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Competing for Funding in the Biomedical Sciences from the National Institutes of Health


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Title: Competing for Funding in the Biomedical Sciences from the National Institutes of Health

Competing for Fundingin theBiomedical
Sciencesfrom the National Institutes of Health
  • October 28, 2008
  • John Ivy
  • Office of Proposal Development
  • Texas AM University
  • Texas AM Health Science Center

Texas AM UniversityOffice of Proposal
  • Unit of Office of Research and Graduate Studies
  • Supports Texas AM faculty in the development and
    writing of research and educational proposals
  • center-level initiatives
  • multidisciplinary and multi-institutional
    research teams
  • research affinity groups
  • junior faculty research
  • diversity in the research enterprise
  • a suite of grant writing training programs to
    help faculty develop and write more competitive

OPD Member List
  • Jean Ann Bowman, PhD
  • Physical Geography/Hydrology, earth, ecological,
  • Mike Cronan, PE, BS (Civil/Structures), BA, MFA
  • Center-level proposals, research and educational
    partnerships, new proposal and training
  • Lucy Deckard, BS, MS (Materials) l-deckard_at_tamu.ed
  • New faculty initiative, fellowships,
    engineering/physical science proposals,
    equipment, and instrumentation
  • John Ivy, PhD (Molecular Biology)
  • NIH biomedical and biological science initiatives
  • Phyllis McBride, PhD (English)
  • Proposal writing training, biomedical, editing
  • Libby Pasciak
  • Scheduling, workshop management, project
  • Robyn Pearson, BA, MA (Anthropology) rlpearson_at_tam
  • Social sciences and humanities proposals, editing
    and rewriting

Office of Proposal DevelopmentOPD-WEB
  • For an electronic version of this presentation
  • Funding opportunities how to search for them
  • Junior faculty support
  • Proposal development resources
  • Grant writing seminars and workshops
  • PI perspectives on competitive proposals
  • Craft of Grant Writing Workbook
  • Agency Toolkits

For more info
  • Go to http//opd.tamu.educlick Seminar
    Materialsthen Seminars by Date look for this
  • For an electronic version of this presentation
  • For additional resource materials
  • Lists of helpful links
  • Toolkit on NIH

General Strategies for Writing Competitive
Proposals Topics
  • Finding Research Funding Opportunities
  • Analyzing the RFP Its Role in Proposal
  • Analyzing and Assessing the Agency Culture,
    Mission and Research Priorities
  • Understanding the Review Process Writing to
  • Overview of How to Write a Competitive Project
    Summary Proposal Narrative

If you dont write grants, you wont get any
  • Target the proposal at the intersection where
  • research dollars are available
  • your research interests lie
  • available time to write a competitive proposal

Finding Research Funding Opportunities
  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • How
  • The agencies you're searching
  • The type of project or grant mechanism
  • Where do you find their RFPs?
  • How do you find or learn of their RFPs?

Your Research Interests will define funding
  • Your research interests should align with the
    Mission of the Agency
  • Biology
  • Biomedicine
  • Health disparities
  • Behavior
  • Biochemistry
  • Computational science
  • Interdisciplinary studies

Know the category of funding in which you are
  • Research
  • Training
  • Fellowship
  • Student retention
  • Student recruitment
  • Diversity
  • Curriculum
  • Loan reimbursement

Funding Sources for Biomedcial Research
  • National Institutes of Health 29 bill.
  • National Science Foundation 6 bill.
  • Dept. of Health Human Services
  • Department of Defense
  • Foundations
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • National Aeronautics Space Admin.

Where do you find the RFPs? (Who ya gonna call?)
  • Network with colleagues
  • Funding sources cited in literature
  • Companies and Foundations that support
    professional societies
  • Google searches
  • University posted listings
  • Federal agency web sites
  • Foundation web sites
  • Discussions with Agency and Foundation
  • E-mail listserves (last but not least)

Example of a Google Search
OPD-Web Funding Opportunities
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  • The web portal serves as a single
    point of access for all federal agency grant
    announcements. New funding announcements from
    federal agency are posted to this site daily, and
    a range of other features allow subscribing to
    email funding alerts, linking to agency web
    sites, and searching for funding among agencies.

Search Browse Grant Opportunities
  • Searchhttp//
  • Browse agencieshttp//

19 Search
Vaccine Keyword Results
21 Browse by Agency
Receive Funding Email Alerts
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Life Science Funding Source Listings
  • http//
  • National Institues of Health
  • Office of Extramural Research http//grants.nih.go
  • Individual Institutes and Centers
  • National Science Foundation http//
  • Find Funding http//
  • Funded Research http//
  • GrantsNet sponsored by AAAS and
    HHMI http//
  • Congressionally Directed Medical Research
    Programs http//
  • Philanthropy News Digest RFP listings http//found
  • American Cancer Society http//
  • American Heart Association http//www.americanhear
  • Cancer Research Institute http//www.cancerresearc
  • Life Sciences Research Foundation http//www.lsrf.

Identifying funding opportunitiesSUMMARY
  • Develop search protocols to fit research
  • Know relevant agencies
  • Learn grant cycles

NSF Biological Sciences Directorate
  • The mission of the Directorate for Biological
    Sciences (BIO) is to enable discoveries for
    understanding life. BIO-supported research
    advances the frontiers of biological knowledge,
    increases our understanding of complex systems,
    and provides a theoretical basis for original
    research in many other scientific disciplines.
  • NSF supports fundamental research in science and
    engineering, except for the medical sciences

NSF Biological Sciences Directorate - Divisions
  • Biological Infrastructure
  • Environmental Biology
  • Emerging Frontiers
  • Integrative Organismal Systems
  • Molecular Cellular Biosciences

NIH Mission
  • NIH is the steward of medical and behavioral
    research for the Nation. Its mission is
  • science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about
    the nature and behavior of living systems and
  • the application of that knowledge to extend
    healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness
    and disability.

FY 2007 Operating PlanNIH Discretionary Budget
Authority 29.228 Billion
  • gt80 awarded to gt325,000 extra-mural researchers

It's competitive out there NIH Congressional
New Grant Applications and Success Rates During
and After Doubling Period
Success Rate FY 2007It's competitive out there!
  • Research Project Grant application overall
    success rate
  • 47,455 applications
  • 10,100 funded
  • 21.3 success rate
  • New 18.2
  • Continuation 38.7
  • Supplements 33.7

DP1, DP2, P01, R01, R03, R15, R21, R33, R34, R36,
R37, R55, R56, RL1, RL2, RL5, RL9, U01, U19
  • Competition for funds from the NIH and other
    sponsors, intensifying year by year, now stands
    at an unprecedented level, and shows no sign of
    abating. Never before have so many established
    investigators faced so much uncertainty about
    their longevity as active scientists. Never
    before have so many novices faced so many
    disincentives to entering or continuing a
    research career.

Dr. William F. Raub, NIH Associate Director for
Research and Training, strategy paper, 1982
NIH 20 Institutes, 7 Centers
National Institutes of Health
  • NIH is a basic research agency
  • Each Institute has its own mission
  • Each Institute has its own budget
  • Each Institute has its own activities
  • Each Institute has its own ways of doing things
  • When youre planning to submit a grant, check
    with Program Officers from different institutes
    to determine their specific policies and interest
    in your science.

Identify NIH Funding Opportunities
  • NIH Office of Extramural Research
  • http//
  • NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts
  • http//
  • Search by keyword
  • Browse by Requests for Applications (RFAs)
  • Browse by Program Announcements (PAs)
  • Automatic funding alerts
  • Institutes and Centers (IC) homepages
  • Listed at http//
  • Go to IC homepage
  • Browse or search their Research Funding or
    "Extramural Funding section

NIH Funding Mechanisms
  • Three principal types
  • Training T F
  • Career K
  • Research Project Grant R

Unsolicited vs. Solicited
  • NIH makes a distinction between solicited versus
    unsolicited proposals
  • Unsolicited (investigator-initiated) proposals
  • Parent Announcements (Program Announcements, PA)
  • Solicited (agency-initiated) proposals (18)
  • Program Announcements (PA)
  • New research programs and updates to ongoing
    programs (renewable)
  • Request for Applications/Proposals (RFA/RFP)
  • One time request to fulfill specific agency
    research objective or need

NIH Training Awards
  • Individual Training awards for predoctoral
    (F31), postdoctoral (F32), or senior fellowships
  • Limited to US citizens or legal aliens

NIH Career DevelopmentK Awards
  • Directed at retraining, professional career
    development, or recognition of career success
  • K Kioskhttp//
  • Career Award WizardHelps you select the right
    career awardhttp//
  • Participation may be restricted to certain
    Institutes and Centers

NIH Career Awards
  • K Kiosk http//
  • Career Award Wizard - Helps you select the right
    career awardhttp//
  • Some directed at retraining, professional career
    development, and recognition of career success
    (may be restricted to certain ICs)
  • K01 Mentored Research Scientist
  • Provide mentored career development in a new
    research area
  • 3-5 yr, 75 effort
  • K02 Independent Scientist
  • Provides support for newly independent scientists
    (see IC provisions) who can demonstrate the need
    for a period of intensive research focus as a
    means of enhancing their research careers.
  • 3-5 yr, 75 effort
  • K05 Senior Scientist
  • Provides protected time for outstanding senior
    scientists who have demonstrated a sustained high
    level of productivity conducting biomedical
  • NIAAA and NIDA only
  • 5 yr, 75 effort

NIH Career Awards
  • K07 Academic Career
  • Supports individuals interested in introducing or
    improving curricula in a particular scientific
  • 2-5 yrs, 25-75 effort
  • K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist
  • Provides support and protected time to
    individuals with a clinical doctoral degree for
    an intensive, supervised research career
    development experience
  • Biomedical and behavior research
  • 3-5 yr, 75 effort
  • K12 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development
  • Institutional programs to support the research
    career development of clinicians only or
    clinicians and Ph.D. basic research scientists
  • 5 yr, 75 effort
  • K18 Career Enhancement Award for Stem Cell
  • To encourage investigators to obtain the training
    they need to appropriately use stem cells in
    their research
  • K22 Career Transition
  • Supports an individual postdoctoral fellow in
    transition to a faculty position
  • 3 yr, 75 effort
  • K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career
  • Development of the independent research scientist
    in the clinical area
  • 3-5 yr, 75 effort

NIH Career Awards
  • K24 Midcareer Investigator Awards in
    Patient-Oriented Research
  • Development of clinical mentors conducting funded
  • 3-5 yr, 25-50 effort
  • K25 Mentored Quantitative Research Career
  • To foster interdisciplinary collaboration in
    biomedical research by supporting career
    development experiences for scientists with
    quantitative and engineering backgrounds
  • 3-5 yr, 75 effort
  • K26 Midcareer Investigator Award In Mouse
    Pathobiology Research
  • Provides support for established pathobiologists
    who wish to devote up to 50 percent of their
    effort to research and mentoring in the field of
    mouse pathobiology
  • 25-50 effort
  • K30 Clinical Research Curriculum Development
  • Institutional award for development of a clinical
    research curriculum
  • 5 yr, up to 200,00/yr
  • K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence (PI)
  • 2 years mentored postdoctoral research 3 years
    independent research in tenure track position (or

Research Grants for Independent Scientists
  • R01 Large Research Grant
  • 4-5 years, 250,000/yr
  • R03 Small Grant
  • 2 year max, 50,000/yr max
  • R21 Exploratory Research Grant
  • High Risk High Reward
  • Transformational
  • 2 years, 275,000 total
  • R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA)
  • Primarily undergrad institutions
  • Institute must have received lt3mill/yr in NIH

Finding NIH Funding
  • Search All Federal Agencies
  • Search all of NIH NIH OER
  • Search your favorite NIH IC(s) NIH IC home
  • Sign up for email notices by weekly/daily
  • Sign up for RSS feeds
  • Other strategies Other sources
  • Google
  • Colleagues
  • National Science Foundation
  • Acknowledgements in publications
  • Philanthropy News Digest / The Foundation Center
  • Commercial search providers Community of
    Science (COS)

Finding NIH Funding
  • Office of Extramural Research (OER) about
  • Publishes Funding Opportunity Announcements
    (FOAs) for all NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs)
  • NIH funding opportunities page
  • OER Home pagehttp//
  • NIH Guide for Grants and Contractshttp//grants.n
  • Subscribe to weekly listserv!
  • Includes funding opportunities for NIH in
    addition to the other 25 federal grant-making
  • Located at http//
  • Subscribe to weekly listserv

Office of Extramural Research (OER)
  • NIH makes a distinction between solicited versus
    unsolicited proposals
  • Unsolicited (investigator-initiated) proposals
  • Parent Announcements (Program Announcements, PA)
  • Solicited (agency-initiated) proposals (18)
  • Program Announcements (PA)
  • New research programs and updates to ongoing
    programs (renewable)
  • Request for Applications/Proposals (RFA/RFP)
  • One time request to fulfill specific agency
    research objective or need

Funding Opportunity Announcements
Application Due Dates
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Parent Announcements
Identifying NIH Solicitations by Topic
Example Sequencing Technology
Example Sequencing Technology
Identifying NIH Solicitations by IC
  • Search by Agency (IC)
  • Identify funding opportunities within an agency
  • Steps for searching.
  • Identify Agency (IC)
  • Go to their homepage (http//
  • Go to their Research Funding or Extramural
    Funding section
  • Perform search

Identifying NIH Solicitations by IC
Identifying NIH Solicitations by IC
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Staying Informed on NIH FOAs
RSS Feed of NIH FOAs
Remember, investigator-initiated grants represent
gt80 of those funded by NIH!
Elements of an NIH FOA
  • A Funding Opportunity Announcement
  • Part I. Overview Information
  • Issuing Organization
  • Participating Organizations
  • Components of Participating Organization
  • Title
  • Announcement Type
  • Program Announcement Number
  • Key Dates
  • Executive Summary

Contents of an NIH PAPart II. Full Text of
  • Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
  • 1. Research Objectives Section II. Award
    Information 1. Mechanism(s) of Support 2.
    Funds Available Section III. Eligibility
    Information 1. Eligible Applicants     A.
    Eligible Institutions     B. Eligible
    Individuals 2. Cost Sharing or Matching 3.
    Other - Special Eligibility Criteria Section
    IV. Application and Submission Information 1.
    Address to Request Application Information 2.
    Content and Form of Application Submission 3.
    Submission Dates and Times A. Submission,
    Review and Anticipated Start Dates   1. Letter
    of Intent B. Sending an Application to the NIH
    C. Application Processing 4.
    Intergovernmental Review 5. Funding
    Restrictions 6. Other Submission Requirements
  • Section V. Application Review Information 1.
    Criteria 2. Review and Selection Process   A.
    Additional Review Criteria    B. Additional
    Review Considerations    C. Sharing Research
    Data    D. Sharing Research Resources 3.
    Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates
    Section VI. Award Administration Information
    1. Award Notices 2. Administrative and National
    Policy Requirements 3. Reporting Section VII.
    Agency Contact(s) 1. Scientific/Research
    Contact(s) 2. Peer Review Contact(s) 3.
    Financial/ Grants Management Contact(s) Section
    VIII. Other Information - Required Federal

Program Solicitation
  • From the PA or RPF
  • Determine supporting ICs
  • Identify mechanism (R, T, U, etc.)
  • Determine eligibility
  • Identify review criteria
  • Learn essential information to develop and write
    a competitive proposal that is fully responsive
    to the agencys objectives and review criteria.
  • Continuously use the RPF throughout proposal
    development and writing as a reference point to
    ensure that an evolving proposal narrative fully
    addresses and accurately reflects the goals and
    objectives of the funding agency including the
    review criteria.

Elements of the FOA
  • Funding Opportunity Announcement
  • NIH Small Research Grant Program (Parent R03)

Reviewing the RFP
  • Clarify ambiguities if unresolved
  • Get clarification from a program officer.
  • Ambiguities needs to be resolved prior to
    proposal writing so the proposal narrative maps
    to the guidelines with informed certainty.

Role in Proposal Organization
  • Use the RFP to develop the structure, order, and
    detail of the proposal narrative.
  • Use the RFP as an organizational template during
    proposal development to help ensure every RFP
    requirement is addressed fully.

Reading Material Referenced in the RFP
  • If the RFP refers to any publications, reports,
    or workshops, it is important to read those
    materials, analyze how that work has influenced
    the agencys vision of the program, and cite
    those publications in the proposal in a way that
    illustrates the topics are acknowledged and
  • Echo the language of the agency.

Map your expertise to the RFP
  • Is it a fit?
  • Is it really a fit?
  • No partial fits allowed
  • No wishful thinking
  • Close doesnt count
  • If you are not a fit dont submit

Analyzing the funding agency
  • Analyzing the mission, strategic plan, investment
    priorities, and culture of a funding agency
    provides information key to enhancing proposal

Analyze the Agency NIH Culture
  • Trans-NIH initiatives research that cuts across
    typical agency boundaries of various ICs
  • http//
  • Model Organisms for Biomedical Research
  • Blueprint for Neuroscience Research
  • Bioengineering Consortium
  • Biomaterials and Medical Implants
  • Bioinformatics at the NIH
  • Mammalian Gene Collection
  • Cognitive Emotional Health
  • Translational Research
  • Part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research
  • http//
  • http//

NIH Funding Investments and Priorities
  • NIH has investment priorities based on past
    research findings and current trends in science
  • Targeted areas (FY 2008 proposed budget)
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Biodefense
  • Roadmap for Biomedical Research
  • Enhanced Support for New Investigators
  • Physical Infrastructure
  • NIH FY2007 budget is 28.8 billion (FY2008
    proposed 28.85 billion)
  • NIH funds research projects inside their own
    laboratories (intramural) and outside their
    laboratories at national and international
    locations (extramural)
  • Extramural funding 85
  • Intramural Funding 10
  • Research Infrastructure 5

Know your home-base IC's Mission
For Researchers
About NIDA
NIH Roadmap for Medical Research
NIH Roadmap for Medical Research
  • Theme New Pathways to Discovery
  • Building Blocks, Pathways, and Networks
    Implementation Group
  • Molecular Libraries and Imaging Implementation
  • Structural Biology Implementation Group
  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
    Implementation Group
  • Nanomedicine Implementation Group
  • Theme Research Teams of the Future
  • High-Risk Research Implementation Group
  • Interdisciplinary Research Implementation Group
  • Public Private Partnerships Implementation Group
  • Theme Re-engineering the Clinical Research
  • Clinical Research Implementation Group

New Investigator Programhttp//
For New Investigators
  • K99/R00 Pathway to Independence
  • Must have fewer than 5 yr postdoc experience
  • Open to US and non-US citizens
  • 2 yr mentored Post-doc 75 effort required
  • 3 yr independent, tenure-track or equivalent
    position 75 research effort
  • R01 fast review for new investigators
  • Check box on cover page for new investigators
  • Example Oct 5 Submit Mar 1 Summary
    Statement Mar 20 Resubmit (Mar 5, Jul 5, Nov 5)

For New Investigators
  • More lenient R01 payline for new investigators
    (varies by IC)
  • In FY07, 500 R01 awards to be made to new
  • DP2 Directors New Innovator Award
  • For exceptionally creative work of new
  • Requires highly innovative approaches that have
    the potential to produce an unusually high impact
  • Must have completed doctoral degree within 10
  • Awards up to 300,00

A New InitiativeIdentify Early Stage
  • Designed to encourage early transition to
  • the average age at which an investigator first
    obtains R01 funding has increased by more than 5
    years between 1980 to and 2001
  • New Investigator  An NIH research grant
    Principal Investigator who has not yet competed
    successfully for a substantial, competing NIH
    research grant
  • Early Stage Investigator (ESI)  An individual
    who is classified as a New or First-Time
    Investigator and is within 10 years of completing
    his/her terminal research degree or is within 10
    years of completing medical residency
  • NIH will collect necessary data from the eRA
    Commons personal profile
  • NIH will eliminate the New Investigator Check Box
    on the application face page
  • New or First-Time Investigators will continue to
    be identified by determining whether the
    individual has had significant, previous NIH
  • PD/PIs who receive a substantive, competing NIH
    research grant will lose their New Investigator
    status and hence their status as an ESI
  • Applications from ESIs and New Investigators will
    be identified to reviewers so that appropriate
    consideration of their career stage can be
    applied during review
  • New Investigators as well as ESIs will be
    eligible for the Full Implementation to Shorten
    the Review Cycle for New Investigator R01
    Applications Reviewed in Center for Scientific
    Review (CSR) Recurring Study Sections

Assess the CompetitionKnow what was recently
  • Learning about recently funded research in your
    area helps you understand what an agency is
    looking for in the review process
  • Search on-line databases of funded projects
  • Review abstracts of funded proposals on agency
    web sites
  • Talk to the principal investigators of funded
    proposals in your area
  • Obtain copies of funded proposals
  • Ask the PI

CRISP http//
  • Computer Retrieval of Informationon Scientific
  • A searchable database of federally funded
    biomedical research
  • What similar projects have been funded?
  • Has someone already been funded to pursue my
  • Who are my competitors?
  • Who are potential collaborators?

R03 Awards, FY2006-2008, Rice University
CRISP search results
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Preparing Proposals
  • All NIH proposals use either the electronic form
    SF424 or the paper PHS398.
  • The transition to SF424 for F and K awards is
  • Step 1 Download the Instructions and Forms via
    the NIH OER website
  • http//
  • http//

Writing for Reviewers
  • Reviewers often have 8 or 10 proposals to read
  • Use white space, underlining, bold, bullets,
    figures, flowcharts to make main points easy to
  • Put main idea of sections and paragraphs up front

Must Convince Reviewers
  • Your proposed research should be funded
  • Its important and supports the agency mission
    and program goals
  • Its exciting
  • It has a good chance of succeeding
  • You are the person who should conduct the
    proposed research
  • You are knowledgeable and well-qualified
  • You have the support and resources required

Albert Einstein on Grant Writing
  • If you can't explain something simply, you don't
    understand it well.
  • Most of the fundamental ideas of science are
    essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be
    expressed in language comprehensible to everyone.
  • Any fool can make things bigger, more complex,
    and more violent. It takes a touch of genius
    and a lot of courage to move in the opposite

Before you begin . . .
  • Make sure you have identified the following
  • Goal
  • Indicates the purpose for the project as a whole
  • Should be aligned with the agencys mission
  • Aims (Objectives)
  • Indicate the purpose for each specific part of
    your project
  • Should be aligned with your overall goal
  • Should be specific and measurable
  • Rationale
  • Indicates why you want to achieve your purpose
  • Should be clear and logical
  • Expected outcomes
  • Indicate what will change as a result of your
    research(e.g., behavior, performance, process,
  • Should include both immediate and long-term

Speak with the Program Officer early and often
  • Do your homework first
  • Make an appointment
  • Listen to the response
  • Request clarification
  • Follow up

Never be timid about contacting a program officer
for clarification
  • Timidity is never rewarded in the competitive
    grant process.

Common Elements of PHS398 R01
  • Cover page/face sheet
  • Description Project Summary (Abstract)
  • Performance site, key personnel
  • Table of contents
  • Budget page(s)
  • Budget justification
  • Biosketch of PI, biosketch of all other major/key
  • Resources
  • Research Plan (Items A-D)
  • Other Information under Research Plan (Items E-J)
  • References cited, human or animal research
    subjects, inclusion of minorities/children in
    clinical studies, data sharing plans, etc.
  • Appendix items
  • Checklist

Know your NIH General Review Criteria
  • Investigator
  • Education, training, relevant experience
  • Environment
  • Suitability of facilities and institution support
  • Significance
  • Ability of the project to improve health
  • Approach
  • Feasibility of methods and appropriateness of
  • Innovation
  • Originality of research

Introductory writing tips
  • Summary (Abstract) and Introduction (Specific
    Aims) are key
  • May be all reviewers read
  • Must excite and grab the attention
  • Reviewers will assume errors in language and
    usage will translate into errors in the science
  • Dont be overly ambitious in what you propose,
    but convey credibility and capacity to perform

Introductory writing tips
  • Sell your proposal to a good scientist but not an
  • Some review panels may not have an expert in your
    field, or panels may be blended for
    multidisciplinary initiatives
  • Agencies reviewers fund compelling, exciting
  • Proposals are not journal articles proposals
    must be user-friendly and offer a narrative that
    tells a story that is memorable to reviewers

Cover Sheet
  • Requires that you provide basic information about
    yourself, your institution, and your proposed
    research project
  • Often offers you the opportunity to indicate if
    you are a new investigator (until Feb. '09/)

  • Used by agency administrators to route your
    proposal to the appropriate reviewers
  • Should provide an accurate representation of
    your proposed project
  • Should generate interest in and enthusiasm for
    your proposed project
  • Should conform to agency requirements
  • Program name
  • Number of characters (NIH 81 incl. spaces)

Project Summary (Abstract)
  • Used by agency administrators to route your
    proposal to the appropriate reviewers
  • Provides a concise overview of the proposed
  • Requires that you provide a great deal of
    information within a very limited amount of space
    (NIH 30 lines)
  • Becomes public record if the project is funded

Project Summary (Abstract)
  • One of the most critical sections
  • May be the only thing the reviewer reads
  • Communicate excitement and grab the reviewer
  • Consider writing the Abstract after you've
    written your Research Plan
  • Use the same elements of the Specific Aims in the
    same order
  • Include
  • Brief introduction to the topic
  • Gap in knowledge or critical need
  • Broad, long-term goals
  • Specific Aims
  • Describe research design and methods
  • Summarize the Significance of the project
  • Avoid summary of past accomplishments
  • Avoid use of the first person

Project Relevance
  • The second component of the Project
    Summary/Abstract (i.e., Description) is
  • Corresponds to "Project Narrative" in SF424 forms
  • Using no more than two or three sentences,
    describe the relevance of this research to public
  • Be succinct and use plain language that can be
    understood by a general, lay audience.

Budget Budget Justification
  • Budget
  • Budget categories are defined by the funding
  • Get help (institutional grants administrator)
  • Be reasonable. The reviewers also do research!
  • Budget Categories
  • Direct
  • Personnel
  • Equipment
  • Travel
  • Materials, Other Supplies
  • Indirect
  • FA (Facilities Administrative)

Budget Budget Justification
  • Budget Justification
  • Personnel
  • Who? What will they do? How much effort ()?
  • Why is this person critical to the success of the
  • Equipment
  • What do you need? Why do you need it? Is there a
    similar apparatus nearby that you can use (if
    yes, why not use it)?
  • Travel
  • Where do you need to go? How many times will you
    go there? How many of the project personnel will
    go? Approximately how much will it cost and why?
  • Materials, Other Supplies
  • Equipment maintenance contracts? Fee for service
  • FA
  • Determined by what your institution has
  • Limited by funding mechanism

Connect budget to the research narrative
  • Be sure activities discussed in the narrative
    (Research Plan) are reflected in the budget
  • In budget justification, personnel, materials,
    supplies, equipment, travel should reflect that
    necessary to complete Research Plan
  • Base budget on real costs
  • Remember that reviewers know what things cost
  • Factor in both direct and indirect costs
  • Factor in cost escalations for multi-year projects

NIH Biographical Sketch
  • Four page maximum
  • Section A. Positions and Honors
  • Section B. Publications
  • List publications reflective of the topic of the
    current proposal (or maximum)
  • Section C. Research Support
  • Current and completed support
  • Begin with projects that are most relevant to the
    research proposed in the application

Biographical sketch
  • Emphasize qualifications relevant to the proposed
  • Ability to conduct project
  • Ability to manage project
  • Adhere to agencys formatting requirements
  • Use the required form
  • Stay within prescribed page limits
  • Place information in the required order
  • If you are collaborating format your
    colleagues resumes like your own

Sample NIH Biosketch (via http//
  • Laboratory
  • Clinical
  • Animal
  • Computer
  • Office
  • Other

  • Demonstrate that it is feasible to conduct the
    proposed research project at your institution
  • Demonstrate that you are part of an
    intellectually stimulating and supportive
    research environment

Research Plan
  • Introduction (Resubmissions only)
  • A) Specific Aims
  • Long-range goals
  • Hypothesis
  • B) Background Significance
  • C) Preliminary Studies / Progress Report
  • D) Research Design and Methods
  • Structure based on Specific Aims

Specific Aims
  • Critically important
  • Must provide a conceptual overview
  • Must outline the project goals, objectives
    (aims), and expected outcomes
  • Must be clearly written
  • Must grab the reviewers attention
  • Must generate enthusiasm for the project
  • Must be able to stand alone
  • Often Title, Abstract and Specific Aims may be
    the only three parts that all reviewers will have
    an opportunity to read

Specific Aims
  • PHS's Instructions
  • "List the broad, long-term objectives and the
    goal of the specific research proposed, for
    example, to test a stated hypothesis, create a
    novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge
    an existing paradigm or clinical practice,
    address a critical barrier to progress in the
    field, or develop new technology. One page is
  • Application Guide SF424 (RR)

Specific Aims
  • Provide a framework for the reviewer
  • State a long-range goal of your research program
  • Tie to program/agency mission and goals
  • State a specific hypothesis that your experiments
    will address
  • Provide a rationale for your approach
  • State specific, measurable Specific Aims
  • Discuss expected outcomes
  • Do not be overly ambitious!

General organization of the Specific Aims
Introduction to the problem. Identification of
need or gap in knowledge. Long term research goal
and specific project goal Central
hypothesis Specific Aims
Project outcomes benefits
Specific Aims
  • Write this section for all your audiences,
    primary reviewers and other reviewers, since
    they'll all read it.
  • Choose aims the reviewers can easily assess.
  • To be assessable, make each specific aim an
    endpoint rather than a best effort.
  • Do not confuse specific aims with your project's
    long-term goals.
  • Specific aims are what you plan to accomplish by
    the end of the grant.
  • Your aims are the accomplishments by which the
    success of your project is measured.
  • Aims are not activities, e.g., measure, study
  • One approach organize this section into four

Specific Aims Paragraph 1
  • Introduce the project.
  • Relate the project to the agencys mission.
  • Educate the reviewer.
  • Summarize the important knowledge.
  • Identify the gap in the knowledge or state the
    critical need.
  • Identify the problem created by the gap or the
    critical need.
  • Adapted from Morrison and RussellGrant
    Application Writers Workbook

Specific Aims Paragraph 2
  • Describe your long-range research or career
  • Ensure that your long-range career goal aligns
    with the agencys mission.
  • State your overall project goal.
  • Ensure that the overall project goal addresses an
    identified gap in knowledge and represents a step
    toward achieving your long-range career goal.
  • Present your central hypothesis (or,
    alternatively, a statement of need).
  • Be sure that you present a true hypothesis one
    that can be objectively tested to determine its
    validity rather than a predetermined
  • Adapted from Morrison and Russell Grant
    Application Writers Workbook

Specific Aims Paragraph 2 (cont.)
  • Explain your rationale for pursuing the project.
  • Indicate what it will be possible to accomplish
    when your research is complete.
  • Describe your qualifications and research
  • How you are better prepared than other, equally
    qualified researchers.
  • Identify special training, expertise, experience,
    and, most importantly, relevant preliminary data.
  • Identify access to human and animal subject
    pools to unique equipment and instrumentation
    and to collaborations and partnerships.
  • Why you are the best resercher in the best
    environment to address the research question.
  • Adapted from Morrison and Russell Grant
    Application Writers Workbook

Your Central Hypothesis
  • The foundation of your application the
    conceptual underpinning on which the entire
    structure rests.
  • Generally applications should ask questions that
    prove or disprove a hypothesis rather than use a
    method to search for a problem or simply collect
  • The goal of more applied research may be to
    discover basic biology or develop or use a new
  • If your application is not hypothesis-based,
    state this in your cover letter and give the
    reasons why the work is important.

Your Central Hypothesis
  • Choose an important, testable, focused hypothesis
    that increases understanding of biologic
    processes, diseases, treatments, or preventions
    and is based on previous research.
  • State your hypothesis in both the Specific Aims
    section and the Abstract.
  • Example of a good research hypothesis
  • Analogs to chemokine receptors can inhibit HIV
  • Examples of a poor research hypothesis
  • Analogs to chemokine receptors can be
    biologically useful.
  • A wide range of molecules can inhibit HIV
  • NIAID "How to Plan a Grant Application"

Specific Aims Paragraph 3
  • Delineate your specific aims in a bulleted list.
  • Ensure that specific aims correlate with your
    central hypothesis.
  • Ensure that all specific aims relate to and
    support your overall project goal.
  • Design your specific aims and experiments so they
    answer the question posed by the hypothesis.
  • Provide conceptual rather than descriptive
    specific aims.
  • Adapted from Morrison and Russell Grant
    Application Writers Workbook

Specific Aims Paragraph 3 (cont.)
  • Delineate your specific aims in a bulleted list
  • Delineate a reasonable number of specific aims,
    presented in a logical order.
  • Why aims are generally stronger than what
  • Define a clear purpose, working hypothesis or
    statement of need, and expected outcome for each
    specific aim.
  • Make sure no specific aim is dependent on the
    successful outcome of another aim.
  • Adapted from Morrison and Russell Grant
    Application Writers Workbook

Specific Aims Paragraph 4
  • Identify the projects innovation, e.g., a unique
    approach or technology
  • Delineate the projects expected outcomes
  • Should validate central hypothesis and resolve
    gap in knowledge
  • Summarize the projects significance
  • Provides segue to Background and Significance
  • Adapted from Morrison and Russell Grant
    Application Writers Workbook

Specific Aims
  • Don't be overly ambitious
  • 2-5 aims for an R01
  • Avoid descriptive aims
  • No fishing expeditions no look-and-see!
  • Use brief, concise, informative, conceptual
    statements (headline style)

What vs. Why Aims
  • "What" aims
  • Determine amino acid sequence of protein Y of
    antiviral Z-sensitive wild-type virus X.
  • Determine amino acid residue changes in protein Y
    of 100 natural antiviral Z-resistant virus X
  • In culture, select for virus X variants that
    develop resistance to antiviral Z and identify
    altered protein Y residues.
  • versus
  • "Why" aim
  • Identify virus X protein Y candidate amino acid
    residues responsible for antiviral resistance.

Background Significance
  • Consider starting with Significance and tie into
    Specific Aims
  • Specify how your research will extend and advance
    knowledge in the field what you will be able to
    do following successful research that you cannot
    now do.
  • Provide a literature review
  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the field

Background Significance
  • Background should tie closely to your proposed
  • Describe state of the field
  • Provide context for proposed project
  • Nature of the problem and Identification of the
  • Alternative hypotheses or models
  • Be thorough and concise
  • Do not be dismissive of previous research

  • Consider placing up front
  • Explain explicitly why proposed research is
  • Tie to agency and program goals
  • Relate to review criteria (e.g., innovation)
  • Make this easy to find
  • Opportunity to make important points up front
  • Communicate your excitement!

Preliminary Data / Progress Report
  • Discussion of preliminary data must connect
    clearly to proposed project
  • Determine how much preliminary data to include
  • Can vary with funding mechanism
  • Present the results in a logical order
  • Illustrate your results

Research Design Methods
  • Structure based on Specific Aims or Review
  • Be very clear about how you will accomplish your
    stated goals and objectives
  • Include approaches and detailed methods
  • Include details
  • What, specifically, will you do when you get the
  • Schedules and milestones may be helpful
  • This is especially important if you are a
    relatively new researcher
  • Identify expected, measurable outcomes
  • Identify and address anticipated problems and how
    you will deal with them
  • Avoid ambiguous terminologybe specific!

Project schedule
  • Delineate the key milestones
  • Incorporate the agency and program requirements

Research Ethics
  • Address all relevant ethical issues regarding
    inclusion of human and animal subjects and use of
    hazardous materials, select agents, or
    recombinant DNA
  • Justify use of human and animal subjects and or
    hazardous materials, select agents, or rDNA
  • Demonstrate that potential benefits outweigh
    potential risks
  • Delineate training procedures
  • Explain safeguards from potential risks
  • Discuss reporting procedures

Formatting Requirements
  • Font
  • Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype, or Georgia
  • Black font color
  • Font size of 11 points or larger
  • Symbol font may be used to insert Greek letters
    or special characters the font size requirement
    still applies
  • Type density, including characters and spaces,
    must be no more than 15 characters per inch
  • Type may be no more than six lines per inch
  • Page Margins
  • Use standard paper size (8 ½" x 11)
  • Use at least one-half inch margins (top, bottom,
    left, and right) for all pages
  • Figures, legends, tables, graphs, charts, etc.
    may use smaller font

The funded proposal
  • The author of a funded proposal has
    accomplished the basic goal of grant writing when
    she has
  • Ensured the reviewers were intrigued and excited
    about the proposed research,
  • Understood its significance, and
  • Were confident in the researchers capacity to

Review of NIH Proposals
  • Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
  • Administers and coordinates peer review
  • http//
  • Divisions (4)
  • Integrated Review Groups (IRG) 23
  • Study Sections (SS) 220
  • Scientific Review Officer (SRO)
  • Members (peers with expertise in SS research)
  • Standing members
  • Ad hoc members
  • Study section rosters postedhttp//www.csr.nih.go

What happens when you submit an application?
Center for Scientific Review
Scientific Review Group or IC Review Branch
IC Advisory Council
Institute Director
Understand the NIH Review Process
  • Two-step Review process
  • Peer review is merit-based
  • Applications receive three individual reviews
  • Scores range from 100500
  • Written critiques provided to investigator
  • Advisory Council or Board
  • Meritorious proposals considered against mission,
    needs, and budget

Your application is reviewed at study section by
  • Experts
  • Non-experts
  • People who are reading lots of grants
  • People who want to be excited by science
  • People who will be irritated by a sloppy

Submit a high quality application!
Have people review your application critically
well before submission
NIH General Review Criteria
  • Investigator
  • Education, training, relevant experience
  • Environment
  • Suitability of facilities and institution support
  • Significance
  • Ability of the project to improve health
  • Approach
  • Feasibility of methods and appropriateness of
  • Innovation
  • Originality of research

CSR Review Streamlining
  • Proposal received at CSR
  • Assigned to an IRG, then to a Study Section (SS)
  • The Scientific Review Administrator (SRA) assigns
    a primary, secondary, and tertiary reviewer
  • Investigator-initiated proposals (R01, R03, R21)
    are read by the 1, 2, 3 reviewers
  • Bottom 50 of proposals are identified about 1
    week prior to the SS meeting (triaged or
  • Streamlined applications receive summary
    statements verbatim from each reviewer, but are
    not discussed nor scored
  • All 3 reviewers must agree on the streamlined
    proposals in order for the proposal to be triaged

CSR Scoring Proposals
  • SS meets to review applications
  • Primary reviewer presents your proposal to the
    group (reads the abstract)
  • SS members discuss your application, the primary
    reviewer is able to answer questions about the
  • SS members assign a score to the proposal between
    1-5 (1outstanding, 5forget it)
  • After the meeting the SRA calculates the average
    score for each proposal, multiply by 100 to get a
    3 digit score (100-500)
  • SRA calculates a priority score or percentile
    ranking of the score based on the past 3 cycles
    of grant scores within SS
  • SRA prepares a written critique of your proposal
    based on reviewers comments

Three possible outcomes of proposal review
  • Triaged
  • Discussed, scored, not funded
  • Discussed, scored, FUNDED!

Receive review comments
  • If your proposal is not funded
  • Deal constructively with rejection

Revisions Resubmission
X Two
  • Three strikes youre out
  • Read the reviewers comments
  • Take a break
  • Re-read the reviewers comments
  • Dont take them personally
  • Read the reviewers comments, AGAIN
  • Call the program officer for more feedback
  • Evaluate if you should resubmit
  • Begin working on the revisions. Incorporate the
    revisions that you think make your proposal
    better than the previous submission

Interpreting Reviews Planning to Resubmit
  • Were certain issues mentioned consistently?
  • Plan how to address those issues
  • Did the reviewers misunderstand your proposal?
  • Plan how to make your text more clear
  • Was no clear issue mentioned?
  • May not have excited reviewers enough
  • May not be an area they wish to fund now
  • May not fit into their research portfolio
  • Many funded proposals were funded after multiple
    submissions ? intelligent perseverance is the key!

Revise and resubmit your application
  • Respect the views of reviewers
  • Review the reviews
  • Decide whether or not you have a viable project
  • If you dont, revise the idea or come up with a
    new one
  • If you do, revise and resubmit the application

Receive review comments
  • If your proposal is funded
  • Celebrate!

Tips for Success at NIH
  • Understand NIHs mission and overall goals
  • Propose research topics that cross the boundaries
    of various IC
  • Leverage tools and resources from other r
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