Talking to NIH Staff About Your Application and Grant

If you’re planning to apply for or currently have an NIH grant, you’ll likely have questions for NIH staff members at some point. Who’s the right person to contact—and when and for what? Here are some of the answers to these questions.

How Do I Know Who to Contact?

The three main groups at NIH involved in the application and award processes—program officers (POs), scientific review officers (SROs), and grants management specialists (GMSs)—have distinct expertise to help guide you. Your institution will also have an authorized organizational representative (AOR) who submits your grant application and helps manage financial and post-award administration questions.

POs advise investigators on applying for grants, help them understand their summary statements, and provide programmatic guidance on managing their research. They also play a leading role in making funding recommendations.

SROs identify, recruit, and assign reviewers to applications; run study section meetings; and produce summary statements following the meetings.

GMSs provide guidance on administratively managing an award, monitor financial aspects of grant awards, and ensure that administrative requirements are met before issuing a notice of award and during the project period. Keep in mind that the recipient of a grant is an institution, not an individual. Therefore, you should work with your institution’s AOR—the first point of contact regarding NIH policies—to communicate with GMSs.

Contacting a PO Before Submitting an Application

Before submitting an application, contact the PO who manages grants in your scientific area. NIGMS POs are more than willing to talk to applicants about whether their applications are relevant to the NIGMS mission, help identify the appropriate study section, and discuss details such as budget and scope of work.

Once you identify a PO who is likely to be involved in your research area, send them an email with a brief description of yourself and your work and ask if they have time to talk in the next week or so. If this initial contact isn’t the appropriate PO, they’ll usually be able to point you in the right direction. NIGMS staff try to respond as quickly as they can; typically, responses to routine inquiries can be expected within 1 to 2 business days. If you don't hear back from the PO for a week, please contact them again.

Communication During the Review and Post-Award Phases

During the review process, communicate with the SRO of the study section to which your application is assignedOnce the summary statement is released, usually a few weeks after the study section meeting, contact the PO (not the SRO) assigned to your application if you have questions about the review or about the possibility of funding.

If your application is recommended for funding, talk to your AOR about addressing the award and other administrative requirements with the GMS. After a notice of award is issued, contact the PO for scientific or programmatic questions and, together with your AOR, the GMS for financial or post-award administration questions, such as potential project changes or reporting requirements. Our Contact Types by Question webpage has more details.

This example timeline for a hypothetical February application due date illustrates who to contact if you have questions at different stages of the application process.

​​Example Communication Timeline for a February Due Date

​DatesStage of Application ProcessContact​
Application preparationPO
CSR makes study section and institute/center assignments--
Apr-MaySROs make reviewer assignmentsSRO
Study sections meetSRO
Jul-AugSummary statements prepared and made available to applicants and advisory councilsPO
Oct-DecFunding decisions made
Post-award grant closeout: after an award is issued
PO, or GMS if selected for funding​

In conclusion

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the appropriate staff members during the grant application, review, and post-award phases, and remember to include your institution’s AOR when discussing administrative matters. NIGMS staff enjoy speaking with and answering questions for program directors/principal investigators and applicants. The goal is to fund the best research that fits within our mission, and communication is an important part of reaching that goal.