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Strategic Planning for Grant Funding - NRSA (F32). Janet Gross, Ph.D. Grants Tutorial Director Office of Postdoctoral Education. Overview. Grant Writing – the challenge What is the NRSA grant proposal? Nuts and Bolts of NIH applications and guidelines Writing a competitive proposal

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strategic planning for grant funding nrsa f32

Strategic Planning for Grant Funding - NRSA (F32)

Janet Gross, Ph.D.

Grants Tutorial Director

Office of Postdoctoral Education

  • Grant Writing – the challenge
  • What is the NRSA grant proposal?
  • Nuts and Bolts of NIH applications and guidelines
  • Writing a competitive proposal
  • Common mistakes – lessons from summary sheets
grant writing takes practice skill
Grant writing takes practice + skill
  • Learn about grant writing and other kinds of writing
  • Practice putting your ideas and your writing out for others to comment on
  • Practice having your proposals and your writing be “rejected”
    • find someone with a 100% funding record (if you can)
  • Practice rewriting your own work
  • Work collaboratively to make your proposal outstanding
    • Take advantage of the expertise around you
    • There is no stupid question --- risk it!
best grant writers work collaboratively



Grant Writing



Best grant writers work collaboratively
the relationship with your mentor
The relationship with your mentor


  • Training experience
  • Collaborative writing process

Many research ideas Specific Aims

what trips people up
What trips people up?
  • Everyone is smart
  • Most proposals are very good
  • Only excellent - outstanding gets funded
  • Insufficient funds to support all worthy research
you are not your proposal however you are your biosketch
You are not your proposal......however, you are your biosketch
  • What is the most important thing you should be working on right now – grant proposal vs. manuscripts?
  • Are you competitive?

 What is the objective evidence for this?

grant writing strategies
Grant Writing Strategies
  • Review a successful proposal - do not be naïve
  • Make contact with the funder - is your science fundable?
contact with the nih
Contact with the NIH?

Section VII. Agency Contacts

Each NIH Institute and Center has a unique scientific purview and different program goals and initiatives that evolve over time. Prior to preparing an application, it is critical that all applicants consult the appropriate Institute website (listed with each Institute\'s name at the beginning of this announcement) for details of research areas supported by that Institute.

Applicants should also contact the appropriate Institute representative to obtain current information about specific program priorities and policies. This action is of utmost importance because applications with marginal or no relevance to the participating Institutes will not be accepted for review or possible funding. .....

grant writing strategies1
Grant Writing Strategies
  • Review a successful proposal - do not be naïve
  • Make contact with the funder - is your science fundable?

Find a coach or coach yourself – grant writing group

Collect tips and hints about grant writing that have worked for others (Paul Casella handout )

Develop a strategic plan for your proposal – careful planning with guidance from mentors

Use a timeline to write - time management & priorities

Convey confidence in your research and writing style

“Arm’s Length” approach to reading your own work

Get others to read and critique your work

What is the

Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA F32)?

nrsa f32 mission
NRSA F32 Mission

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards individual postdoctoral research training fellowships to promising applicants with the potential to become productive, independent investigators in research fields relevant to the missions of participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

The primary objective of this funding opportunity is to help ensure that diverse pools of highly trained scientists will be available in adequate numbers and in appropriate research areas to carry out the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research agendas.

why should i apply for this grant
Why Should I Apply for This Grant?
  • Stepping stone for an academic career
  • Build a track record of fundable research
  • NRSA vs. other grant opportunities
    • $$, prestige
    • Small, competitive awards vs. no award
    • Are you permitted to be a PI?
nih via 22 institutes and centers i c awards the nrsa
NIH, via 22 Institutes and Centers (I/C), awards the NRSA

There are many non-NIH funding opportunities:

  • Training or Fellowship Grants
  • Career Development Awards (CDA’s)
  • For non-citizens
  • For specific disease-focused research
  • Travel, equipment, patient stipend, tuition, etc.
kirschstein nrsa post doctoral fellowships f32s applications awards and success rates
Kirschstein-NRSA post-doctoral fellowships (F32s) Applications, awards, and success rates
after proposal leaves university
After proposal leaves University

NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

Assigned to review committee (study section)

Primary reviewer, Secondary reviewer, Reader

reviewing the nrsa
Reviewing the NRSA
  • Center for Scientific Review

  • New scoring system considers the impact of the research
    • range = 10 (high impact, exceptional) – 90 (low impact, poor)
  • Funding level (payline) is not determined nor discussed by reviewers
  • Funding decisions are made by the NIH I/C
review process
Review Process

Top 50%

Reviewed at committee


Summary Statement

Funded Not funded

Bottom 50%

Not discussed

Not scored (streamlined)

Summary Statement

(very valuable)

Anyone can resubmit 1 time





follow the links
Follow the Links

F Kiosk

 F32 for Individual fellowship (PA-09-210)

nrsa p rogram a nnouncement pa 09 210
NRSA Program Announcement: PA-09-210
  • Key document for all information about the proposal and the award

  • Last due date with these instructions: 12/8/09
    • Research Strategy (Significance, Innovation, Approach, Preliminary Studies) = 6 pages + Specific Aims (1 page)
    • NOT-OD-09-149
nrsa p rogram a nnouncement pa 09 2101
NRSA Program Announcement: PA-09-210

 General Information

  • You build, save, upload pdfs and fill in online form pages
    • use OSP Proposal Drop Box; www.
  • Individual Fellowship Application Guide SF424 (R&R) - Adobe Forms Version A – instructions
  • SF424RR_Assembly_Line – listing of all the items that comprise a complete proposal
  • Additional Form Pages – biosketch form, etc.




eligibility issues for the nrsa
Eligibility Issues for the NRSA

Program Announcement rules are NOT OPTIONAL

  • U.S. citizenship, non-citizen national, or permanent resident
      • at time of award (not submission)
  • Previous and current funding situation
      • The combined postdoctoral T32 + F32 cannot exceed 3 years
  • DUNS number – see Fact Sheet at
  • Funding dates
  • Award cycles – 3x/yr
  • Stipend levels and payback requirements
    • Incur a service obligation of 1 month for each month of support during the first 12 months.
    • Health-related research training, research and/or teaching qualifies
how do i learn about matching my interests and the funder s
How do I learn about matching my interests and the funder’s?
  • Can I just send the proposal into the NIH?
    • Yes, but I/C websites offer excellent guidance for directing a proposal to an interested funder as well as early career funding information
  • Is there a match between your interests and the I/C’s mission?
    • Find I/C Contact List in PA - get pre-application advice
useful training websites
Useful Training Websites
  • NIDA Training Information Site
  • NINDS Training Information Site
  • NCI Cancer Training at NCI
  • NIH Grant Review Process - Video


SF424(R&R) + phs416-1

Nuts and Bolts

sf424 research and related forms
SF424 Research and Related Forms

4.2. Cover Component (fillable forms)

4.3 Project /Performance Site Locations

4.4 Other Project Information Component

  • Project Summary/Abstract (pdf)
  • Project Narrative
  • Bibliography & References Cited
  • Facilities & Other Resources
  • Equipment
  • Other Attachments

11.Other Attachments

A. Required Attachment

Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Information

  • Research support available
  • Sponsor and co-sponsors’ previous fellows
  • Training Plan, Environment, Research Facilities
  • Number of Fellow/Trainees to be supervised
  • Applicant’s Qualifications and Potential

B. Additional Required Attachments

    • Collaborators and Dissertation Advisor, if applicable
    • List of References – 3 required

4.5 Senior/Key Person Profile

  • PI = you, the Fellowship Applicant or Candidate
  • Senior Key Person #1 = primary sponsor (mentor)
  • Senior Key Person #2 = co-sponsor
  • 40 max.
  • Upload biosketches here
phs fellowship specific component
PHS Fellowship Specific Component

5.2 Cover Letter – optional but strongly encouraged

5.3. PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form (fillable form)

B. Research Training plan (10 pages max.)

  • Introduction to Application (resubmissions only; 1 pg)
  • Specific Aims (pdf)
  • Background and Significance
  • Preliminary Studies
  • Research Design and Methods

Human Subjects

8. – 14.

Other Research Training Plan Sections
  • Vertebrate Animals
  • Select Agents Research
  • Resource Sharing – model organisms, GWAS
  • *Respective Contributions
  • *Selection of Sponsor and Institution
  • *Responsible Conduct of Research

*1 page maximum

C. Additional Information

Human Embryonic Stem Cells


  • *Goals for Fellowship Training and Career
  • *Activities Planned Under this Award (100% effort)
  • **Doctoral Dissertation and Other Research Experience
  • Citizenship

D. Budget

E. Appendix

** 2 pages max.

How can strategic

grant writing

contribute to a competitive proposal?

how to convey your research c areer trajectory
How to convey your research career trajectory
  • In the proposal, remind the reader that you are on track to become an independent scientist


 NRSA is funding for training & career development not just for funding your research

this is a person on the path to becoming an independent researcher
“This is a person on the path to becoming an independent researcher”
  • Biographical Sketch (follow format for Fellowship biosket)
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Other Research Experience (2 pages max.)

Can you create linkages in the reader’s mind?

    • Tell your story.
    • Use of 1st person is ok.
good organization is essential or messy grant messy lab
Good Organization is Essential.....or messy grant = messy lab
  • Choose an outlining style
    • CAPS, bold, italic, underlining, etc.
  • Be consistent throughout - parallel formatting for each Specific Aim and for each experiment
  • Refer to your Specific Aims in your Preliminary Studies
  • Refer to your Preliminary Studies in your Research Design and Methods
  • Refer to your training potentialthroughout
  • Name names
you will be rewarded if you do
You will be rewarded if you DO
  • Set aside time to write a grant – can take weeks or months
  • Read all directions
  • Follow all guidelines
  • Make yourself a personal “to do” list; check it off
    • Use the SF424 Assembly Line pdf
  • Pace yourself - cramming is a killer  errors!
  • Getquality feedback
important u nforgivable don ts
Important,unforgivable DON’TS
  • Don’t exceed the page limit
  • Don’t use an unapproved font, pagination, spacing
  • Don’t skip any sections
  • Don’t think “This section couldn’t possibly be important/necessary/essential...”
  • Don’t do this solo



Scientific Grant Writing

1 the messy proposal
1. The messy proposal

The committee commented on the less than stellar grantsmanship throughout the proposal (misspellings and typos).

2 the overly ambitious research plan
2. The overly ambitious research plan

There are some concerns as to the likelihood of completing aims 2 and 3 within the allotted time given the pilot nature of the work and the number of techniques that need to be mastered.


The overly ambitious research plan

The training potential of the planned work is high. However, there are concerns that the research plan is overambitious, not hypothesis driven and lacks clear rationale and detailed description of the studies proposed. Taken together, these concerns diminish enthusiasm for the application.

While interesting, the proposal is extremely ambitious.

Overall, the research plan is too broad and too large to have any hope of being successful.


Responsible Conduct of Research:

A formal course in the responsible conduct of research, taken within the past three years, is required; individual lectures/seminars and on-line tutorials are not acceptable for fulfilling this requirement. To ensure that the course is appropriate for fulfilling the requirements for training in the responsible conduct of research, the candidate must provide specific information on the course content to allow reviewers and/or staff to determine whether or not the course fulfills the NIH requirements. In this application, the course content and the date the course has been taken or will be taken are not specified, which is unacceptable.

4 the flawed methodology
4. The flawed methodology

It is clear that the applicant is not completely familiar with the drug interactions that follow the combined administration of substance x and substance y in patients with diabetic neuropathy.

5 the rush job
5. The rush job

The applicant has not considered the recently published research on psychosocial determinant of behaviors predicting HIV/AIDs infection in minority youth while much older literature has been discussed.

more common mistakes
More Common Mistakes

Mastery of the literature

  • Controversial terms vs. well-accepted terms
  • Are you considering all sides of the issue fairly?
  • Is your background up to date?

Resources not adequately explained

  • Lab does not have established techniques, models related to your training and research goals

Insufficient collaborative support or supervision

  • Sponsor’s experience is insufficient or not well-described
more common mistakes1
More Common Mistakes

Design, Experiments, Data Analysis

  • Hypothesis is ill-defined, lacking, faulty, diffuse
  • Methodology is questionable, unsuited or flawed
  • Inconsistency in level of detail from one experiment to the next
  • Agents, clinical interventions, high tech procedures are not adequately described
    • Are there alternatives worth mentioning?
  • Data collection procedures are not clear
  • Power calculation consideration
  • Data management plan is unclear or absent

It is unclear that the analytic techniques will yield the anticipated outcomes.

even more mistakes
Even more mistakes

Training Plan

  • Lacks cohesiveness – can the reviewer easily summarize in what and how you will be trained?
  • Is too brief; generic; not personalized – must mention you by name!
  • Doesn’t include future research plans or career goals
what if i don t get funded
What if I don’t get funded?

Reapply (you have 1 chance to reapply) if your training potential is still good (i.e., you are not too far along as a postdoc), or

Work on your publication record and apply for another type of grant where you will be more competitive

what if i m not eligible and or competitive for the nrsa
What if I’m not eligible and/or competitive for the NRSA

Seek other funding opportunities

  • Many private foundations do not have citizenship restrictions
  • Disease-specific organizations
    • MDA, AHA, ACS, Crohn’s and Colitis Fdn America
  • Department of Defense – ALS research, orthopedics basic science fellowship
  • NSF
how do i look for other funding opportunities
How do I look for other funding opportunities?
    • Community of Science; IRIS
  • Foundation Directory Online -Woodruff Library databases
  • Science
    • Searchable database GrantsNet
what should i be doing now 2 months to go
What Should I Be Doing Now?...... 2 months to go
  • Find copy of a successful proposal
  • Contact the funder
  • Start NRSA notebook - obtain all necessary forms and information; start on forms; Print out forms.
  • Learn about OSP Drop Box – YOU DO NOT HIT SEND
  • Proofread from paper not the computer screen
  • Participate in regular, ACTIVE discussions with mentor
  • Formulate RESEARCH TRAINING PLAN - draft an outline with all required sections
  • Identify individuals who can provide REFERENCES
  • Learn your department’s procedure for routing to OSP. There are many levels of bureaucracy.
what should i be doing now 1 month to go
What Should I Be Doing Now?..... 1 month to go
  • Write/revise full-length drafts of your proposal
  • Complete information on form pages
  • Check on your Letters of Recommendation
    • be clear on due date
    • how to use eRA Commons to submit references
  • Circulate your proposal forquality critique and review
  • Review Sponsor section with your Sponsor (>1 time)
  • Build pdf and review hard copies