If your NIH grant is eligible for renewal (R03s and R21s are not, for example, but many R01s are—check the FOA and talk a program officer), you will want to start planning your application well before you start running out of funding. Consider whether it makes sense to continue with the same long-term goal you began (science evolves, after all) and whether your overarching research question is still as significant as it was when you submitted your original proposal.
A successful renewal will offer new specific aims (and, often, a new title) toward an existing long-term goal—you should have made progress in the first 3-4 years of your grant and be ready to build on your work. A renewal is not about continuing the same work, nor about the fact that you did not finish your original work.
Consider a renewal application if you have found something novel in your previous project that warrants next steps; have found a new way to look at an old problem; or have a new collaborator that enables a new direction. As with any proposal, make sure you know the current literature. And even if you are submitting a proposal in the same field as before, a project that describes a new long-term goal will likely be a new application, not a renewal.
Keep in mind: reviewers will know your work by now and judge your proposal in relation to your previous research and the impact you’ve made on your field. They will consider your record of productivity, publications and new data and know if you’ve made meaningful progress.
Sharpening Your Focus: Tips on Grant Proposal Preparation is a series of tips published in Medical School Research News about proposal preparation. Written by Jill Jividen, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Research Development, you can view the full archive of articles here.