NIH requirements

Contacting Your Program Officer

All funding opportunities are assigned at least one program officer (PO), who serves an important role as the main liaison between the NIH and researchers. The PO’s role is to act as the primary contact for a grant’s programmatic, scientific, and/or technical components; provide investigators with scientific guidance (pre-submission and post award); and oversee post-award issues.

Contact your PO as early as possible in the application process, well before the LOI (letter of intent) deadline, which is usually 30 days before the application is due.

For resubmissions, it’s best to wait until after you have received your summary statement so that you can review it fully with the PO and discuss necessary revisions.

If you are requesting a larger budget, you must contact the PO at least 6 weeks ahead of the deadline.

Contacting your program officer is required if you are requesting a budget overage (more than $500K direct per year), applying for an R13 conference grant, or if the funding opportunity specifies that you must contact the PO.

However, even if it is not required, it is usually recommended to contact your PO, especially if you are an early stage investigator (ESI). It gives you a valuable opportunity to share your research with the PO and ensure that your proposed project is a good fit for both the funding opportunity and the programmatic goals of the participating institute or center (IC) that would be funding your project. The PO will be your advocate throughout the application and award process.

Your PO’s name and contact information will usually be located on the funding opportunity, under Section VII. Agency Contacts. If you don’t yet have a funding opportunity identified, check NIH RePORTER for funded projects that are similar to yours. The PO will be listed under the “Details” tab of awarded projects.

After you have thoroughly read the funding opportunity (or your Summary Statement, if applying for resubmission), email the PO (DO NOT CALL) to request a meeting. The PO will let you know what, if any, documents they would like to review before the call (i.e. Specific Aims).

Email example: “My team and I are planning to submit a grant application to the FOA XXX-XX-XXX titled, “TITLE HERE.” Before proceeding, I would like to schedule a brief call with you in order to discuss our application and ensure our proposed project is a programmatic fit with the FOA as well as your IC’s interests. Please let me know when you might be available at your earliest convenience.”

For a first submission, during this meeting, you can confirm that your project aligns with the IC’s mission, interests, and high-priority research areas. You should be prepared to describe your proposed grant application’s specific aims and research design. If the PO determines the application is not a good fit for their IC or the FOA, ask them for additional recommendations.

If this is a resubmission, make sure you have read the summary statement and are prepared to discuss the major critiques and whether the PO recommends a resubmission at this time.

Other talking points:

  • Ask if the PO is willing to review specific aims or a draft outline and provide general advice.
  • Clarify any questions you have about the funding opportunity.
  • Get information on other potential FOAs to apply to.