports awards for investigators at different career stages. Visit our Training and Career Development Awards information to learn more and check your qualifications for those awards.