NIH Recovery Fund Tips

In a move to jump-start the nation’s economy, create jobs, and conduct fast-paced scientific research, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has infused $8.2 billion of extramural funding in the National Institutes of Health coffers.  The catch is that this money must be spent within two years.

With such a large amount of money, there are many details to flesh out, and rather than repeat much of what’s on the NIH Recovery site, Jennifer L. Zietzer, director of legislative relations with the Federation of American Scientists for Experimental Biology, offers a few points to keep in mind in your attempts to take advantage of the Recovery funding.

Aggressive Deadlines

NIH has established very firm deadlines.  “Start looking at the funding announcements now.”  Ms. Zeitzer said.  She also recommends paying attention to the reporting requirements before you apply so you are not caught off guard. 

The money must be spent by the end of FY 2010 and the Office of Management and Budget is going to be monitoring the drawdown.

Topic Areas for Challenge Grants

NIH has determined 15 high priority topic areas for their Challenge Grants to fund 200 or more grants through a $200 million designation.   

While Ms. Zeitzer cautions that the Challenge Grants may be difficult for a young researcher to apply for because of the aggressive deadline, do not ignore them outright. 

“Perhaps a young research is working with a PI who’s eligible for a challenge grant, and maybe there’s an element that applies to the full research team,” she said.

Supplemental Funding

For young researchers, this is the best area where they may have the best chances of receiving funding.  “If young researchers are working on a grant that was not refunded, the administrative supplements are going to be very important in order to retain their position in the lab,” she said.  But be certain to mention it to the PI who may not be aware of the supplemental funding to keep a laboratory team together.


Obviously, not every grant will be funded.  NIH is still going to apply its rigorous standard to each application. 

“NIH is very serious about not just funding science to spend $10 billion, they want to fund science that meets its goals.”

NIH is trying to avoid the funding gaps that may occur after the two-year spend down and trying to prevent labs becoming dismantled after the stimulus funds run out.

Keep checking the NIH Recovery website that includes an overview of ARRA and new funding announcement.  You can also sign up for a weekly newsletter that provides updated information.  Bookmark or grab the RSS feed for

-Russ Campbell, communications officer