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HOW TO WRITE A SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATION . DAVID FELSON,M.D.,M.P.H. PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, B.U. MULTIDISCIPLINARY CLINICAL RESEARCH CENTER GRANT Former Member, NIH SBSR and EDC1 Study Sections. Why Would You Want to Write a Grant?.

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how to write a successful grant application
HOW TO WRITE A SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATION

DAVID FELSON,M.D.,M.P.H.

PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, B.U. MULTIDISCIPLINARY CLINICAL RESEARCH CENTER GRANT

Former Member, NIH SBSR and EDC1 Study Sections

why would you want to write a grant
Why Would You Want to Write a Grant?
  • To Have the Resources and Time to Pursue a Question that you believe is important
  • To protect your time and give you freedom
  • To pay your salary
  • As a measure of academic accomplishment
what qualities characterize a successful grant writer
Good research skills

Salesmanship

Good communication skills

Persistence

Ingenuity and flexibility

Administrative skills

Good human relations

What Qualities Characterize a Successful Grant Writer
the travels of an n i h grant application similar process at other agencies
The Travels of an N.I.H. Grant Application (similar process at other agencies)
  • Based on title and abstract, Center for Scientific Review (CSR) assigns your grant to institute and study section, a review group (SRA heads study section)
  • Institute appoints a primary contact person for your grant
slide5

Council News| Initiatives, Budget | Grants, Contracts | Clinical Research | Training Programs | Small Business

Contact Staff | Glossary

Funding > Grants and Contracts > All About Grants > Supplemental Materials

Funding Decision Flowchart

This flowchart shows the major choices reviewers and program staff make about each application to determine whether it will be funded. For information about when funds are released, see the Funding Timeline.

To return to the page you came from, use your browser's "back" button. Or, view the supplemental materials index for "All About Grants".

This page last updated September 6, 2002 (jdlc)

n i h study section
N.I.H. Study Section
  • 14-30 N.I.H.-funded scientists representing a wide range of expertise and geographic & gender diversity
  • Each grant reviewed by  2 members
  • Members review 6-10 grants each
  • Study section reviews 80-100 grants
  • Each study meets three times per year for 2 days each time
study section review topics in write up of a grant review
Study Section Review: Topics in Write-up of a Grant Review
  • Significance
  • Innovation
  • Approach (general feasibility, power, methodologic concerns)
  • Other factors (human studies, productivity or promise of the investigator)
priority scores
Priority Scores
  • 50% of applications are unscored and not further discussed. (these are applications scoring 300 or worse)
  • Priority scores (100-300) are assigned usually by consensus after airing of reviews.
  • Priority scores get assigned a percentile ranking based on current and previous study section reviews.
  • Summary Statement is prepared by SRA.
from study section to institute council
From Study Section to Institute Council
  • Institutes have ‘pay lines’: the percentage of competitive applications funded. These serve as general guides.
  • Grant and pink sheets sent to Institute Advisory Council. Council can change ranking of grant based on institute priorities.
  • Institute staff make ultimate funding decisions.
slide13
Choosing Your Question (1-6)
  • People & Your Grant (7-10)
  • Sitting Down to Write (11-17)
  • Where to Submit Your Grant (18-19)
  • So, the Review Didn’t Go So Well… (20-21)
rule 1 start with a good idea
Rule #1: Start With a Good Idea
  • Innovative
  • Feasible
  • Conceptually significant (will benefit the scientific community or public)
slide16
Rule #2:An interdisciplinary project is usually more creative than a project emanating from a single discipline
nih roadmap http nihroadmap nih gov initiative
NIH Roadmap (http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/initiative)

Interdisciplinary research integrates the analytical strengths of two or more often disparate scientific disciplines to solve a given biological problem. For instance, behavioral scientists, molecular biologists, and mathematicians might combine their research tools, approaches, and technologies to more powerfully solve the puzzles of complex health problems such as pain and obesity. By engaging seemingly unrelated disciplines, traditional gaps in terminology, approach, and methodology might be gradually eliminated. With roadblocks to potential collaboration removed, a true meeting of minds can take place: one that broadens the scope of investigation into biomedical problems, yields fresh and possibly unexpected insights….

By establishing new awards aimed at building interdisciplinary research teams, NIH hopes to help accelerate research on diseases of interest to all of its components with an eye toward improving the nation's public health.

rule 5 don t assume that using a new technology will get you funded
Rule #5:Don’t assume that using a new technology will get you funded
  • E.g. genetics, sleep apnea
  • Need unique technology
  • Need unassailable expertise
  • Need the right question and approach
rule 6

Rule #6:

If possible, choose a long-term theme

rule 7 don t try to do it alone
Rule #7:Don’t try to do it alone
  • Use mentors, colleagues, collaborators.
  • Look at old successful grants.
rule 8 talk with your statistician early often
Rule #8:Talk with your statistician early & often
  • How many subjects will you need? Will revising your approach to the question make numbers less daunting?
  • Do you need to revise your plans because of numbers problems?
  • What’s the best analysis plan?
rule 9 choose the right collaborators who are they
Rule #9:Choose the Right Collaborators: Who are they?
  • Experts that bring to the project something you do not have
  • Collaborators who are researchers and have written papers in the field
  • Collaborators who get the work done and are easy to work with
  • Ask Mentor or other senior investigators about potential collaborator
rule 10 ask for help with the other sections of the grant
Rule #10: Ask for Help with the Other Sections of the Grant
  • 40% of work of grant application is unrelated to body of grant: biosketches; other support; human studies; budget; resources and environment; abstract.
  • Use mentor and experienced support staff in department (or grant office) to help with these parts. Ask for this help EARLY!
  • These parts are important!
the sections of an nih grant
Specific Aims

1st paragraph: why is this important?

Then: rationale for your hypotheses

Link specific aims to hypotheses

Self contained

Background/Significance

Not a comprehensive review of literature

Tell what is known relevant to hypotheses

Then tell what is NOT known and how you will determine the answer

The Sections of an NIH Grant
an example of aims from successful grant on causes of gout attacks
An example of aims from successful grant on causes of gout attacks
  • Aim 1: To examine the relation of dairy food intake and alcohol consumption to the risk of recurrent gout attacks
  • Hypothesis 1a: Dairy product intake decreases the risk of recurrent gout attacks;
  • Hypothesis 1b: Alcohol consumption, irrespective of type of alcoholic beverage, increases the risk of recurrent gout attacks;
  • Aim 2: To assess the association between systemic inflammation induced by acute infection and immunization with the risk of recurrent gout attacks
  • Hypothesis: Acute infection and active immunization trigger recurrent gout attacks;
  • Aim 3: To evaluate the effect of climatic factors on the risk of recurrent gout attacks
  • Hypothesis: Low temperature, high humidity and high barometric pressure increase the risk of recurrent gout attacks;
sections of an nih grant
Preliminary Studies

Document your or your collaborators’ experience using methods proposed

Buttress argument with supportive preliminary data

Experimental Design/Methods

Start with a general design paragraph

‘The devil is in the details’

Should be the longest part of the grant

Sections of an NIH Grant
rule 12 know your reviewers audience
Rule #12:Know your reviewers/audience*

*for NIH, try www.csr.nih.gov for study section descriptions and rosters or ask NIH institute personnel

slide33

Epidemiology and Disease Control (EDC-2) (EDC-2 Roster)

GENERAL STATEMENT

This study section reviews applications involving case-control studies, longitudinal (cohort) studies and natural history studies;

community studies, clinical trials and surveillance studies; and epidemiologic studies including some supporting laboratory studies.

Specific disease areas include: cancer, infectious diseases, environmental and occupational risk factors, pulmonary diseases, sleep disorders, and neurological disorders including the epidemiology of Alzheimer's Disease, dementias, stroke and epilepsy.

slide34

EPIDEMIOLOGY AND DISEASE CONTROL SUBCOMMITTEE 2

SOCIAL SCIENCES, NURSING, EPIDEMIOLOGY AND METHODS INTEGRATED REVIEW GROUP

CENTER FOR SCIENTIFIC REVIEW

(Terms end 6/30 of the designated year)

ROSTER

CHAIRPERSON

STAMPFER, MEIR J. , DRPH, MPH (01)

PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AND NUTRITION

DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE

CHANNING LABORATORY

BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL

BOSTON, MA 02115

ANDRYKOWSKI, MICHAEL A. , PHD (03)

PROFESSOR

DEPARTMENT OF BEHAVIOR SCIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY COLLEGE OF MEDICINE

LEXINGTON, KY 40536

rule 13 be nice to your reviewers
Rule #13:Be nice to your reviewers
  • Large Font if possible
  • Clarity (a messy grant means messy science).
  • Tables/Figures—whenever possible
  • Consistency in #’s/labels!
rule 14 continue the same themes throughout your grant
Rule #14:Continue the Same Themes Throughout Your Grant
  • Restate the specific aims and hypotheses verbatim in experimental design and methods section.
  • Outline how you will address specific aims and hypotheses in the analysis section.
  • Use exactly the same words and labels to express your concepts throughout the grant.
rule 15 tell them how wonderful you are without telling them how wonderful you are
Rule #15:Tell them how wonderful you are without telling them how wonderful you are
  • You must convince reviewers that you are capable of doing the proposed work—they probably don’t know you.
  • Cite your relevant accomplishments factually.
  • List relevant awards, publications.
  • Recount prior work that is similar to work proposed.
  • Avoid superlatives, self-aggrandizing phrases—let your letters of support provide them!
rule 16 write clearly
Rule #16:Write Clearly
  • Use acronyms & abbreviations sparingly.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Don’t make paragraphs too long.
  • Avoid obvious, trite phrases.
rule 18 know the odds and maximize them
Rule #18:Know the Odds and Maximize Them
  • Find out success rates for grants like yours.
  • Submit to agencies which offer the highest likelihood of success.
  • Search out private charitable organizations interested in funding your kind of research.
k23 success by year
K23 success by year
  • 2002: 46.6% (the high point)
  • 2003: 42.4%
  • 2004: 35.6%
  • 2005: 34.2%
  • 2007: 33.4%
success rates of ro1 applications at various nih institutes 2002 2005 2006
Success Rates of RO1Applications at Various NIHInstitutes: 2002  20052006
  • NIA: 28.5%  17.3%14.7%
  • NIAMS: 20.7%  22.6%17.0%
  • NCI: 26.2%  20.1%16.1%
  • NIDA: 32.9%  21.8%16.4%
  • NEI: 34.3%  27.8%17.4%
  • NHLBI: 32.6%  22.1%16.6%
  • NIDDK: 31.6%  24.8%14.8%
  • NICHD: 24.7%  15.3%11.4%
rule 20 if at first you don t succeed
Rule #20:If At First you Don’t Succeed:
  • Read pink sheets seriously only after you have slept on them a few nights
  • Try again, perhaps
rule 21 the reviewer is always right even if they re not
Rule #21:The Reviewer is Always Right (even if they’re not!)
  • Reviewers try hard to be supportive.
  • If they did not get it, you did not explain it well enough.
  • Read the pink sheets dispassionately and see if the criticisms were fatal. Ask your mentor.
  • If two reviewers express the same concern, take it VERY seriously.
slide50

Other tips on Writing Grants

http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/grant_tips.htm