Your First Application Didn’t Get Funded? Apply Again!

This post is part of a series outlining NIGMS research priorities, funding opportunities, and the grant application process. You can read more posts in this series and sign up to receive all future posts delivered straight to your inbox.

The previous post in this series covered tips for crafting a strong grant application. However, the reality is that not all applications will be funded.

If you’ve applied to a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) and your application didn’t get funding, you may have received the following advice from colleagues, mentors, and even NIH program staff: “Keep trying until you succeed.” An unsuccessful application can certainly feel disappointing. But as long as the NOFO you applied to is still active or has been reissued, and you and your institution are still eligible, you can apply again, regardless of whether the specific funding opportunity you applied to allows official resubmissions or not.

In this post, we highlight options and next steps that an investigator has when applying again after an unsuccessful application.

Review Your Summary Statement and Contact Your Program Officer

You received a summary statement with the reviewers’ comments about your application. Summary statements are issued for all applications, even those that weren’t discussed. Carefully study the critiques and summary of the discussion (if the application was discussed), then make an appointment with the assigned program officer (PO). You can find the PO’s name on the summary statement or in your eRA Commons account.

POs don’t participate in the review process but may be able to provide insights into the reviewers’ comments in your summary statement. The PO will advise on your options for applying again (e.g., resubmission versus new application) and may recommend a different funding opportunity. They could also provide general suggestions on how to strengthen the application.

Steps to Take Before Preparing Your Next Application

There are several important steps to take before you start preparing your next application. First, make sure that you and your institution are still eligible to apply by consulting the most recent version of the NOFO. For example, some NOFOs are open only to early stage investigators, so check your status in eRA Commons to ensure eligibility.

Next, once you have confirmed eligibility, check if the NOFO allows resubmission or requires a new application. For example, the current NOFO for the NIGMS Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award program states that it does not allow resubmissions, although a new application can be submitted after an unsuccessful attempt as long as the program director /principal investigator remains eligible.

If the A1 application isn’t successful or if you decide to make major changes in the aims, submitting a new application (A0) may be a better option The goal is to submit the strongest possible application.

If you decide to revise and resubmit an application (A1), you must address all the reviewers’ major concerns (by providing new data, for example). Prepare a strong, concise Introduction to Application section that summarizes the issues raised during the review.

In cases where you submit a new application after an unsuccessful attempt, either following an A1 application or because the NOFO doesn’t allow resubmissions, you cannot include an introduction to the application or make any reference to the previous score(s), reviews, or changes you have made in response to them. Collaborators providing letters of support should also not refer to the previous application(s) or reviews.

This is also a good time to consider if the original study section is a good fit for the application going forward or if a different section would be beneficial. This is something you can discuss with your PO or with the scientific review officer who handled the previous review. Either way, you can make an assignment request using the appropriate form. Finally, make sure you’re using the most recent version of the application forms, which are updated on a regular basis.

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