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How to Apply for an NIDCD Grant

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The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) supports and conducts research and research training in the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language. It does this through a program of grants and contracts in basic, clinical, and translational research. The NIDCD supports research that leads to scientific discovery and uses a wide range of biomedical and behavioral research approaches. NIDCD-supported research has made important contributions to the body of knowledge needed to help people with communication disorders and to advance our understanding of all aspects of human communication. The NIDCD helps scientists at all stages of their careers—from high school students to senior scientists. From a small feasibility study to a large clinical trial, the NIDCD offers a variety of funding mechanisms that support a broad range of research ideas.

Brief descriptions of the research mechanisms that the NIDCD offers follow. For more complete descriptions, requirements, and information about additional opportunities, see the Research and Funding sections of our website.

The NIDCD is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDCD-funded research is conducted in public and private institutions across the country and on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.

What research mechanisms are available?

Investigator-Initiated Research Grant (R01)

The R01 supports original research proposed by principal investigators. R01s represent the largest category of NIDCD support. R01s are awarded to organizations on behalf of individual principal investigators based on strong proposals and investigator competence. Applicants need pilot data and a publication record.

NIDCD Early Career Research (ECR) Award (R21)

The NIDCD Early Career Research (ECR) Award (R21) supports pilot studies for newly independent investigators and advanced postdoctoral fellows within seven years of completing their terminal degree (excluding years of clinical training) and as they transition to research independence. The ECR R21 award replaced the NIDCD Small Grants (R03) program on December 11, 2015.

NIH Research Enhancement Award (R15) ​

The NIH Research Enhancement Award (R15) program supports small-scale research projects at educational institutions that provide baccalaureate or advanced degrees for a significant number of the nation’s research scientists but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. This program includes two types of awards: the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) for Undergraduate-Focused Institutions, and the Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools. The program replaces the NIH Academic Research Enhancement Award program, which expired in January 2019.

Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21)

The R21 supports exploratory and developmental research projects for the early and conceptual stages of research. Applications for R21 awards should describe projects distinct from those supported through the traditional R01 mechanism.

Clinical Research Center Grant (P5O)

The P5O supports an investigator-initiated research program in which a team of investigators works in a clearly defined clinical area of mutual scientific interest. The subjects, data, or tissue being studied must represent a population with a human communication disorder.

Small Business Innovation Research Program Grant (R43/R44)

The R43/R44 provides support for research and development of commercial products.

Small Business Technology Transfer Program Grant (R41/R42)

The R41/R42 supports the development of commercial projects by collaboration between small businesses and research institutions.

NIDCD Cooperative Agreement for Clinical Trials in Communication Disorders (U01 - Clinical Trial Required)

The cooperative agreement U01 mechanism (PAR-21-064) continues to be most appropriate for higher-risk clinical trials, which will benefit from the substantial scientific and programmatic involvement of an NIDCD Project Scientist.

How do I apply

Follow these four important steps to apply.

1. Contact the NIDCD.

Talk about your idea with the NIDCD staff member who is responsible for the scientific area of your research. These scientists, called program officers, are listed here. They will be able to help answer your questions. You also will want to review the NIDCD Strategic Plan to learn about research priorities of the institute.

2. Register in the NIH eRA Commons.

The NIH eRA Commons is a secure meeting place on the Internet where research organizations and grantees electronically receive and transmit information about the administration of biomedical and behavioral research grants. Applicants electronically access the status of their applications, and grantees access the status of their awards, submit reports, and make requests.

3. Access current application guidelines.

Visit the Funding section of the NIDCD website to select the appropriate grant mechanism for your research goals. There, you will also find additional information about each program area and detailed contact information for NIDCD staff.

4. Submit your application, noting all deadlines and requirements.

The SF 424 (Research & Related) grant application form is used for electronic submission and has largely replaced paper application forms. However, standard paper forms, such as PHS 398 and PHS 416, are still used for some types of grant applications.

To respond to a funding opportunity, you must submit your application electronically. NIH has developed Parent Announcements for use by applicants who wish to submit what were formerly termed investigator-initiated or unsolicited applications. To do so, use the electronic application package found on the Parent Announcement page of the NIH Office of Extramural Research website.

The NIDCD and the NIH encourage you to describe your research in terms that are easily understood by reviewers, scientists, Congress, and the public. Communicate the intent and value of your research by using clear and succinct language in titles, abstracts, and statements of public health relevance in your NIH grant application. Once funded, these parts of your application are available to Congress and the public via the NIH’s RePORTER website. For writing examples and tips, see the Grants Process Overview section on the NIH website.

Remember to work closely with your institution’s sponsored research office as you develop your application. Once you apply, be certain that you see your submitted application in your NIH eRA Commons account. If you have problems submitting your application, contact NIH Grants Information staff.

What happens after I apply? Where does my application go?

After you successfully submit your application, it is assigned to both an initial review group, called a study section, and to an NIH institute. The assignment is based on the scientific emphasis of the proposed research, as well as the expertise in each study section. Assignment to a study section is independent of assignment to an institute.

The Scientific Review Officer of the study section then assigns your application to reviewers. These reviewers will evaluate your application to determine:

  • Significance of the problem addressed
  • Experience of the investigator
  • Level of innovation
  • Appropriateness of approach
  • Scientific environment

If your proposal is deemed to be in the upper half of the applications received, the application will be given an impact score. It may also receive a percentile score based upon its scientific merit and how it ranks within the larger group of applications reviewed in that group. Principal investigators can retrieve a summary statement of their review comments and scores from the NIH eRA Commons.

Scored applications receive a second level of review by the National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council. The council is a committee of scientists and knowledgeable public members who provide the NIDCD with programmatic and policy advice about its programs. NDCD council members evaluate the fairness and appropriateness of an initial review and provide additional advice to the NIDCD staff. Once the NDCD council approves an application, the NIDCD makes final funding decisions based on scientific merit, program relevance, and available funds.

Of the grants submitted to the NIDCD in one year, typically about one-quarter are funded.

Note: Funding of grants is based upon merit and relevance, not upon any predetermined allocation to a program area.

How long does the process take?

The typical grant application takes at least nine months from the time the application is received until the grant award is made. For fellowship applications, the process often takes less time.

What training and career development mechanisms are available?

The NIDCD offers several training programs, including those listed below.

Ruth l. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (F31/F32)
Provides up to five years of predoctoral support or up to three years of postdoctoral support.

Career Development Awards (K Series)
Awards to support investigators at various career stages.

For more information about the full spectrum of training program opportunities and eligibility requirements read Launching Your NIDCD Research Career.

Who can I contact at the NIDCD for guidance?

The Division of Scientific Programs manages the extramural research and the research training portfolios of grants and contracts for the NIDCD. Whatever your level of training need or career stage, there is a scientific program officer who can be a key resource for you. The following scientific program officers are avaiIable to assist you:

Scientific Program Staff
Judith A. Cooper, Ph.D.

Hearing and Balance 
Janet Cyr, Ph.D.
Presbycusis, noise-induced hearing loss, peripheral auditory and vestibular system, temporal bone

Kelly King, Au.D., Ph.D.
Psychoacoustics, hearing aids, cochlear implants, clinical assessment and management

Nancy L. Freeman, Ph.D.
Cellular regeneration, development, transduction

Roger Miller, Ph.D.
Biomedical engineering, neural prostheses, tinnitus

Amy Poremba, Ph.D.
Central auditory and vestibular pathways

Bracie Watson, Ph.D.
Genetics, otitis media, immune-mediated ear diseases

Clinical Trials
Trinh Ly, M.D.

Epidemiology, Statistics, and Population Sciences Section
Howard J. Hoffman, M.A.

Holly Storkel, Ph.D.

Voice and Speech 
Lisa Kopf, Ph.D.

Taste and Smell
Susan Sullivan, Ph.D.

Training and Special Grants Programs

Training and Career Development (F, T, K) 
Alberto Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D.

NIDCD Early Career Research (ECR) Award (R21)
Bracie Watson, Ph.D.

AREA Grant (R15)
Susan Sullivan, Ph.D.

Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant (R21)
Nancy L. Freeman, Ph.D.

Clinical Research Center Grant (P50)
Holly Storkel, Ph.D.

Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer
Roger L. Miller, Ph.D.


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