NIH has, for many years, limited the number of times a project could be submitted for consideration for funding. Until about 3 months ago, investigators who were not successful after the first submission of a project could resubmit the application once, addressing the reviewers’ concerns and improving (hopefully) the research proposed. After that, investigators would need to substantially modify the project so that NIH would consider it a new project before they could submit it for consideration.
As of April 2014, the policy has changed. After an unsuccessful submission, an applicant can revise and resubmit once, as before, or submit the project, modified or not, as a new application, with no reference to or association with any prior submission. There are some nuances to the policy, so I highly recommend that you read the FAQs.
So, should you submit a resubmission application or a new application?
- Generally speaking, if you can address the reviewers’ criticisms and the identified weaknesses, a resubmission is the way to go, particularly if there was enthusiasm and acknowledgment of the potential impact of the work. Resubmitted applications generally go back to the same review panel (and sometimes the same reviewers). The panel has access to the original summary statement and considers your responses to the prior critiques.
- On the other hand, if the problem with your application was low impact or a lack of strengths, it is better to rethink your project and submit a new application.
Should you dust off your unsuccessful applications and send them in again? It depends! There were reasons why the applications were unsuccessful. Can you address those issues? For example:
- Maybe you think the study section that reviewed the project did not have the right expertise. The Center for Scientific Review makes the rosters and descriptions of all study sections publicly available and searchable on their Web site. Can you identify a study section that would fit better? If so, you may request it in the cover letter for your application.
- Maybe the reviewers thought the project was premature or overly ambitious. Have you continued work on the topic? Can you now focus on specific hypotheses? Do you now have more supporting data? Has your field changed in a way that would increase the impact of your work?
We at NCCAM are interested in hearing feedback from the scientific community about this change in policy and how it affects your work as an applicant, grantee, and peer reviewer. Let me know your thoughts about the process.