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Why You Should Know About the R56 Funding Mechanism

By Meg Bouvier

I stay current on NIH happenings and I’d be delighted to keep you informed.

Many researchers are not aware of the NIH R56 funding mechanism. Its goal is to provide 1-2 years of funding to promising submissions that are outside the funding range, with the ultimate goal of putting in a more competitive R01 at the end of the R56 funding period. A few important things to know about the R56:

  • It is available to R01 applicants only.
  • You may not apply directly. The recipients are typically chosen by program staff. Need I continue to beat my “get to know your program officer” drum? Please, please develop a relationship with your NIH PO whenever possible. They are more important to your career than you think, in many ways.
  • Applications chosen are not necessarily just outside the funding range. While the description of the award does state it is for “R01 applications with priority scores or percentiles that fall just outside the funding limits”, it goes on to state that “Nominees for the award must be in the most meritorious half of the priority or percentile range” (i.e., not triaged). Of the few clients I know who have been selected for an R56 over the years, in one memorable instance the grantee had an R01 ranked 30%, but the PO knew him well and strongly believed in his work (see “get to know your PO” above).

The NIA, NIAID, NCI, NHLBI, and several other I&Cs participate in the R56 and are listed on the NIH page.

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