NIH – To Resubmit or Not to Resubmit? (Part 1)

A tough and ever-changing question.

Perhaps a quick personal historical overview might help shed light on the statement above. When I started out in this field in many years ago, there was a “three strike” policy. That basically meant that you could submit an original proposal, and then two revisions. If you didn’t get the award you had to change direction. In some cases, this caused some of our clients to regard the original as a type of “feeler” to send out before getting down to things in the following proposals. Others, correctly, took every proposal seriously. But however you looked at it, you were out after three tries.

After a few years, the NIH, presumably trying to reduce reviewer workload, if I recall correctly, changed this to a two-strike policy. That means that you had the original and a single try at a resubmission before you were “out of there” with the research idea. This caused general unhappiness in the field, because having just one chance to resubmit was kind of harsh. Researchers really didn’t like having to change projects, after getting an almost-funded 17 percentile for example. I also personally believe this didn’t make much sense when the paylines are so competitive. I mean, the difference between awarded and not-awarded is sometimes negligible in terms of score, and in the very-subjective range of reviewers’ decisions.

The surprising next move was that the NIH did an almost complete 180 degree turn in terms of concept. After a few years of having the rough two-strike policy, they went with the complete opposite, and this is what we currently have now. Yes, you can now still only resubmit (revise) your proposal once for each original, but can then go ahead and continue the cycle as many times as you like: Original – resubmission – original – resubmission and on and on. No formal limits. We may note here that the second “original” is also referred to as a “virtual A2” by the NIH itself (A2 refers to a second resubmission).

Joel Knopf
Manager of Consulting Services


In our next resubmission posts we will discuss:

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