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Writing Your First Grant


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Title: Writing Your First Grant

Writing Your First Grant
  • Sara Rockwell, PhD
  • Professor, Therapeutic Radiology and Pharmacology
  • Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs
  • Yale School of Medicine
  • Postdoc Workshop, 1/11/11

Why write grants?
  • To get money to support the research you want to
  • To support your career development
  • Current reality institutional funds to support
    research and researchers at most medical schools
    is very, very limited
  • If youre going to become a PI you will need to
    write successful grants
  • This is not easy (especially right now)

  • Going from being a trainee performing
    research in a lab headed by another PI to being
    the PI of a project is a major transition.
  • Writing your first grant is the first step down
    this path to independence.
  • Many people begin by writing applications for
    fellowships and mentored awards or by writing
    small grants that they hold while still in the
    lab of a senior faculty member.
  • Even this is a big step
  • new responsibilities
  • new skills to learn

PI responsibilities - pre award
  • Securing appropriate institutional appointment
  • Obtaining space and resources
  • Signing Yales patent agreement
  • Filing your COI form
  • Taking the required PI training course
  • Other compliance protocols and approvals (HIC,
    HIPAA, IACUC, Biosafety, etc)
  • Completing the application materials
  • Obtaining letters of support
  • Adhering to institutional and agency deadlines
  • Sending proposals to sponsors (some grants
    sometimes GCA must press the button)

PI responsibilities - post award
  • Conducting your research as proposed
  • Directly managing and administering your awards
  • Authorizing all direct cost expenditures of
    project funds
  • Approving all project related expenditures and
    cost transfers
  • Ensuring that all charges to an award are
    appropriate, including salary/wage charges for
    yourselves and others are charged to the award
  • Ensuring compliance with Human Subjects
    Protections Animal Care and Use Conflict of
    Interest disclosures and other safety and
    responsible conduct of research regulations and
  • Reporting scientific progress to grantmaker as

Administration is a major part of the PIs
responsibility and effort
  • PIs on average spend more than 40 of their time
    on administrative issues directly related to
    their research grants
  • Completing training and requirements (PI
    training, COI, IRB, RCR)
  • Writing related research protocols (IRB, IACUC
    Biosafety, etc.) ensuring compliance
  • Assembling team ensuring their training
  • Continuing reviews reports during project
  • Managing personnel
  • Managing finances

Your are going to need help Fortunately, there
are people who can and will help you
  • Department Business Office
  • Grant and Contract Administration
  • Sponsor
  • Others

Departmental Business Office
  • The business office provides administrative
    support services to the PI
  • Business office staff are the Go to persons who
  • Assist with proposal preparation
  • Monitor awards and execute authorized
  • Keep the PI abreast of policy and sponsor
    requirements and changes in these requirements
  • Develop appropriate local business processes for
    the administration of sponsored projects
  • Provide reports to the PI on award status

Grant and Contract Administration
  • Communicates changes in policy
  • Reviews applications for compliance
  • Negotiates terms and conditions against standards
  • Primary contact with funding agency both pre and
    post award
  • Partners with financial offices upon award to set
    up and manage award

Other offices that can help
  • Office of Research Administration
  • Office of Strategic Research Initiatives
  • HRPP Office (HIC/IRB Office)
  • HIPPA Office
  • IACUC Office
  • Safety Office
  • Conflict of Interest Office
  • Faculty Office
  • Deans Office
  • YCCI
  • Development Office

The Old World The NIH Mailroom
The new world ERA
Electronic Research Administration (ERA)
  • ERA has made the grants world both easier and
    more difficult
  • Standardized formats (in theory)
  • Complicated routing structures
  • More non-standard funding mechanisms, RFAs, RFPs
  • More PI responsibilities
  • More non-standard submission dates
  • More changes, made more rapidly (and less
  • Leave extra time for electronic submissions
  • The systems often crash on deadline dates!
  • The old 2-day window to make corrections on NIH
    applications is gone as of January 25, 2011.
  • Errors often occur during uploading. Check every
    page of every file to be sure its there, and
    still legible, correct, complete, and the right
  • Check your applications progress!

Right now there are continuing changes at Yale
and beyond
  • Continuing changes in funding mechanisms,
    policies, application forms, submission
    procedures, submission deadlines, review criteria
    and review procedures
  • InfoEd (new internal grant writing and submission
    system, coming all too soon)
  • PubMed
  • Clinical trials.gov
  • Stem Cell Research
  • ARRA requirements
  • Be sure you have the latest information

A good reason to get it right the first time
Thousands of applications per cycle
Planning, Writing, Submitting
Receipt Referral
1-3 Months
Peer Review Scoring
4-8 Months
Final Review Negotiation
9-10 months
The Writing Process
  • When to start?
  • At least three months in advance
  • Longer for new project
  • Longer for complex project
  • Dont assume that a renewal will be automatic or
  • Competitive renewals are as hard to get as new
  • Sometimes harder, if new investigator
    advantage is lost

Research Grants and Career Development Awards
  • Research grant focus is on the merit of the
  • Career development award focus is on the
    potential of the applicant
  • Different foci
  • Different requirements
  • Even when you use the same research project for
    both kinds of grants, you will write them very

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

How to find funding sources
  • Talk with colleagues
  • Talk with business office/chair
  • Talk to Melanie Smith in ORA/SRI
  • Search databases on GCA website
  • Utilize alert services
  • Professional society websites
  • YSM and Yale bulletin boards, list serves,
    announcements, etc.
  • Explore your options broadly!

Limited competitions
  • Scholars Awards
  • Usually career development awards
  • Often limited to a narrow subject area
  • Often limited to junior faculty
  • Some open to or limited to postdocs
  • Often very prestigious big career boost
  • Institution may be allowed to nominate only 1 or
    2 two candidates
  • Internal competition to select Yales nominee(s)
  • Listed on GCA website
  • Melanie Smith can provide information

Internal competitions
  • Grants through programs at Yale
  • Often limited to Yale researchers
  • Generally very focused
  • Sometimes limited to new investigators
  • Some Postdoctoral Fellowships
  • Some Career Development Awards
  • Some research grants
  • Generally small
  • Often for pilot studies
  • Can be very valuable
  • Get preliminary data
  • Establish that you can be an independent PI
  • Establish your track record of success as a PI

A few examples
  • Brown Coxe Fellowships
  • Anna Fuller Fellowships
  • Cancer Center Postdoctoral Fellowships and Pilot
  • YCCI (CTSA) Scholars Program and CTSA Pilot
  • Skin Center Pilots
  • Hematology Pilots

Explore all opportunities
  • Federal Agencies
  • NIH, NSF, DOD, DOE, NASA, others
  • Small Federal grant programs (e.g. R03)
  • Non Federal sponsors
  • Foundations
  • Industry
  • State and local organizations
  • Voluntary Health Agencies
  • Professional Societies
  • Think and look very broadly
  • No grant is too small for your first grant

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

Where to start Gather information about grant
and grantmaker
  • 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

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 everything you need to do before
    submitting the grant

Some critical things to think about before you
begin to write
  • Are you eligible?
  • Position title
  • Time in position
  • Citizenship
  • Do you have the resources you need?
  • Skills
  • Equipment, facilities
  • Support from your 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

Things to keep in mind
  • If this project is successful, why will the world
    be a better place?
  • How does this project relate to the interests of
    the funding agency?
  • Why is your research strategy the right one for
    use in this project?
  • Use these to target the proposal to the
    appropriate funding agency and to sell the grant
    to the reviewers and program people

Remember Reviewing and Funding are separate
actions by different groups
  • Study Sections / Review Panels
  • Review applications for scientific merit
  • Prioritize by scientific merit
  • Program Officers fund projects
  • Consider the scientific reviews and rankings
  • Also consider priorities of program
  • Consider balance of their portfolio
  • May reach for applications in areas they feel
    are critical or under funded
  • May skip applications of low interest to their

When you have questions
  • Talk to your Business Office
  • Talk to your GCA representative
  • Contact the grantmaker
  • Program people (scientists)
  • Administrators
  • 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
  • Formats and contents of applications vary
    dramatically for different agencies
  • Read the instructions
  • Follow them to the letter
  • You will need to alter focus for different
    agencies and grant opportunities
  • You will need to alter scope of work to match
    money and time available
  • You will need to re-write to fit length, format
  • One size does not fit allor even most

  • But you already knew that!

Watch for special requirements in career
development applications
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of long range career goals
  • Statement describing the relationship between
    this project and your long range professional
  • Plans for course work
  • Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Statistics
  • Courses related to the research
  • Interviews for finalists
  • Agreement to attend or speak at meetings

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 your Business Office and the Grants and
    Contracts website and for help
  • May require signatures and assurances
  • Must be complete and accurate

  • Dont panic at the terrifying list of required
  • Many already have been handled by the institution
  • You will need to handle some
  • Human subjects protection (HIC HIPPA)
  • Animal welfare (IACUC)
  • Biosafety, Radiation, Environmental Health (OEHS)
  • Conflict of Interest and Commitment
  • Patent assignment
  • Export Controls
  • Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
  • Scientific Misconduct
  • Data sharing /Data management
  • Mentoring

Picking a title for your project
  • Sounds trivialbut isnt
  • Length may be quite limited
  • Be informative
  • Titles may be used to assign grants to review
    committees and to individual reviewers
  • Titles may be sent to reviewers to allow them to
    the select grants they want to review
  • Should be intelligible to non-specialists
  • Dont use jargon
  • Dont get cute

  • Draft first then edit/rewrite when your
    application is almost done
  • May be the most important part of application
  • Used to assign committees and reviewers
  • Reviewers may use to select grants for review
  • 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 agencies require lay abstracts
  • Very important
  • There may be non-scientists on the review panel
  • Foundations give these abstracts 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
  • Absolutely critical for fellowships and career
    development awards
  • Primary reviewers will examine this very
  • Other reviewers will look at it before and during
    meeting - especially if there are questions or
  • Different from your resume and from your full
    academic CV
  • Focus tightly on information relevant to your
    research career and your project

Preparing the Biosketch or CV
  • Format varies with grantmaker
  • Look for forms and detailed instructions
  • Follow them exactly
  • Do not alter order from that specified
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread
  • Do not exceed the allowed length
  • Sections usually include
  • Current position
  • Education
  • Personal Statement (NIH specific to application)
  • Professional Experience
  • Honors and Awards
  • Publications

Biosketch Current Position
  • Be sure your Current Position on the CV matches
    that on cover and elsewhere
  • Use your official University title
  • Promotion in progress?
  • List effective date
  • List only positions that have been offered and
    accepted in writing
  • You may be asked to provide documentation
  • If application includes letter from the Chair,
    Dean or Mentor be sure that letter mentions the
    pending promotion

Education and Experience
  • Generally start with college
  • Include areas of study and degrees earned
  • Non-degree programs and education may warrant
  • Include all graduate and postdoctoral training
    and research
  • Broad outline start and end dates, institution,
    city, state, country, mentor
  • Dont give details of project or activities
  • NIH education goes in boxes, wanting less
  • Chronological, but watch order

Experience and Awards
  • Experience may go beyond your primary job
    appointment, if it is relevant to application
  • Secondary appointments
  • Advisory boards
  • Some other experience and activities (e.g.
    teaching, certain community activities)
  • Avoid unexplained gaps
  • Awards and honors
  • Select with care
  • Begin with college
  • Do not include trivial awards
  • Awards relevant to professional career
  • Describe award if implications may be unclear to
    an outside observer

  • Follow instructions for format and content very
    carefully great variation between grantmakers
  • Reviewers will look at
  • Number of publications
  • Evidence of a good trajectory of publication
  • Quality of publications
  • Peer reviewed journals?
  • Quality, impact of journals?
  • Full article or brief notes and case reports?
  • Your position as author
  • How many authors?
  • Who are the other authors?
  • Relevance to proposed research
  • Warning Negotiate your authorships carefully

  • Usually allowed
  • Papers published in peer reviewed journals
  • Papers in press (this means the paper has been
    accepted for publication)
  • Books
  • Book chapters, full papers in peer reviewed
    proceedings, review articles (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 new papers after they have
    been accepted

  • Look for restrictions on the number of
  • New NIH Biosketch format specifies a maximum of
    15 recent, relevant publications
  • NSF wants 5 publications relevant to the project
  • Select with care!
  • Check formatting requirements (e.g. NIHMS or PMC
    for NIH Biosketches)
  • Some agencies also ask for your total number of
  • If you have more publications than allowed
    consider including an opening statement such as
    Selected from a total of 195 publications
  • If you have only fewer than the allowed number of
    publications, include them all

  • Format and required information vary dramatically
  • Some agencies specify a fixed budget and define
    how you must spend it.
  • Some want budget 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?
  • You wont get money for unallowable items
  • Watch how Indirect Costs (Facilities and
    Administrative Costs) are handled.

Developing your numbers
  • Even if the agency doesnt want details, work up
    a 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 the FA costs

Future years
  • Extrapolate from first year budget
  • 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
  • May allow carryover of funds
  • Remember to plan for raises and inflation in
    deciding how much money you request in the first
  • HINT for a 3 year grant use second year cost
    estimates (not current year values or first year
    cost estimates) to develop the budget for the

Budget Justification
  • Format and detail required vary greatly for
    different applications
  • Follow instructions carefully
  • Always 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 later by business people and

Time and effort is examined closely by the
  • Does it match the scientific activities you have
  • Do you have enough time from the people who are
    essential to the project?
  • Do you have all the skills you need?
  • Do you have enough technical support?
  • A very common problem with grants from young
    investigators is that the project described
    cannot possibly be performed with the resources

Expectations on time/effort
  • Percent Salary Percent Effort
  • If not, you must justify the difference
  • Effort generally is not allowed without salary
  • You cannot have more than 100 professional
  • All Yale assignments
  • All external professional activities
  • Watch efforts in application carefully. If you
    are funded
  • You may be held to the promises youve made
  • You will be asked to document the efforts of
    those on the grant

Resources and Environment
  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Core facilities
  • Departmental
  • School of Medicine
  • University
  • External
  • Expertise, equipment and facilities available
    through your co-investigators
  • External resources to be used
  • Watch grantmaker instructions
  • NIH description must now be specific to the
  • Watch for new requirements for Early Stage
    Investigators and Career Development Awards

Resources and Environment
  • For critical resources and expertise that you
    dont have yourself, you may need to 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, West Campus cores
  • Internationally known
  • Available on fee for service basis
  • If youre going to use them, say so in the
    grant and budget justification

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 reject such grants without review
  • Even if they dont, the reviewers are usually
    ruthless and unsympathetic
  • Everyone else has the same space limit

Scientific sections of an NIH application
(revised in May 2010)
  • Specific Aims
  • Research Strategy
  • Significance
  • Innovation
  • Impact
  • Literature Cited
  • Appendices - sometimes

Specific Aims
  • Short paragraph describing overarching goal of
  • Brief list of specific things you plan to
  • 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

Specific Aims (from NIH instructions)
  • State concisely the goals of the proposed
    research and summarize the expected outcome(s),
    including the impact that the results of the
    proposed research will exert on the research
    field(s) involved.
  • List succinctly the specific objectives of the
    research proposed, e.g., 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

Significance (from NIH Instructions)
  • Explain the importance of the problem or critical
    barrier to progress in the field that the
    proposed project addresses.
  • Explain how the proposed project will improve
    scientific knowledge, technical capability,
    and/or clinical practice in one or more broad
  • Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies,
    treatments, services, or preventative
    interventions that drive this field will be
    changed if the proposed aims are achieved.

Innovation (from NIH Instructions)
  • Explain how the application challenges and seeks
    to shift current research or clinical practice
  • Describe any novel theoretical concepts,
    approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or
    interventions to be developed or used, and any
    advantage over existing methodologies,
    instrumentation, or interventions.
  • Explain any refinements, improvements, or new
    applications of theoretical concepts, approaches
    or methodologies, instrumentation, or

Approach (from NIH instructions)
  • Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and
    analyses to be used to accomplish the specific
    aims of the project. include how the data will
    be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well
    as any resource sharing plans as appropriate.
  • Discuss potential problems, alternative
    strategies, and benchmarks for success
    anticipated to achieve the aims.

Approach (continued)
  • If the project is in the early stages of
    development, describe any strategy to establish
    feasibility, and address the management of any
    high risk aspects of the proposed work.
  • Point out any procedures, situations, or
    materials that may be hazardous to personnel and
    precautions to be exercised.

Organizing the Research Strategy
  • If there are multiple Specific Aims, you may
    address Significance, Innovation and Approach for
    each Specific Aim individually, or you may
    address Significance, Innovation and Approach for
    all of the Specific Aims collectively.
  • Preliminary studies used to be a separate
    section of the old NIH application. Now they are
    to be included in the Research Strategy, within
    the Significance, Innovation, and Approach
    sections. Despite this change, preliminary
    studies are still very important.

The reviewers will examine your preliminary data
  • To evaluate the basis and feasibility of the
  • To predict the chance of success
  • To evaluate your
  • 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

Preliminary Studies
  • 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
  • Can include closely related work by others

In describing the Research Strategy be sure to
give the big picture
  • The Approach is not just methods
  • Outline your experimental approach
  • 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
  • Point out significance and innovation
  • Talk about clinical relevance (for those
    grantmakers with clinical interests)

When describing methodology
  • Cite appropriate references
  • Establish your expertise with the techniques to
    be used
  • give citations to your work using the techniques
  • provide accurate discussion of techniques and of
    their strength and limitations
  • give methodology details where critical
    (especially if unpublished or unique)
  • describe alternatives you will use if a technique
    is inadequate or the results are inconclusive
  • Dont forget data analysis and statistical
  • The new NIH format was supposed to decrease
    emphasis on methodologic details, but many
    reviewers still seem to want them.

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

Literature Cited
  • Follow required format exactly
  • Be complete, but not silly
  • Be accurate
  • read entire article carefully
  • cite accurately
  • Remember some reviewers will probably be people
    reading and publishing in this area
  • Include your own work but also cite others,
    including competitors
  • Dont ignore literature you dont like, instead
    cite and discuss it
  • Be objective

  • Follow instructions carefully
  • Some applications have mandatory appendices
  • Some do not allow appendices
  • Some limit appendices
  • Possible appendices
  • NIH animals, human subjects, sharing resources
  • NSF mentoring, data management / sharing
  • Letters of collaboration
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Papers
  • Manuscripts in press

Warnings about appendices
  • Sometimes only the primary reviewers have them
  • Some reviewers never look at them
  • Do not try to use them to circumvent page
  • Do not use them for critical information mention
    ever critical point in the body of the
  • They may be separate from the main application -
    label them clearly

Letters of Recommendation
  • Sometimes required
  • Examined with great care
  • Letters should discuss your past and current work
    and your long range potential in your chosen
  • Select sponsors carefully
  • Professional 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 the grantmaker.
  • Specific information may be requested
  • Specific format may be specified
  • Forms or checklists may be provided and required
  • Sometimes included with your application
    sometimes sent or uploaded separately
  • Provide your current full CV.
  • Provide a good draft of the proposal.
  • Talk with the writer about your long term plans
    and goals.
  • Provide a draft letter giving an overview of the
    project and your career goals. Include any
    elements you want to see in the letter.

You may also need a letter from your Chair, the
Dean, or the President
  • The Chair may know you
  • Provide draft letter
  • Provide all information given to others writing
  • Get mentor to help
  • The Dean and the President of Yale probably dont
    know you very well
  • Dont panic
  • The Department, ORA and Development can arrange
    these and help with writing
  • Will need information described above
  • May call you for additional information
  • Will 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.
    Allow time to re-write when this happens

Who should read the final drafts?
  • All collaborators must have an opportunity to
    read the proposal (ethical issue!)
  • Anyone who is writing a letter for you should be
    given a good draft
  • Outside readers (at least 3!)
  • An expert in the field
  • A person in a closely related field
  • An intelligent non-expert
  • Good proofreader good English skills
  • This reader will provide a critical perspective
    if there are non-scientists on the review panel

A few words 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 the programs! Proofread!
  • principle investigator
  • hear at Yael, wee all ways proof reed.
  • Have multiple people proofread
  • Check figures, tables, data, legends
  • If your English skills are not strong, get
    someone with strong English writing skills to
    edit and proofread for you
  • If needed contact the library for help finding
    professional editing services

Assembling the application
  • Did you include everything the grantmaker said to
  • Follow the instructions to the letter
  • Where/how to number pages?
  • What order?
  • How to handle appendices?
  • If electronic
  • One file or several?
  • What kind of file (Adobe? Word? A web-based
  • If paper
  • How many copies?
  • Staple copies or not?
  • Identify proprietary or confidential information?
  • You dont want the application refused because
    you sent it in the wrong format !!

Sending the application
  • Paper or electronic?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • How?
  • With cover letter?
  • It depends on your sponsor
  • May be required, with specific information
  • You may be able to request consideration by a
    specific institute or review by a specific review
  • You may be able to request that specific people
    not review the application
  • Watch for special instructions

Electronic submission still a major problem
  • Overload near grant deadlines slows systems,
    prevents uploading, and causes systems to crash
  • Grants can just disappear into cyberspace
  • Check uploaded grant
  • Open every file
  • Make sure its there, legible, complete, the
    right length
  • For grants.gov submissions watch for error
    messages that identify problems requiring
    correction or resubmission before the submission
  • Contact GCA for help
  • Keep following the submission until you have a
    confirmation of successful receipt

Warning For NIH grants
  • The two day correction window is gone as of
    January 25, 2011
  • Grants that are not accepted by the NIH Website
    by the submission deadline (date and time!) will
    not be considered.
  • Minor errors can prevent acceptance (e.g. extra
    spaces, changes to formatting/length during
    uploading to the website, a section 1 line over
    the page limit, a minor typo at a critical

Warnings Other Sponsors
  • Most other agencies already have no correction
    window if the grant is not completely and
    correctly uploaded at the exact time of the
    deadline, it is indeed dead
  • NSF now requires data management plans
  • NSF will not review any research grant that
    proposes cost sharing
  • NSF now requires a mentoring plan on research
    grants that support trainees (and RCR training
    for all trainees)
  • Every sponsor has its own specific set of
    requirements and they are changing rapidly

Its submitted. Now what?
  • You wait and watch for information
  • May get an acknowledgement and information on
    assignment for review and contact person (or you
    may have to check a website)
  • The review can take months
  • In some cases you may be asked for additional
    information - send it ASAP
  • In some cases you may wish to send new
    information - contact the grantmaker before
    sending anything

A final word
  • All sponsors receive many more applications than
    they can fund
  • NIH (2010) received 65,010 / funded 14,659
  • NSF receives 40,000 / funds 11,000
  • Am Cancer Soc receives 2000 / funds 260
  • Brown Cox (2009) received 65 / funded 13
  • Each review panel reviews 80-100 grants per
  • Each reviewer gets 5-20 grants to read
  • Regardless of sponsor, make your grant the best
    one your reviewer reads, so he or she fights to
    get it funded

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