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The BRAIN Initiative

Applicant FAQs

I see that most of the Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) use the U01 activity code. How is a U01 different from an R01?

The U01 activity code is similar to the R01, insofar as investigators are free to propose specific aims that they believe to be appropriate for their research. However, the U01 code is used for cooperative agreement awards, which formalize a partnership role for NIH staff in assisting or coordinating the funded research. Terms for the cooperative agreement, which focus primarily on potential coordination of research among awardees, are indicated in text of the FOAs.

What structure should an R24 application use (RFA-MH-14-217)?

The R24 application should have the same structure as standard R01, R21, or R03 applications, since the R24 applications will be reviewed using the standard Significance, Innovation, Approach, Investigator and Environment criteria. Specifically, the R24 application should have a 1 page specific aims section, followed by a 12 page research plan section that includes incorporates Background, Significance, Innovation, and Approach sections. Given that the R24 application will be proposing planning activities rather than testing hypotheses or conducting experiments, the Specific Aims could be described in the goals of the planning activities, and the Approach section would consist of a description of the types of planning activities, the time course of the activities, and potential milestones, if applicable.

RFA-NS-14-007 and RFA-NS-14-008 are aimed at technology development for large scale recording and modulation of neural activity, with a goal of dissemination to the wider research community. Is it appropriate to propose hypothesis driven biological experiments as part of an application for these FOAs?

Although proposed technologies should enable or reduce major barriers to hypothesis-driven experiments, applications should focus on the technology rather than experimental or biological aims. Projects may engage in iterative development in the context of specific experiments, but these experiments should be formulated to validate the technology and demonstrate its capabilities, rather than advancing the state of biological knowledge.

The FOA says that NIH "intends to commit approximately $N million in fiscal year 2014 to fund an estimate of 5–8 awards." Is the indicated dollar amount for each award, or is it for all the awards? Does the amount include indirect costs? Does the amount span the entire three years of the award?

The dollar amounts indicated in each FOA represent the committed funds for fiscal year 2014 to cover all awards for that FOA, including direct plus indirect (facilities and administrative) costs. Because future budget years have yet to be approved by Congress, the amounts only represent funds for the initial award year. However, as with other NIH FOAs, the expectation is that comparable funding will be available for the non-competing years of each award. The anticipated number of awards for each of the FOAs gives guidance regarding the expected average cost per award. For example, for an FOA where the intention is to commit $5 million to fund an estimate of 10 awards, NIH staff expect the average award size (including direct plus indirect costs) to be $500,000 per year.

What would a typical budget be for this FOA, and how much money should I ask for?

The funding commitments indicated in each FOA give an estimate of the average award size for each FOA. However, it is expected that there will be a range of budgets, depending on the scope of the proposed projects, and the research opportunities they present. Application budgets are not limited, but they should reflect the actual needs of the proposed research.

Is my project appropriate for this FOA?

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult the Scientific/Research Contact listed in the FOA to discuss the alignment of their proposed work with the FOA goals. Note that upon receipt, applications will be evaluated by NIH staff for FOA responsiveness, and applications that are deemed nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

Why is my research area not included within the scope of this (or any of the other) FOAs?

NIH recognizes that there are areas of research with relevance to the BRAIN initiative that are not included in this first set of FOAs. This reflects strategic decisions in the context of a limited budget, along with recognition of ongoing research efforts outside the BRAIN Initiative. The NIH Blueprint Institutes ( support those research efforts through applications received via general “parent” announcements as well as through targeted funding opportunities. The BRAIN Initiative only represents a portion of the NIH neuroscience portfolio, and investigators are encouraged to contact Institute Program Staff for information on potential opportunities that may fall in line with their research aims.

I have multiple ideas that seem responsive to one or more of the FOAs. Can I submit more than one proposal, or can I be part of more than one team submitting a proposal?

Multiple proposals are allowed and will not be penalized, as long as each project is distinct, follows the application instructions specific to each respective FOA, and is directed toward the goals of the respective FOA.

I know that foreign investigators are eligible to apply, but I have heard that they are evaluated differently from U.S. investigators. Is this true?

Non-U.S. institutions are allowed to apply, and collaborations with non-U.S. investigators are allowed. For applications submitted by foreign organizations, reviewers will assess whether the project presents special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions that exist in other countries and either are not readily available in the United States or augment existing U.S. resources. Additional information is available at

Will there be special consideration for new or early-stage investigators?

As with other NIH grants, reviewers are expected to take into consideration the fact that new investigators typically are less experienced in preparation of applications, and have had less time to develop preliminary data for their proposals. More information on NIH policy on new investigators is available at

I see that teams of researchers are encouraged for most of the announcements, but my project doesn't require a team. Will I be penalized for this?

For some of the FOAs (e.g., NS-14-007, NS-14-008), teams are encouraged but not required, and applications from individual investigators will not be penalized. For others (especially NS-14-009 and MH-14-217) there is an expectation that applications will propose teams of investigators.

Should I use a modular or a detailed budget for my submission?

In most situations, applications under $250,000 direct cost per year should use a modular budget, whereas applications over that amount should use a detailed budget. In any case it is important to follow the application instructions to determine the type of budget submitted.

Will the applications be reviewed in a standing NIH study section?

The FOAs will be reviewed in Special Emphasis Panels convened by the review staffs of NIMH and NINDS, with reviewer expertise focused on the applications received in response to each FOA.

Is collaboration with industry allowed?

Applications from, and collaborations with, For-Profit Organizations are allowed.


THE BRAIN INITIATIVE is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). BRAIN RESEARCH THROUGH ADVANCING INNOVATIVE NEUROTECHNOLOGIES® is a registered trademark of HHS.

This page last reviewed on April 22, 2014