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How To Write Your First Grant


... To Write Your First Grant. Penny Cook. Executive Director, Grants and ... Talk to Melanie Smith. Databases on Grants and Contracts website. Alert services ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: How To Write Your First Grant

How To Write Your First Grant
  • Penny Cook
  • Executive Director, Grants and Contracts
  • Sara Rockwell, PhD
  • Director, Office of Scientific Affairs
  • Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and
  • Sponsors
  • Office of Academic Development
  • Grants and Contracts
  • Office of Scientific Affairs
  • November 14, 2007

The Agenda
  • Challenges
  • Support
  • Your responsibilities
  • Introduction to Sara Rockwell
  • Writing your application
  • Questions and answers

The Funding Environment Today
  • Competitive
  • Reduced budgets and/or years of support
  • Falling paylines
  • Attention focused on accountability
  • ERA
  • Collaborative multidisciplinary
  • Clinical relevance

Where To Get Help
  • Department Business Office
  • Grant and Contract Administration
  • Other
  • Sponsor

Departmental Business Office
  • May provide assistance in
  • Budget preparation
  • Administrative pages
  • Obtaining endorsement letters
  • Preparing proposal transmittal and certification
  • Procuring signatures
  • Post award management

Grant and Contract Administration
  • Source of resource opportunities
  • Communicates changes in policy
  • Review for compliance
  • Negotiates terms and conditions against
    University standards
  • Primary contact with funding agency pre and post
  • Partners with GCFA upon award

Other offices that can help
  • Office of Research Administration
  • HIC Office (IRB Office)
  • HIPPA Office
  • IACUC Office
  • Safety Offices
  • Conflict of Interest Office
  • OCR
  • Faculty Office

Sponsor Life Cycle (NIH Example)
Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
10,000 applications/cycle
4 months
Integrated Review Group (IRG)
Study Section
Priority Score
Summary Statement
3 months
Advisory Counsel
3 months
PI Responsibilities
  • Secure institutional appointment
  • Obtain space and resources
  • Sign patent agreement
  • Complete application materials
  • Obtain Letters of support
  • Adhere to GCA deadlines
  • Send proposal to sponsor
  • Complete compliance training
  • Secure compliance approvals
  • Manage post award administration

The Old Sponsor Mailroom
The new world ERA
The writing process from the Principal
Investigators perspective
  • When to start?
  • At least three months in advance
  • Longer for new project
  • Longer for complex project
  • Dont assume that at the end of a project cycle
    that renewal is automatic

Where to find out about funding sources
  • Talk with colleagues
  • Talk with business office/chair
  • Talk to Melanie Smith
  • Databases on Grants and Contracts website
  • Alert services
  • Professional society websites
  • YSM and Yale bulletin boards, e-mail list serves,
    announcements, etc.

Research Grants and Career Development Awards
  • Research grant focus is on project
  • Career development award focus is on potential
    of applicant
  • Different focus
  • Different requirements
  • Even when you use the same project for both you
    will write them differently

You can (and probably should) apply for more than
one grant for a project
  • Pay line is now often less than 20
  • Same project to different agencies
  • Research project plus career development award
  • Acknowledge overlap in other support sheets
  • If they are all funded
  • Open champagne
  • Decide which award (or awards) to accept and
    which to decline

Limited competitions
  • Scholars awards
  • Usually career development grants often limited
    to new faculty
  • Institution or department may be allowed only 1
    or 2 two candidates
  • Internal competition to select Yales nominee(s)
  • List on Grants and Contracts website
  • Melanie Smith can send you information on those
    of interest to you

Internal competitions
  • Grants through programs at Yale or YSM
  • Often limited to Yale researchers
  • Generally in focused area
  • Fellowships and research grants
  • Generally small
  • Often for pilot studies
  • Sometimes limited to new investigators
  • Can be very valuable
  • Get preliminary data
  • Establish independence and track record

Where to start Gather information about possible
  • Grantmakers areas of interest
  • Grantmakers policies
  • Amount and duration of funding
  • Deadlines
  • Instructions
  • Application forms
  • Procedures used to review grants
  • Time until funding
  • Probability of funding

Responding to an RFA or RFP
  • Some RFAs and RFPs are great opportunities
    others are not worth the effort
  • Talk to the contact person
  • Find out more about the request and the intent
    and scope
  • Ask about the review process who will be
    reviewing your grant?
  • Is money set aside?
  • How many projects will they fund?

Reviewing and Funding are separate actions by
independent groups
  • Study sections/Review panels
  • review applications for scientific merit
  • prioritize by scientific merit
  • Program Officers fund projects
  • consider the scientific merit
  • also consider priorities of program
  • consider balance of their portfolio
  • may reach for applications in critical areas
  • may skip applications of low interest to program

Gather the information needed to plan and develop
your application
  • Literature related to project
  • Resources needed for project
  • Techniques needed
  • Possible collaborators and mentors
  • People who can be asked to write letters
  • Cost and budget information
  • Make a list of the things you will need to do
    before submitting grant

Some critical elements to think about before you
begin to write
  • Are you eligible?
  • Do you have the resources you need?
  • Skills
  • Equipment, facilities
  • Support from department, institution
  • If not, can you get them?
  • What scope of project can you perform with your
    resources and time?
  • Dont waste your time preparing grant
    applications that cant fly

If you have questions
  • Talk to Grants and Contracts
  • Contact the grantmaker
  • Program people (scientists)
  • Administrators
  • Talk to your business office
  • Talk to experienced investigators in your field
    of research
  • Senior investigators
  • Young investigators, a couple years ahead of you
  • Successful applicants for same grant

Writing the application
  • Format and content varies dramatically
  • Read the instructions
  • Follow them to the letter
  • May need to alter focus
  • May need to alter scope to match money and time
  • One size does not fit allor even most

Important parts of the application
  • Cover sheet
  • Abstract or abstracts
  • Administrative elements
  • Assurances
  • Biosketches or CVs
  • Scientific sections
  • Letters (sometimes)
  • Appendices (sometimes)

The cover sheet
  • Specific to agency and grant type
  • Will have very specific format and instructions
  • May require very specific (and sometimes very
    bizarre) information
  • Some you will not know
  • Go to Grants and Contracts website and business
    office for help
  • May require signatures and assurances
  • Must be complete and accurate

  • With most grants you will see a terrifying list
    of required assurances
  • Dont panic many will already have been handled
    by the institution
  • You will need to handle
  • Human subjects protection
  • Animal welfare
  • Safety
  • Conflict of interest and commitment
  • Patent assignment
  • Will require reviews/approvals at Yale and may
    require discussion in the application

Picking a title for your project
  • Sounds trivialbut isnt
  • Length may be quite limited
  • Make it informative titles may be used to assign
    grants to review committees and reviewers
  • Should be intelligible to a non specialist
  • Dont use jargon
  • Dont get cute

  • Draft first rewrite when application is almost
  • May be the most important part of application
  • Used to assign reviewers
  • Read by all reviewers on panel
  • The abstract should summarize your project,
    describe its importance, and make the reader
    excited about reading the application and funding
    the project

Lay abstract
  • Many foundations require a lay abstract
  • Very important
  • There may be non-scientists on the review panel
  • Some foundations give these to their donors
  • Can be difficult to write
  • Write it for an intelligent non-scientist
  • Describe project in non-technical terms
  • Emphasize importance and relevance
  • Ask some non-scientists to read and critique your

CV or Biosketch
  • Very important element of any grant
  • Critical for career development awards
  • Primary reviewers will examine this carefully
  • Other reviewers will look at it before and during
    meeting - especially if there are questions or
  • Different from resume, full academic CV
  • Focus tightly on information relevant to your
    research career and to the project

Preparing the Biosketch or CV
  • Funding agency may provide a form and detailed
  • Follow them exactly
  • Do not alter order from that specified
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread
  • Do not exceed allowed length
  • Sections usually included
  • Current position
  • Education
  • Professional Experience
  • Honors and Awards
  • Publications

Education and Experience
  • Generally start with college
  • Include areas of study and degrees earned
  • Non degree programs and education may warrant
  • All graduate and postdoctoral training and
    research should be included
  • Broad outline start end dates, institution,
    city and state, mentor
  • Dont give details
  • Chronological, but watch order

Biosketch Current position
  • Current position - be sure it matches that on
    cover and elsewhere
  • Use official University titles only
  • Promotion in progress?
  • List effective date
  • List only those made in writing
  • May be ask to provide documentation
  • If application includes letter from the Chair or
    Dean, be sure it mentions the promotion.

Experience and awards
  • Experience goes beyond your primary appointment
  • Secondary appointments
  • Advisory boards
  • Awards and honors
  • Select with care
  • Begin with college
  • Do not include trivial awards
  • Awards relevant to professional career
  • Describe if implications unclear to outside

  • Follow instructions for format and content very
  • Reviewers will look at
  • Number of publications
  • Quality of publications
  • Peer reviewed journals?
  • Quality, impact of journals?
  • Full article or brief notes and case reports?
  • Position as author
  • How many authors?
  • Who are the authors?
  • Negotiate authorships carefully

  • Include
  • Papers published in peer reviewed journals
  • Papers in press ( this means accepted for
  • Book chapters, papers in proceedings, reviews
    (may be separate)
  • Abstracts - maybe. Specify and list separately
  • Do not include
  • Papers in preparation
  • Papers submitted but not yet accepted
  • Plan ahead - submit early
  • Can sometimes send newly accepted papers after

  • Look for any restrictions on the number of
    publications or formatting requirements
  • Some agencies ask for the total number of
  • If you have more publications than can fit into
    the allowed space, include an opening statement
    such as Selected from a total of 195

  • Format and information required varies
  • Some agencies specify a fixed budget and define
    how you must spend it.
  • Some want details
  • Some want none
  • Give them what they want
  • Use the forms or follow the format given in the
  • Check agency guidelines what costs are
    allowable and what are not?

Developing your numbers
  • Even if the agency doesnt want details, work up
    a detailed budget so you know what you can do
    with the funds available
  • Use real numbers
  • Real salaries and fringes
  • Real costs of supplies, animal care, etc
  • Include everything you will need
  • Extrapolate costs to actual start date of grant
  • Dont low ball
  • Dont forget indirect costs

Future years
  • Extrapolate from first year
  • Consider changes in project over time - the
    science and the budget should always correspond
  • Project future salaries as accurately as possible
  • Include expected raises and promotions
  • Business office can help here
  • Increase other costs to allow for inflation

PROBLEM Constant budgets
  • Some agencies fund grants at a constant level for
    future years
  • NIH modular grants
  • Grants with total budget set by agency
  • Allow carryover of funds
  • Remember to plan for raises and inflation in
    deciding how much money you request in the first
  • E.g. for 3 year grant use second year cost
    estimates, not current year or first year cost
    estimates to develop the budget/project

Budget justification
  • Format and detail required vary greatly
  • Follow instructions carefully
  • Should justify your costs in terms of the science
    of the project
  • Will be examined by study section members
    (scientists) during their review
  • Will be examined by business people later

Time and effort of investigators is often
examined closely
  • Does it match the scientific activities you have
  • Do you have enough time from the essential
  • Do you have all the skills you need?
  • Do you have enough technical support?
  • A problem with many first applications is that
    the project cannot possibly be done with the time
    and resources available

Expectations on time and effort
  • Percent Salary Percent Effort
  • If not, you must justify the difference
  • No effort is allowed without salary support
  • You cannot have more than 100 professional
  • All Yale assignments
  • All external professional activities
  • Watch time and effort carefully

Resources and Environment
  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Core facilities
  • Departmental
  • School of Medicine
  • University
  • Expertise and facilities available from your
  • External resources to be used

Resources and Environment
  • For critical resources and expertise that you
    dont have yourself, get letters of collaboration
  • You have an advantage by being at Yale
  • Many talented scientists, willing to share their
    expertise and resources
  • Great core facilities
  • E.g. Keck center
  • Internationally known
  • Available on fee for service basis
  • If youre going to use them, say so

Scientific sections
  • Format varies with sponsor
  • Follow instructions exactly
  • Conform to required length
  • Can be shorter
  • Can never be longer
  • Dont try to get around length limits by using
    tiny fonts, small margins or appendices.
  • Many agencies return such grants without review
  • Even if they dont, the reviewers are usually

Scientific sections of an application
  • Specific Aims
  • Background and Significance
  • Preliminary Data
  • Research Plan and Methods
  • Literature Cited
  • Appendices - sometimes

Specific Aims
  • Short paragraph describing overarching goal of
  • Brief list of specific things you plan to
    accomplish during the project
  • 3 - 5 Aims
  • May have sub-aims
  • Length 1/2 to 1 page
  • Broad overview of goals, hypotheses to be tested
    and approaches to be used, in telegraphic form

Background and Significance
  • Give scientific background and context for
  • Establish importance and novelty of proposed
  • Review prior work in area of project and
    literature related to the project
  • Goals of this section
  • Orient reader to subject and importance of
  • Prove your knowledge of the area through a solid
    review and objective citation of prior related

Preliminary Studies
  • Closely related studies by others
  • Your own preliminary data
  • Present your data carefully and clearly
  • Use high quality graphs, photos, and tables
  • Show, discuss appropriate controls
  • Analyze appropriately
  • Use appropriate statistics
  • Interpret your findings carefully and critically
    acknowledge limitations of techniques and data

The reviewers will examine the preliminary data
  • To evaluate the basis of the project
  • To predict the chance of success
  • To evaluate you
  • Ability to develop and test hypotheses
  • Ability to design rigorous experiments
  • Expertise with experimental techniques
  • Expertise in analysis of data
  • Rigor in interpreting the data
  • Ability to present findings clearly and
  • Sloppiness here is absolutely fatal

Research Design and Methods
  • Longest section of application
  • Develop details of project

Dont neglect the research design
  • This section is not just methods
  • Outline experimental plan
  • Base on specific aims - restate aims and describe
    flow of experiments under each aim
  • Develop logic of project
  • Describe timeline, sequence of experiments
  • Describe potential pitfalls and what you will do
    if they occur
  • Think about clinical relevance

  • Describe methodology
  • Cite appropriate references
  • Establish your expertise with techniques to be
  • give citations to your work using the techniques
  • provide accurate discussion of techniques and of
    their strength and limitations
  • give methodology details where critical
  • describe alternatives to be used if a technique
    is inadequate or the results are inconclusive

For techniques that are new for you
  • Tell how you will obtain expertise
  • Collaborator
  • Yale
  • include as investigator
  • include biosketch
  • Outside
  • consultant biosketch, letter,
  • subcontract agreement between institutions
  • Someone who will teach you the technique
  • Letter
  • Biosketch
  • Use core facility

Literature Cited
  • Follow required format exactly
  • Be complete, but not silly
  • Be accurate
  • read entire article carefully
  • cite accurately
  • Include your own work but also cite others,
    including competitors
  • Be objective dont ignore literature you dont
    like, instead discuss it.

  • Follow instructions carefully
  • Some applications will have mandatory appendices
  • Some will not allow appendices
  • Some will limit appendices
  • Possible appendices
  • Letters of collaboration
  • Letters or recommendation
  • Papers, manuscripts

Warnings about appendices
  • Only the primary reviewers will have them
  • Most reviewers will never see them
  • Do not try to use them to circumvent page
  • Do not use them for critical information put
    that in the body of the application
  • They will not be attached to the application -
    label them clearly

Letters of Recommendation
  • Sometimes required
  • Examined with great care
  • Should discuss your past and current work and
    your long range potential in your chosen
  • Select sponsors carefully
  • Scientific references, not personal references
  • Ideally, include thesis advisor, postdoctoral
    advisor, and someone who knows your present work
  • Select people who know your work, are reasonably
    senior, and know how to write good letters

When requesting letters
  • Provide instructions from grantmaker
  • Specific format may be specified
  • Specific information may be requested
  • Provide your current full CV
  • Provide a good draft of the proposal
  • Talk with them about your long term plans and
  • Provide a draft letter giving an overview of the
    project and your goals. Include any elements you
    want to see included

You may also need a letter from your Chair, the
Dean, or the President
  • The Chair may know you well
  • provide draft letter
  • provide all information given to others writing
  • The Dean and President are less likely to know
    you well
  • Dont panic
  • GC and Development will arrange and help
  • Will need information described above
  • May call you for additional information
  • May ask your mentor or Chair for draft letter

More on letters
  • Dont be shy about asking for letters
  • Its part of the senior facultys job to mentor
    you and do these things
  • Make their job as easy as possible
  • Approach them early - give them enough time
  • Multiple requests are not a problem
  • Second and subsequent letters are easy
  • Computers are our friends
  • Be sure to let your writers know when you get an

  • Begin asking people to read the grant at an early
    draft stage (2 months before submission)
  • Use their input and feedback as you develop the
  • Do this early enough that you can add or delete
    experiments, aims, and collaborators
  • Projects evolve while they are being written

Who should read the final drafts?
  • All collaborators must have an opportunity to
    read the proposal
  • Anyone who is writing a letter for you should be
    given a draft
  • Outside readers
  • An expert in the field
  • A person in a closely related field
  • An intelligent non-expert
  • A good proofreader good English skills
  • This reader will provide a critical perspective
    if there are non-scientists on the review panel

A word on readers
  • You want people who are honest and critical
  • You want both scientific comments and editorial
  • Pick people who will take the time to read
    thoroughly and thoughtfully
  • Yes, it is an imposition to ask a senior
    colleague to read your grant
  • Ask anyhow
  • Its part of their job
  • Give them enough time
  • With your peers trade favors

The final proofreading
  • Use spell check program
  • Use grammar check program
  • Dont trust those programs - proofread!
  • principle investigator
  • hear at Yale, we
  • Have multiple people proofread
  • Check figures, tables, data, legends
  • If your English skills are not strong, get
    someone with strong English skills to edit and
    proofread for you
  • Contact the library for professional editing

Assembling the application
  • Follow instructions to the letter
  • Where/how to number pages?
  • What order for sections?
  • How to handle appendices?
  • How many copies?
  • Staple copies or not?
  • Identify proprietary or confidential information?
  • You dont want it sent back!!

Sending the application
  • Paper or electronic?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • How?
  • With cover letter?
  • It depends on your sponsor
  • For NIH you may be able to request specific
    review committee
  • For the NIH you may request that specific people
    not review the application
  • Watch for special instructions on RFAs

Now what?
  • You wait
  • Will get acknowledgement and information on
    assignment for review and contact person
  • The review can take months
  • In some cases you may be asked for additional
    information - send ASAP
  • In some case you may wish to send new information
    - contact grantmaker before sending

Problems in grants cited by one federal agency
  • 98 Preliminary Data Quality, relation to
  • 85 Experimental plan too ambitious, no
    preliminary data to support project, project not
    feasible, conceptual flaws, lack of detail in
    plan or methods, lack of alternative strategies,
    necessary reagents not available or not
  • 70 Not innovative
  • 58 Hypothesis not clear
  • 50 Significance not clear
  • 40 Expertise not clear needed letters from
    collaborators or needed input from collaborators
    during preparation of application (often for
    analysis, interpretation)
  • 25 Statistics inappropriate or lacking

A final word
  • All sponsors receive more applications than they
    can fund
  • The NIH receives about 40,000 grant applications
    each year
  • Each Study section reviews 80-100 grants per
  • Each reviewer is assigned 10-20 grants to read
  • Regardless of sponsor, make your grant the best
    one your reviewer reads, so he/she fights for it.

  • For Me
  • Penny Cook
  • Melanie Smith
  • Anyone else in room