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Understanding Overlap and Sample Overlap statements for grant applications

Did you realize there are 3 areas of overlap you may need to address when submitting grant applications and before accepting an award?  Overlap may be scientific, budgetary, and/or related to commitment/effort.  Insight into these issues is important for any Principal Investigator (PI) when writing effective grant applications.

Funding agencies recognize that situations may occur when a PI has similar proposals pending with different agencies that, if all funded, will present overlap issues..  In order to monitor overlap, many federal sponsors require a listing of all current awards and pending proposals (frequently referred to as Current and Pending support) for the PI and key personnel (consultants are NOT included) listed on grant proposals either at the proposal submission stage or prior to issuing an award (e.g., Just-in-Time). For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requires a list of Current and Pending support for the PI and all Senior Personnel be provided at the time the proposal is submitted. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), however, requires the submission of “other support” for the PI and Key Personnel during Just-in-Time to ensure all compliance actions, including overlap issues,  are in order.  cropped-cropped-toolkit-24157707-copy.jpg

The three overlap areas listed below are those that are monitored by Federal sponsors (Source:  NIH website):

Scientific Overlap: “Scientific overlap occurs when substantially the same research is proposed in more than one application; or is submitted to two or more different funding sources for review and funding consideration; or a specific research objective and the experimental design for accomplishing that objective are the same or closely related in two or more pending applications or awards, regardless of funding source.”

Budget Overlap: “Budgetary overlap occurs when duplicate or equivalent budgetary items (e.g., equipment, salary) are requested in an application but are already funded by another source.”

Commitment Overlap: “Commitment overlap occurs when any project-supported personnel has time commitments (i.e., percent effort) exceeding 100 percent (or 12 person months), regardless of how the effort/salary is being supported or funded.”

What should I do if there is overlap?

If an overlap occurs, it must be addressed with the agency before the new award can be accepted. If the overlap cannot be eliminated, the PI will not be able to accept the new award.  Addressing overlap may take place at the pre-award or post-award stage and often involves:

  • adjusting the scope of work,
  • revising the project budget, and/or
  • modifying time commitments

Keep in mind that changes in a PI’s funding portfolio can impact existing awards.  You will need to discuss any project changes as part of your annual progress reporting process.  Be transparent and comprehensive in your explanation.  Any concerns should be discussed with your Institution’s Grants Office or a trusted Research Administrator  before contacting a funding agency.


Principal Investigators may find the following resources useful when dealing with overlap issues:

NIH Center for Scientific Review: Evaluation of Unallowable Resubmission and Overlapping Applications

Nature (2013): Funding Agencies’ Position Statements on Duplicate Grants

Scientific Overlap Statement Example (Source:  NIH website)

There is significant scientific overlap between Aim 2 of NSF DCB 59909 and Aim 4 of this application under consideration.  If both are funded, the budgets will be adjusted appropriately in conjunction with agency staff.

Budgetary Overlap Statement Example

There is budgetary overlap between the support for Aim 1 of AHA SDA 4934 and the support for Aim 3 of this application.  If both are funded, Dr. Researcher agrees to revise her AHA Scientist Development Award budget in order to avoid budgetary overlap with the application under consideration.

Commitment Overlap Statement Examples: (Source:  Duke University website)

When role on the project to be reduced is Sponsor Key on U01-AR052186 in this example

If the proposal under consideration is funded, Dr. Duke will request Sponsor approval to reduce his effort from 1.8 to 0.6 calendar months on U01-AR052186.

When role on the project to be reduced is Duke Key or non-key

If the proposal under consideration is funded, Dr. Duke will reduce his effort from 2.4 to 1.2 calendar months on R01-NR010777.

When roles on projects expire before new effort on proposal in consideration will begin

There will not be overlap since R01-AG020162 and R01-CA076016 will both end August 31, 2013 and the pending project would not begin until December 1, 2013.