NIH Application Policy- Quick Reminder on Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks! They’re not everywhere you want them to be!

OSP would like to issue a quick reminder regarding the inclusion of hyperlinks in NIH proposals as we have seen a number of applications come to us which include hyperlinks where they shouldn’t be included. While we have not yet seen an application rejected for this specific reason, OSP has seen increasing signs that NIH is becoming increasingly more strict in the application of their guidelines. Therefore, we would like to remind all faculty of the NIH guidelines regarding inclusion of hyperlinks in proposals.

The below information is not a change in the NIH policy on the use of hyperlinks; rather it is just a reminder of the policy articulated in the NIH SF424 (R&R) Application Guide:

  • Hyperlinks and URLs are only allowed when specifically noted in funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and form field instructions. The use of hyperlinks is typically limited to citing relevant publications in biosketches and publication lists. It is highly unusual for an FOA to allow links in Specific Aims, Research Strategy and other page-limited attachments.
  • Hyperlinks and URLs may not be used to provide information necessary to application review.
  • Reviewers are instructed against viewing linked sites and are cautioned that they should not directly access a website (unless the link to the site was specifically requested in application instructions) as it could compromise their anonymity and allow for malware to be downloaded onto their computers.
  • When allowed, you must hyperlink the actual URL text so it appears on the page rather than hiding the URL behind a specific word or phrase. Example:
    • NIH (

Applications that do not follow these instructions, and include unallowable hyperlinks, may be withdrawn from review and funding consideration.

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