About Funding Opportunities & Notices

Learn the basics about extramural funding instruments and announcements before you decide which funding mechanism best fits your needs.

  • Grant: Financial assistance mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity. A grant is used whenever an NIH institute anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during performance of the financially assisted activities.
  • Contract: An award instrument used to acquire by purchase, lease, or barter, property or services from a non-federal party for the direct benefit or use of the federal government. For a contract, the government establishes detailed requirements to meet its perceived needs and decides on the entity to meet those needs.
  • Cooperative Agreement: A financial assistance instrument under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the federal agency and the recipient during performance of the project or activity. These agreements are similar to grants, but federal staff have substantial scientific or programmatic involvement.

Solicited: NICHD-Initiated Topics

  • A Request for Applications (RFA) is used to invite applications on a targeted area of research designed to answer a focused question or set of questions for which there is a clear gap in knowledge.
    • RFAs usually solicit applications for a one-time competition on a specific topic.
    • RFAs describe initiatives within a well-defined scientific priority area to stimulate research on that topic.
    • A certain number of awards receive set-aside funds.
    • RFAs usually have only one application receipt date unless they are reissued.
  • A Program Announcement (PA) is used to invite applications that address broader areas of research.
    • PAs often reference a research area that represents a new, ongoing, or expanded interest and/or high-priority program for NIH.
    • Generally, PAs have no set-aside funds. In many cases, applications submitted in response to PAs are considered investigator-initiated in that the applicant has responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed project.
  • A Program Announcement with special Review considerations (PAR) is similar to a PA, but a PAR goes through specialized handling of application receipt, assignment (also called referral), and/or review.
  • A Request for Proposals (RFP) announces NICHD’s need to purchase items the government needs or to perform research and development.
    • The RFP asks offerors to submit proposals for a one-time competition on a specific topic.
    • The competition results in the award of a contract.
    • A certain number of contracts receive set-aside funds.
    • NICHD-specific RFPs and contract opportunities are available at the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Unsolicited: Investigator-Initiated Topics

With this type of project, the investigator comes up with the research project idea, submits a grant application, and initiates and manages the research within an area that is relevant to NIH. Most NIH grants are unsolicited.

NICHD accepts investigator-initiated applications using several broad NIH Parent Announcements.

The following table provides a quick comparison of the features of different types of NOFOs.

Feature RFA PA PAR
Does NICHD sets aside funds for these projects? Yes No No
Is there a special application receipt date? Yes No Varies
How long is it active? Until receipt date 3 Years Until final receipt date, usually 3 years
Does it have a special assignment or referral? Yes No Varies
Does it require a special review panel? Yes No Varies

To learn what specific mechanisms NICHD uses to support research, visit the Types of NICHD Funding Mechanisms section.

More specific information about funding is available in the Grants Process, Policies & Strategies section.​

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