University Research Services

University Research Services
University Research Services

National Institutes of Health - NIH Applications Led by Queen's

Jump To: Quick Intro | Important Information | Understanding Opportunities | Finding Opportunities | Deadlines | Complete Application | Submit Application | Contact Info

Quick Intro


Important Information

  • URS Must Submit the Application: URS must submit all NIH grants on behalf of our faculty.
    • If you are planning to submit an NIH application as PI, contact Jennifer Robinson ( or Andrea Hiltz ( at University Research Services as soon as possible (i.e., 2-3 months in advance of the deadline). They can meet in person with your team to discuss the NIH requirements, help you ensure that your application matches NIH guidelines, and provide an administrative review of your application.
  • Institutional Requirements: Queen's already meets the institutional requirements for participating in NIH grants (i.e., Queen's has a DUNS number, EIN number, and is registered in SAM). Queen's researchers DO NOT have to register as individuals in any of these systems.
  • Foreign Justification: Foreign (i.e., non-US) applicants have a "higher bar" to meet during peer review than their US counterparts because foreign applicants must include a foreign justification in their proposal. This justification must explain why the research must be conducted in a non-US setting (e.g., special resources or characteristics of the project; unique facilities). As part of the evaluation process, NIH reviewers must asses whether the project presents special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions that exist in other countries and are either not readily available in the United States or augment existing US resources.
  • NIH Grants are Time-Intensive:  NIH forms include a "paperwork burden statement", which gives an estimate for the amount of time required to review instructions, search existing resources, and complete the forms. Based on these estimates, it takes over 60 hours to complete the typical NIH application forms. Please note that this estimate does NOT include the time required to develop the scientific proposal, budget, or CVs.
  • Sub-recipient Arrangements: If you are planning to have co-applicants from other institutions on your NIH grant, your co-applicants will be required to create several kinds of NIH documents (see here) and contact Jennifer Robinson ( or Andrea Hiltz ( for more information. Each university has its own requirements for participating as sub-recipients in NIH grants. If you notify URS early about your submission, we will be able to work with the Research Services offices of your partner universities to complete the required documentation.
    • While most large Canadian institutions have the appropriate policies/procedures in place to accept NIH funding, some smaller institutions may not. Developing the appropriate inter-institutional arrangements between Queen's and partner institutions can be a time-intensive process that must be initiated as soon as possible, if necessary.
  • Budget Requirements: The NIH budget must include funds for both the direct costs of research AND indirect costs (i.e., funding to support shared university services). The NIH indirect cost rate is 8% of the total direct costs.
    • For example: $21,000 (MSc stipend) + $100,000 (consumables) + $4,000 (travel) = $125,000 (total direct costs). Indirect costs = 8% of the total direct costs = $10,000. The TOTAL budget request = $135,000.


Understanding NIH Funding Opportunities

  • Types of Funding Opportunities: There are three types of funding opportunities at NIH:
    • Parent Announcements: These are broad funding opportunities that allow applicants to submit investigator-initiated applications. They follow the standard NIH due dates each year. 
    • Program Announcements: These are funding opportunities issued by one or more of NIH's Institutes and Centres to address a particular area of scientific interest. They are usually ongoing (3 years) with standard due dates.
    • Requests for Applications: These are targeted funding opportunities by one or more of NIH's Institutes or Centres aimed at accomplishing specific program objectives. They normally have a single due date and do not reoccur.
  • Activity Codes: NIH uses different kinds of activity codes to differentiate between their programs (e.g., R01 = research project grant; R21 = exploratory/developmental grants). Foreign organizations CANNOT apply to programs with some codes (e.g., R13, K99/R00, amongst others).
  • Understanding Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs): The FOA will cover important information such as which NIH Institutes are supporting the funding call, NIH notices associated with the call, eligibility information, due dates,  application requirements, and review criteria. See this annotated FOA (PDF, 224 KB) for an explanation of each section of the FOA. IMPORTANT - Always check the eligibility information to make sure that foreign (i.e., non-US) organizations are eligible to apply.
  • Clinical Trials Definition: Each FOA will specify whether or not clinical trials are eligible projects under the opportunity. Applicants should review the NIH clinical trials definition to determine if their project is eligible.


How to Find NIH Funding Opportunities

There are normally > 1,000 open NIH funding opportunities at any given time. There are a few different ways to find NIH funding opportunities specific to your research program.

  • has an online database of all funding opportunities from US federal agencies. To only see NIH opportunities, applicants need to do a narrow database search.
    • Step 1. Go to the main search page
    • Step 2. On the left side of the webpage, scroll down to the box marked 'Agency'. Within that box, scroll down to the "Department of Health and Human Services [HHS]". Click on the expandable box and scroll down to click on "National Institutes of Health [NIH]. Now, only NIH opportunities will be shown. 
    • Step 3. To narrow your results, scroll back to the top of the webpage. In the top left corner, enter one or more search keywords (e.g., cancer). Keywords can be combined to further narrow the search scope (e.g., "lung cancer" AND therapeutics) (see search tips).
  • NIH Funding Opportunities webpage: This NIH webpage lists all active NIH funding opportunities, with an ability to refine the results using keywords. Search results can also be exported as an Excel table.
  • NIH Institutes & Centres: The NIH Institutes & Centres list the funding opportunities they're participating in online (e.g., this NIMH page). Applicants can review the information provided by Institutes whose mandates align with their research interests. 
    • Applicants can subscribe to an Institute's newsletter to receive information specific to that Institute or Centre. For example, the Fogarty International Centre's funding newsletter includes information on global health funding opportunities. The newsletter differentiates between opportunities for domestic applicants and those that international applicants can apply to.
  • Subscribe for Weekly NIH Updates: You can sign-up to get a weekly digest of all new NIH funding opportunities and announcements by following the instructions on this webpage. An example of the weekly listserv notice is available here.


NIH Deadlines

  • Funding Opportunity Information: The funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will specify the deadlines associated with a particular NIH funding opportunity (for example, see this annotated FOA [PDF, 224 KB]). 
  • 'Standard Dates': Some NIH FOAs will not specify a particular deadline but will instead say that "standard dates apply". The NIH 'standard dates' are available online. To figure out which dates apply to your program: 
    • Step 1. Review the FOA to identify which activity code it falls under (e.g. R01, R21).
    • Step 2. On the standard dates webpage, enter the activity code in the search bar. NIH has multiple submission periods per year, called Cycle 1, Cycle 2, and Cycle 3. Please note that:
      • Different deadlines will apply for new applications vs. renewals, resubmissions, and revisions, and;
      • Different dates will apply for AIDS-related applications.


How to Complete an NIH Application

  • Step 1. Review the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA): The FOA will cover important information such as which NIH Institutes are supporting the funding call, NIH notices associated with the funding call, eligibility information, due dates, the application requirements, and review criteria. See this annotated FOA (PDF, 224 KB) for an explanation of each section of the FOA.
  • Step 2. Contact URS to obtain the application package: URS submits NIH applications using the Workspace system. ONLY URS STAFF can obtain the NIH application forms in Workspace. Email Jennifer Robinson ( or Andrea Hiltz ( in URS to request the forms. In your email, please include the funding opportunity number and title (E.g., PA-XX-XXX, title: "....")
    • NIH also has an online application portal named ASSIST. URS recommends the Workspace approach because it is a somewhat simpler application process for PIs. However, if you start an NIH application using ASSIST, please be sure to notify Jennifer Robinson ( or Andrea Hiltz ( about your planned submission. Regardless of whether ASSIST or Workspace is used, only Research Services is able to submit the NIH application online.
  • Step 3. Review grant application instructions: A typical NIH application consists of 8-10 PDF forms, plus several freeform written sections (e.g. research proposal, facilities description, resource sharing plan, amongst others). Detailed application information is available online (instructions, budget information, page limits, etc.)  Specifically, an online PDF covers the instructions for research applications (PDF, 4.3 MB). NIH also has a series of instructional videos about completing and submitting applications.
    • Special consideration - Sub-recipient arrangements: There are special forms / requirements that must be met when an NIH application involves co-applicants from multiple universities who will receive funding. For general information about sub-recipient arrangements, see this URS page and contact Jennifer Robinson or Andrea Hiltz for more information.
  • Step 4. Review NIH biosketch instructions: The NIH biosketch is a short form CV that is required for NIH programs. Researchers must use the required NIH template (Word, 31 KB). There are detailed instructions online, as well as a sample biosketch (Word, 42 KB).
  • Step 5. Review sample applications: NIAID has several different sample applications (with reviewer feedback) available online. NIAID staff consider the samples examples of good grantsmanship, but note that the samples may not represent the most recent NIH application format or rules.


How to Submit an NIH Application

  • 2-3 months in advance of deadline - Contact Jennifer Robinson or Andrea Hiltz in URS: Jennifer or Andrea can provide you with the NIH application forms, meet in person with your team to discuss the NIH requirements, help you ensure that your application matches NIH guidelines, and provide an administrative review of your application.
  • 4 weeks in advance of deadline - Submit grant for URS review: Because NIH grants are complex, URS strongly recommends that applicants get their full application ready at least 4-weeks in advance of the NIH deadline for a detailed administrative review. The URS reviewer will ensure that the application is complete and meets all NIH requirements/guidelines, as well as provide detailed editing suggestions on the written components of the application.
  • 3 weeks in advance of deadline - Submit TRAQ DSS: PIs must submit a TRAQ DSS for NIH grants BEFORE URS can forward the application on to NIH. Applicants must submit the TRAQ DSS 3 weeks in advance of the deadline (if the research is hospital-based [PDF, 541 KB]) or 2-weeks in advance if the research is not Hospital-based. All TRAQ DSS files must include a DRAFT copy of the proposal and budget/budget justification. TRAQ DSS files for hospital-based research must also include the Hospital Departmental Information & Impact Form.
  • 1-week in advance of deadline - Submit  application: URS is required to submit NIH applications online for faculty. Faculty will be required to email Jennifer Robinson all of their NIH PDF forms so that she can upload them to Workspace. Submitting an NIH application involves two US data-systems: (via Workspace) and the eRA Commons. When URS submits the NIH application online using Workspace, both and the eRA Commons will perform a series of data quality checks. Applications with errors in them will be rejected and not submitted to NIH. If an application is rejected, the Queen's PI will be required to correct any issues (e.g., missing application components), update the required NIH PDF documents, and resend them to URS for upload & resubmission. NIH will NOT accept applications that miss the NIH application deadline because of difficulties submitting. Because of the potential for errors that can prevent submission, URS strongly recommends that PIs make their first online submission attempt at least 1-week before the deadline.


Contact Information

URS Contacts:

Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.
Research Projects Advisor (Health Sciences)
University Research Services / Faculty of Health Sciences

Phone: 613-533-6000 ext. 32944


Andrea Hiltz
Research Projects Advisor (Health Sciences)
University Research Services 

Phone: 613-533-6000 ext. 33108



Last Updated: October 16, 2018