How to Determine If NIGMS Might Fund Your Research

This post is the first in a series outlining NIGMS research priorities, funding opportunities, and the grant application process for those not familiar with our Institute and its programs. We encourage you to share this series with others in your network, and to sign up to receive all future Feedback Loop posts delivered straight to your inbox.

We receive many questions from prospective applicants about getting NIGMS funding for their research: How do I know if my research fits within the scientific interests of NIGMS? What grant programs does the Institute offer? What are NIGMS’ research priorities? Whom do I talk to—and when—to learn more?

This post will help to answer those questions. And because it’s the first post in a new series from our staff, think of it as a primer for your initial interactions with us.

What Is the NIGMS Mission?

The NIGMS mission is to fund “basic research that increases our understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.” Our grantees investigate a range of scientific questions through basic and clinical research grant programs, coupled with initiatives to build research capacity and to develop the future biomedical research workforce. NIGMS has five divisions that offer grants:

Is My Research a Good Fit for NIGMS?

We’ve written previous blog posts on how to assess whether your application fits NIGMS’ scientific mission and the different online tools you can use to help determine your eligibility. To summarize some important takeaways from those posts:

  • We’re primarily interested in the scientific goals of your research, in contrast to the methodology or approaches taken.
  • Your application should focus on the gaps in the field and the important questions that your research will answer.
  • Don’t try to “bend” your goals to make them appear to fit the NIGMS mission.
  • Every notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) has a specific purpose, so read it carefully. If necessary, ask questions to the staff contacts listed in the NOFO.
  • Learn which NIGMS staff handle the scientific areas where your research might fit from our contacts by research area webpage.
  • A research project designed to address a specific disease, treatment, condition, or organ system is most likely best directed to another institute or agency; however, we do support a few clinical research areas.
  • Use NIH RePORTER to learn about all NIH-supported research and the staff familiar with those scientific areas.
  • Assignments are made by the NIH Center for Scientific Review when applications are received; no one can guarantee in advance that your submission will go to a particular institute or study section.

Whom Do I Contact if I Have Questions?

NIGMS shares its current priorities and funding opportunities in a number of ways, including through the NIH Guide, our website, our Feedback Loop blog, and our social media. We strongly encourage you to follow us so you can learn more about the Institute and hear about new opportunities as soon as they are announced. As mentioned above, you can find our contacts by research area and easily search with key words that describe your research. We’ll refer you to someone else if you don’t reach the right person the first time. Here are a few practical guidelines for communicating with us:

  • Start with email.
  • Give us a few days to respond; we might be talking internally about your question.
  • Don’t email a group of people at the same time; pick your best initial contact.

You don’t want to find out after you’ve submitted an application (which you hoped would be assigned to NIGMS) that your research is outside the mission of our Institute. It’s always a good idea to discuss your ideas with a relevant program officer early in the planning stages, well before completing your application.

In Summary

Your initial steps in beginning the granting process are to think carefully about the scientific goals of your research and the key questions you will address, find out which institute(s) might support that work, and learn who the relevant program staff are. Then it will become clear which grants you might apply for. Finally, do your homework, read our posted information, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We want you to succeed!

Note, for information on how your application would be reviewed at NIH, please refer to the Center for Scientific Review, which has an entire webpage section with information for NIH applicants.

Best of luck in your research endeavors. We value your feedback. You can use the form below to submit a comment. I’ll share your responses with my NIGMS colleagues.

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