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Why Knowing IC Funding Priorities Is Important

By Bouvier Grant Group

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When the HHS Appropriations bill was passed recently, I suggested that NIH researchers should take a look at at the budget allocations and the funding priorities at the Institute or Center (IC) that aligns with their research.

Afterwards, someone asked me, “Why should someone look at an IC’s funding priorities? Is it so they can adjust their research focus?”

The short answer is: yes!  

Applicants need to fit the funder, not the other way around. I’m not talking about doing a 180° shift. Often a researcher has several lines of research they might pursue, and it makes sense to think about NIH priorities for several reasons:

  1. Funding is not generally awarded as a straight score cutoff. If you are one of the many applicants whose score clusters near the funding line, the POs typically will hand pick for funding the projects that best meet the IC’s scientific priorities.
  2. ICs issue topic-specific NOFOs (like RFAs) in topics of high priority to them, which translates to more opportunities for you to apply for funding.
  3. ICs issue cooperative agreements in areas of highest priority to them. Again, this translates to more NOFOs to which you can apply. It also puts you in direct contact with POs at your IC because cooperative agreements involve more NIH oversight than you have on grants. Building a relationship with your PO is a great thing for your career; if you are unsure why , view our Master the R Series course!
  4. Center grants are only ever issued in areas of highest priority to the IC. It makes sense to target these high priority areas from the start of your NIH funding career.

Similarly, this is why I think taking part in NIH Requests for Information is advantageous and wrote about it recently.

Being aware of what an IC is funding can help you adjust your sails proactively. Whether applying for NIH or anywhere else, an applicant must fit their funder, the funder does not fit the applicant.

Dr. Meg Bouvier

Margaret Bouvier received her PhD in 1995 in Biomedical Sciences from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. After an NINDS post-doctoral fellowship, she worked as a staff writer for long-standing NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in the Office of Press, Policy, and Communications for the Human Genome Project and NHGRI. Since 2007, Meg has specialized in editing and advising on NIH submissions, and began offering virtual courses in 2015. She's recently worked with more than 40% of the nation's highest-performing hospitals*, four of the top 10 cancer hospitals, three of the top five medical schools for research, and 14 NCI-designated cancer centers. Her experience at NIH as both a bench scientist and staff writer greatly informs her approach to NIH grantwriting. She has helped clients land over half a billion in federal funding. Bouvier Grant Group is a woman-owned small business.

*Our clients include 9 of the top 22 hospitals as recognized by the 2023/24 US News & World Report honor roll

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