NICHD Policy on Special Council Review (SCR)


To help manage resources more effectively, NICHD adjusted its SCR policy in 2023 as follows:

  • Sets the SCR threshold for research projects to $1 million in total costs per year (inclusive of direct and indirect costs)
  • Subjects multiple program directors (PDs)/principal investigator (PIs) to the policy, if one or more of the PDs/PIs meets or exceeds this funding threshold

The policy change will allow the institute to fund a larger, more diverse group of investigators by reducing the concentration of funding, while continuing to support unique opportunities for highly promising work.

All competing primary Research Project Grant (RPG) applications to NICHD are potentially subject to this new policy, effective for applications submitted for the October 2024 National Advisory Child Health and Human Development (NACHHD) Council round. Exemptions exist for non-research applications, such as training and conference support. 

The NACHHD Council approved the change during its May 2023 meeting; review the May meeting minutes (PDF 480 KB) for details.

NICHD Policy Details

As described in NOT-HD-23-038, NICHD is implementing additional considerations when reviewing applications from exceptionally well-funded investigators, beginning with applications submitted for the September 2024 NACHHD Council meeting.

  • NICHD defines “exceptionally well-funded” as a PD/PI already receiving $1 million or more in total costs as of 30 days after the NACHHD Council meeting, exclusive of the pending application.
  • Multi-PD/PI research projects will now be subject to the policy if one or more of the PDs/PIs meets or exceeds the funding threshold.
  • Awarded supplements to promote diversity do not contribute to the threshold.

Applications with primary assignment to NICHD from exceptionally well-funded PDs/PIs (as previously defined) must have an exceptional score to be considered for SCR and funding. An exceptional score is defined as better than the seventh percentile or equivalent (for an application that does not receive a percentile).

Staff will review applications flagged for SCR, and the NACHHD Council may consider exceptions to SCR policy as appropriate.

The NICHD SCR policy applies to competing RPG applications. The following are exempt from the SCR policy:

  • Non-RPG applications, such as training and education grants, conferences, research resources, network clinical research, and administrative supplements
  • Applications submitted in response to targeted notices of funding opportunity (NOFOs)
  • Applications submitted in response to a NOFO supported by congressionally directed funds, such as HIV/AIDS, small business grants, the Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative, and the INCLUDE (Investigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down Syndrome) Project

Because funding decisions for all applications receiving NACHHD concurrence are made individually, funding is not guaranteed for applications that meet SCR funding policy criteria.

NIH Policy

In February 2022, NIH adjusted its SCR threshold to $2 million in total costs, as outlined in NOT-OD-22-049. Additional background information (NOT-OD-12-140) describes the RPG mechanisms to which the SCR policy applies and other considerations.


NICHD is committed to funding meritorious investigators, particularly those in the early and middle stages of their careers, so that they can build and sustain independent research careers. The institute also believes that broadening the reach of its funding allows for more novel ideas and approaches to achieving its scientific mission in support of the most promising science to address critical public health needs.

Applications subject to SCR policy and possible exceptions to this policy will be identified by NICHD staff, not by investigators. However, applicants with questions about the SCR process or policy should contact their program officer.

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