Reminder: NIH Policy on Use of Hypertext in NIH Grant Applications


The use of hypertext (e.g. hyperlinks and URLS) in NIH applications is restricted due to concerns including reviewer confidentiality, “overstuffing” applications, review consistency, and malware.

There is no change in the NIH policy on the use of hyperlinks. The policy, documented in the NIH SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and a recent reminder Guide Notice, reads:

  • 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 a 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:

Applications that do not follow these instructions, and include unallowable hyperlinks, may be withdrawn from review and funding consideration.


  1. I often see hyperlinks in Facilities and Resources sections. The sections include all of the information necessary for the review, but a hyperlink might be added for a particular shared resource’s website. For example, a core facility or cancer center. Is that okay? It isn’t mentioned in the funding opportunity, but it isn’t a page-limited section and the application stands on its own without the linked page.

  2. I want to know who benefits from this policy. Only CSR.
    N-O-B-O-D-Y E-L-S-E!
    We are in a virtual world, people! We are all generating more and more online information, journals are mostly online, we (and NIH more than anybody else!!) produce training videos accessible online for massive distribution…….we talk about being inclusive and facilitating dissemination, bla, bla, bla…. Is that all just for show?
    Please get real! This policy is simply idiotical, and needs to be seriously reconsidered.
    My *upset* 2 cents.

  3. This policy is not only outdated and ridiculous, but also totally unclear: “hypertext (e.g. hyperlinks and URLS)” — hypertext and URL’s are *NOT THE SAME THING.* Hypertext and hyperlinks are functional — you can click on it — and banning them would address the security and anonymity concerns (although honestly, how many psychopath NIH applicants are out there spending their abundant spare time trying to unmask their grant reviewers by setting up phishing attacks?). On the other hand typing out a URL like is pretty meaningless these days when it’s faster to google search “my institute resource.”

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