Follow up on F/K submissions

Apr 01 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Newbie PI asked:

I'm a little confused by this. Why are you putting so much effort into contacting a PO? I never contacted a PO before submitting my (funded) K grant. Once you submit it they have to assign it SOMEWHERE. Isn't it really the study section that matters?

Firstly, congrats on getting the K-award! And of course, its possible to get funded without talking to NIH staff. But, I (ahem try to...) always do this. I think its a good idea.

So some clarification on the question:

To my knowledge, most  NRSA's (F/K) are reviewed inhouse by IC study sections. There are some CSR study sections  for fellowships. I know little about these, as the IC's with which I do business, and the trainees I have had, have always gone through IC specific SS. If this is confusing to you (and it is, a bit, to me) then it is doubly important to talk to staff before you spend a huge amount of time developing a proposal (like we did).

From the PA page for training awards for NRSA F32 awards:

 Special Note: Because of the differences in individual Institute and Center (IC) program requirements for this FOA, prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to consult the Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements and Staff Contacts, to make sure that their application is responsive to the requirements of one of the participating NIH ICs. 

The link in that text, takes you to the specific instructions for the parent F32 (PA-14-149), which includes the following, for example for NCI:

NCI-Specific Information:

NCI requires a clear cancer focus in the research training and gives funding priority to applications for which the primary sponsor has cancer-related R01 (or equivalent) research funding. For the F32, R01-equivalent research funding includes peer-reviewed research grants with a minimum of 3 years in duration and $150,000 in annual direct costs. Grants under a no-cost extension do not qualify.

Specific information for applicants interested in studies related to a goal of building effective therapeutic approaches for KRAS-driven tumors can be found in NOT-CA-15-012.

Additional NCI-specific information/requirements can be found at:

If you keep going down this rabbit hole, you get the following at the CSR page:

Contact NIH Staff

We strongly recommend that you contact the NIH prior to submitting an application.

  • Identify the NIH IC that supports research in your area, then check the IC’s Web site to determine whether your idea matches any of the IC's high-priority research areas and obtain specific information related to the IC’s FOAs and specific research priorities. Note: Some ICs publish cleared concepts well before the FOAs are published. Not all concepts become FOAs, this is one reason NIH encourages you to contact a program official as soon as possible.
  • Contact a program official at the appropriate IC by phone or e-mail to clarify any questions you may have, such as whether your proposed research project falls within the scope of an existing funding opportunity announcement.  The PO is the NIH official responsible for the programmatic, scientific and/or technical aspects of a grant.  NIH grants management staff can provide advice on business and administrative issues.

See Contacting NIH Staff to learn more about how and when to contact staff during the application and award process.  


From another institute: the NINDS page for F30s:

 Peer review will be done by the NST-2 NINDS review group. ..... Applicants are encouraged to contact the NINDS Training Office before preparing an application, as NINDS will consider only those applications that are designed to support the training and development of scientists with interests relevant to the mission of NINDS.

Almost all the IC's have wording to this effect on their pages.


Bottom line: if you are confused or unsure the following steps help:

  1. Figure out the IC who has goals that at least align somewhat with your proposal.
  2. Read the RFA for the parent grant (see link above) and follow the links for your IC.
  3. Find the staff person and send them an email asking to talk with them. Sometimes the answer and sometimes they don't. Keep trying.


2 responses so far

  • Anonymous says:

    Duh! How is it possible for someone who has submitted an app -- and presumably had to read the instructions in detail -- to miss this? Unless they relied on their PI to tell them what to do...?

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