Cell Imaging Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of projects does NIGMS support – technology development or research investigating basic questions in cell biology using imaging approaches?

NIGMS supports both types of projects in cellular imaging – technology development and the application of imaging to probe questions in cell biology.

What kinds of imaging research does NIGMS support?

The Institute is particularly interested in advances that will enable visualization at the cellular and subcellular level that will lead to fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of how cell structure and function are related and dynamically regulated. NIGMS funds projects using a wide range of imaging techniques and applications, including optical/fluorescence microscopy for cellular imaging, electron microscopy, single molecule spectroscopy, live cell imaging and the development of probes and sensors.

What kinds of imaging research doesn’t NIGMS support?

We do not support research focused on specific diseases, clinical technologies and medical procedures, which are supported by other NIH institutes and centers. Examples of technologies that NIGMS does not fund are MRI, ultrasound and PET. Pure instrument development is funded primarily by other parts of NIH.

How are these applications reviewed?

Proposals go to standing study sections at the Center for Scientific Review at NIH and are evaluated using the Peer Review guidelines. Applications are read by three reviewers, who include experts and generalists. Their final evaluations are based on five criteria (significance, investigator, innovation, approach and environment). You will receive a written critique and criteria scores. Please note that the overall score is not an average of these elements and that any one criterion score can raise or lower the overall score.

Which study sections review research that applies or develops imaging technologies?

Applications for applying and analyzing fluorescence and EM images are reviewed in the CSRS (Cellular Signaling and Regulatory Systems), MBPP (Membrane Biology and Protein Processing) and NCSD (Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Structure Function and Dynamics) study sections in the Cell Biology Review Group. These panels primarily handle R01 applications. Small business applications in the general areas of cell biology and molecular imaging are reviewed in the IMST-16 study section. Applications to develop imaging methods and tools are reviewed in the MIS (Microscopic Imaging and Spectroscopy) and EBIT (Enabling Bioanalytical and Imaging Technologies) study sections.

Will NIH accept supplementary information following the submission?

No. The new NIH Peer Review guidelines no longer allow supplemental materials for any application.

When will the reviews take place?

Study sections meet three times per year in February, June and October. Typically, review meetings are held 120 days after receipt. Please refer to the receipt deadlines on the Office of Extramural Research Website.

When will awards be made?

Awards are made throughout the fiscal year. Following the initial review at study section, applications go to a second level of review and are considered by the NIGMS Advisory Council, which meets three times per year in January, May and September. After consideration of all pre-award applicable information, NIGMS program directors will determine whether an award will be made, if special conditions are required and what level of funding is appropriate.

Do I have to apply to a specific funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to be eligible for an award in the area of cellular imaging research?

No. However, NIH requires that all applications must list an FOA. In most cases, the generic R01 FOA is sufficient (PA-16-160). NIGMS supports imaging research in standard R01 applications. If you are responding to a specific announcement, list the specific Program Announcement (PA) or Request for Applications (RFA).

What kinds of grants does NIGMS support?

For a complete list, refer to the NIGMS Research Grants Mechanism Website.