Grant mechanisms

Thomas F. Hilton, Carl G. Leukefeld

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses various grant mechanisms new investigators are most likely to use early in their careers. It should be noted that we do not focus on mechanisms you may never encounter your entire career. We also include for context some of the bigger grants because new investigators sometimes find themselves being invited to join large projects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpringerBriefs in Public Health
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameSpringerBriefs in Public Health
ISSN (Print)2192-3698
ISSN (Electronic)2192-3701

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research project grants (RPGs), Training grants, Career development grants,

Funding Information:
Research project grants (RPGs) are the backbone of NIH and NSF federal research grant portfolios. They are awarded to universities and research institutions to conduct studies aimed at advancing the public interest of the United States. These grants may also be studies that advance space exploration, reduce crime, improve the public health, or protect the nation from its enemies. Generally, RPGs come in small medium, large, and extra-large sizes. They may be unsolicited and based on FOAs called Program Announcements or Broad Area Announcements (PA/BAA) or

Funding Information:
Small Grants NIH and NSF award most small Federal grants. Normally, small grants have a funding ceiling of under $250 K and are completed in 2 years or less. The NIH R03 is a good example. R03s are perhaps the most popular grant mechanism to help PIs at any career stage to justify a subsequent R01 or other large-budget grant application. R03s are rarely renewable. R03 grants are for up to 2 years with a direct cost limit of $50 K/year. They most often support pilot or feasibility studies, collection of preliminary data; secondary analysis of existing data; small, self-contained research projects; or development of new research technology.

Funding Information:
Medium-Sized Grants Medium sized grants are the mainstay of university research. They usually have a total ceiling of about $2.5M , are renewable (competitively), and must be completed within 5y ears or less. The NIH R01 is typical. These grants form the fundamental building blocks of new theories and new discoveries. They are large enough to produce generalizable results, yet small enough to make subsequent replication studies affordable. By providing focused studies, medium-sized grants are the grist of meta-analyses used to cross-validate theories and empirical discoveries. Needless to say, most science is carried out with medium-sized grants. There is no specific dollar limit unless specified in the FOA, however, advance permission is required for an amount over $500 K in any single year of the grant.

Funding Information:
R21 is NIH’s Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21). We like this mechanism as it offers more support than an R03 for pilot and feasibility studies. Like R03s, R21s run for 2 years, but their budget maxes out at $275 K vs $100 K.

Funding Information:
Training grants range from supporting high school curricula to funding post-graduate study. Training grants fall into two categories: T (training) and F (fellowship) grants. T-grants are unique among career development grants since they are awarded to educational institutions. Grantees are responsible for curriculum development, instruction, and deciding on student eligibility for stipends and other financial support. The NIH T32 is a typical training grant. It covers tuition, fees, and stipends to support students in a training program as well as conference travel, lab equipment, and faculty salaries.

Funding Information:
Training grants also may include cross training to enable interdisciplinary research, career transitions from clinician to researcher, and to help people sidelined by illness or other life events to obtain refresher training to re-enter their field. Table summarizes the types of training grants supported by NIH.

Funding Information:
Fellowship grants are usually awarded to individuals, either directly by the funding institution or indirectly by an educational institution. Fellowships include both pre-and postdoctoral study at virtually any career stage. Most common are fellowship grants to support pre-doctoral student dissertation research or to extend mentored research following the award of a doctorate. Some fellowship grants are open to foreign applicants to study in the US.

Funding Information:
Many fellowship grants (F awards) pay tuition and fees. Some include a modest stipend to pay for living expenses. Most F awards are limited to US citizens or permanent residents. Table 3.2 describes grant mechanisms to support the educational development of students pursuing research careers.

Funding Information:
NIH T and K grants, so if you are contemplating a career development grant, make sure to check both mechanisms.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Applied grants
  • Career development grants
  • Conference grants
  • Planning grants
  • Research project grants
  • Training grants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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