7. 6. 5. 4. What Do Grant Reviewers Really Want, Anyway?. Robert Porter, Ph. D. Proposal Development Team University of Tennessee www.research.utk.edu firstname.lastname@example.org. VG. G. E. F. Workshop objectives.
responsibilities to coach PIs more effectively
- Number of reviewers - Awards and success rates - Review processes
- Characterizations of strong proposals - Common grant writing mistakes - Lessons learned - Impact on grant writing
- Advice to proposal writers
of science and engineering
at 23-25% in recent years
• What is the intellectual merit
of the proposed activity?
• What are the broader impacts
of the proposed activity?
• Program specific criteriamay be listed
in the program announcement
1) How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge
and understandingwithin its own field or across different fields?*
2) How well qualifiedis the proposer to conduct the project?
original, or potentially transformative concepts?
4) How well conceived and organizedis the proposed activity?
5) Is there sufficient access to necessary resources?
*Strongest emphasis in new definition
*New emphasis in 2013
**Integration of education with research
required of all NSF proposals!
“DO NOT FUND”
Only those proposalswith a majority of “Excellents” are likely to be funded;
PO’S have some flexibility
Average NSF success rate (2010): 23%
To acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold.
(DHHS > PHS > NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
National Institute of Aging (NIA)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
National Institute of Biomedial Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
National Institute of General Medical Diseases (NIGMS)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
(and several more!)
Cite data to quantify impact of disease
on health, society and the economy
- Significance: ability of project to improve health - Approach: feasibility of methods & budget - Innovation: originality of your approach* - Investigator: qualifications and experience of investigator(s) - Environment: suitability of facilities, equipment & institutional support
*NB: too much innovation can be risky
(1 = “Exceptional” and 9 = “Poor”)
(1 to 9)
New Scoring System, cont’d
New Scoring System, cont’d
Definition of 9 – point scale:
Profile of Reviewers Interviewed:
Why volunteer so much time?
Learning the ropes in order to write better proposals“To see how the game is played” “To pick up on what reviewers like and don’t like”
Service to science“I benefitted from this process and felt I had to give back.” “This was a way I could contribute to the high quality review process at NIH.”
Keeping current: A good way to keep up with the discipline and learn about future directions.
Professional networking: Building a network of professional contact with peers and program managers at sponsor agencies
“We spend the first hour standing around drinking coffee
while these folks are still pecking away at their keyboards.”
They want to learn very quickly what the project is all about
and whether it fits program objectives.
Also look for:
Writing that is clear and concise (“concise” being most common descriptor)
Interesting, innovative ideas that will contribute to the field
Solid preliminary data showing the approach has promise
A crisp, specific project description with a well thought out research plan
Evidence that the PI is well qualified to do the research
Note: First impressions are critical:“The abstract must sell the grant. If I don’t get interested by the first page,
the proposal is lost.”
Big picture must be compelling:
“I get to the gestalt, the big picture first. If I like it, then I’ll go on to the details.
If I don’t, I’m done reading.”
Special annoyance: Sloppiness, lack of proofreading!
on Grant Writing:
Consensus: Service on review panels dramatically improves proposal writing
“You learn to put the reviewer’s hat on. You know what the panel is looking for;
you can hear their discussion in your head while you’re writing.”
“I used to write to a peer; now I write to a committee. And I make it
easy to read!
Other improved skills:
A simpler, livelier writing style
Key points laid out very early
Clear organization with frequent section headings
Use of more visual illustrations
“Communicate with grant program officers before deciding to write; establish a relationship.”
“Study, study, study the program call.”
“Make your proposal easy to read.”
“Start much earlier than you think you have to.”
“Make sure you know what’s already been done.”
“Write in an accessible way that can be understood by a diverse group.”
“Don’t take rejection personally.”
“Get in the habit of resubmitting.”
“The research community decides its own fate
by determining what good science is.”