Nih Grant Vs Contract

Nih Grant vs Contract: Understanding the Difference

When it comes to funding scientific research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) plays a critical role in supporting projects that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in medicine. Two main ways that the NIH provides funding are through grants and contracts. While the terms may sound similar, understanding the differences between them is essential for researchers seeking funding.

What is a Grant?

A grant is a financial award that the NIH provides to academic institutions, research organizations, and other entities to support research projects that align with the agency`s mission. Grants are usually applied for by individual researchers or teams of researchers and are awarded based on the merit of their proposed project. In general, grants are designed to fund research that is exploratory, innovative, and high-risk, with the potential for significant scientific advancement.

Grants usually provide funding for a specific project or period of time, which may last several years, and generally come with minimal restrictions. The researchers are free to explore their research question and follow their own methodology. However, the NIH will require progress reports, and the money must be spent according to the proposed budget.

What is a Contract?

A contract, on the other hand, is a funding award that the NIH provides to a specific entity, such as a company or academic institution, to perform specific tasks or provide specific services that are relevant to the agency`s mission. Contracts differ from grants in that they usually require deliverables that must meet specific criteria or goals. The contract may include terms like deliverables, milestones, and timelines, all of which must be met to receive payment.

The NIH may award contracts for services such as clinical trials, testing new drugs or therapies, or developing new technology. The agency may also contract with businesses or academic institutions to develop training, educational materials, or provide technical support to the NIH.

What are the main differences?

Grants and contracts differ in several ways. Grants are usually awarded to individual researchers or teams of researchers, and the money is intended to support a specific research project. The funding is typically flexible, with minimal restrictions other than periodic progress reports, and the researchers are free to conduct their research as they see fit.

Contracts, however, are awarded to specific entities and typically involve a more structured agreement with specific deliverables and timelines. The NIH may require a particular method, outcome, or standard of performance that the recipient must meet to receive payment.

Which one should you choose?

Deciding between a grant and a contract often depends on the nature of the research project and the goals of the researcher. Grants are typically better suited for high-risk, exploratory research that requires flexibility and creativity. On the other hand, contracts are suitable for research projects that require practical, measurable goals and specific deliverables, like clinical trials.


NIH grants and contracts are two important ways that the agency provides funding for scientific research. Grants are typically awarded to individual researchers or teams of researchers and are intended to support specific research projects with minimal restrictions. Contracts, on the other hand, are awarded to specific entities and involve a more structured agreement with specific deliverables and timelines.

By understanding the differences between grants and contracts, researchers can choose the funding mechanism that best suits their research goals and aligns with the NIH`s mission. Whether it`s through a grant or a contract, the NIH continues to play a vital role in supporting scientific discovery and advancements in medicine.