NIAMS Grant Funding Decisions

Updated November 2012

The decision to fund or not to fund a particular application is based on the assessment of scientific merit by a peer review group and on the relevance of the proposed work to the Institute's scientific and health priorities. Peer reviewers' judgments of scientific merit are expressed in priority scores and in percentile rankings derived from these priority scores. At any point in a given fiscal year, budgetary projections are based on awarding funds to all applications with rankings better than a certain percentile (unless an application is deemed of low program relevance or priority by the National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Advisory Council). This percentile sometimes is referred to as the Institute’s payline.

However, applications that address subjects of particular relevance to the Institute's scientific and health priorities may be considered for awards even if their assigned scores and percentile rankings would not qualify for funding under the current payline. Normally, a small portion of each year's budget is reserved for such discretionary or "select pay" awards. Projects to be funded on this basis are selected by the Director, NIAMS, following staff discussion. Over the past 15 years (fiscal years 1998-2012), between 3.3% (FY 2004) and 10.7% (FY 2012) of the total dollars that NIAMS allocated to new grants was spent on “select pay” applications. See link to NIAMS funding patterns in adjacent “Related Information” box for graphs illustrating the number of R01 applications received and grants funded at each percentile.

The NIAMS Long-Range Plan: Fiscal Years 2010-2014 provides a broad outline of opportunities and needs related to the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of diseases within the Institute's mission areas. Members of both the scientific and lay communities concerned with programs of the NIAMS provided extensive input as the plan was developed.

Institute funding priorities reflect highly meritorious research as determined by the peer review process, public health needs, scientific opportunities, and Congressional and Administration mandates, among other factors. For grants, the principal public expressions of Institute priorities are Requests for Applications (RFAs) and Program Announcements (PAs), as published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Applications received in response to an RFA generally compete only with other applications received in response to the RFA. Applications received in response to PAs compete with all other approved applications assigned to the Institute. However, applications that are responsive to PAs are candidates for discretionary funding, as described above. Investigators may not request or apply for discretionary funding.