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Grants and Grant Writing

Grants and Grant Writing

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Grants and Grant Writing

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  1. Grants and Grant Writing M.E. Maguire

  2. Outline • Where do grants come from? • The process of grant application and review • The review • Grant writing suggestions • Review an actual grant • Respond to the review of that grant

  3. Why get grants? • To be able to do your own research • Feed your curiosity • Get tenure (or keep your company afloat)

  4. Who do you get grants from? • FEDERAL $$$$$ • NIH • NSF • DOD • DOE • DARPA • STATE $ • LOCAL $ • Other NATIONAL Non-Profit $$ • Pharmaceutical and Biotech Firms $-$$$

  5. Federal Grants • NIH • Basic biomedical research – NIGMSonly • Disease related – All other institutes • Some $$ from equipment centers and infrastructure grants • NSF • Basic research in all fields of science • To strengthen “structure” and “participation” in the scientific enterprise

  6. Federal Grants • DOD • Breast cancer • Bioterrorism (also NIH) • Applications (especially weaponry in the broadest context) • DOE • Microbial genomes • Bioremediation • Energy generation

  7. Federal Grants • DARPA • Defense Advanced Research Project Agency • Mostly contract research, not a grant • Generous funding • Rapid, continual progress, closely monitored • Future years are not guaranteed funding • Much is technology oriented, but significant amount is biological • Always cutting edge, speculative, pie in the sky, risky • Very often will fund things that they think have less than 1% chance of succeeding or that are demonstration of principle • “We expect you to fail” • “We hope you get filthy rich”

  8. Other Grants • State agencies • Tend to be for facilities or specific types of enterprises • Very targeted • Tend to be consortia of institutions • Usually only 1-2 years funding • Some politics

  9. Local Agencies • Local Foundations • Small, not many • Tend to be extremely targeted

  10. National Non-Profit • Disease-related (usually) • AHA • ACS • Kidney • AHA/ACS will support basic research if clearly connected to a disease process • Often favor younger investigators • Less $$$/grant than NIH • Howard Hughes • They find you • Other National Foundations • Eclectic, usually very targeted • Sometimes good source of fellowships • Do not neglect. If your area matches a foundation’s, can be long-term support • Ellison Foundation • Global Infectious Disease or Aging • “Tell us why NIH won’t fund this.”

  11. Pharmaceutical & Biotech • Drug trials or testing • Drug discovery • Some aspects of basic research • See CVs of Piomelli and Penning • Can build long term relationships • Modest $$$ ($20-100K) • Entrepreneurial and/or aggressive approach helps

  12. NIH and NSF • Different cultures • NIH tends to be more targeted, focused research • NSF will support more global approaches to an informational or methodological problem • Phosphoproteome • NIH is much more money usually • NSF does not like to support PI salary • NSF requires you to consider broader aspects of the research • Educational • Outreach • K-12 • Teachers

  13. NIH Grants • Types • R01 – Individual Investigator Grants • R03 – Small Grant Program • R15 – AREA grants • R21 – Innovative Research Grants • P01 – Program Project • Centers and SCORs • K Awards

  14. NIH Grants • R01 – Individual Investigator Grants • The basic grant • 3-5 years of support • Up to $250,000/yr, no detailed budget • Can ask for more, but requires justification • About 9,000/year new/competing renewals • Becoming less and less a percentage of total NIH funds • Most NSF grants would be similar to R01’s

  15. NIH Grants • R03 – Small Grant Program • Limited funding for a short period of time • Pilot or feasibility studies • Secondary analysis of existing data • Small, self-contained research projects • Development of research methodology • Development of new research technology • Up to two years • Up to $50,000 per year

  16. NIH Grants • R15 - AREA Grants • To stimulate research in educational institutions that provide baccalaureate training for a significant number of the Nation's research scientists, but historically have not been major recipients of NIH support. • Small research projects • Feasibility and pilot studies • Provide data preliminary to a traditional research project grant. • < $35,000/yr, total of $75,000 for up to 3 years • Highly competitive

  17. NIH Grants • R21 – Innovative Research Grants • Innovative, high-risk research, requiring preliminary testing or development • Exploration of new approaches or concepts • Development of new technologies or methods • Development of data upon which significant future research may be built, i.e., the data should have a high level of impact on the field • Example: New models in unusual organisms • Two years funding • Generally $100-150,000/yr • Unfortunately, study sections tend to be too conservative

  18. NIH Grants • P01 – Program Project • Group of R01’s thematically related • Synergism among investigators should be demonstrated • Slightly less $$/grant that R01 • But can have administrative and facility cores • Virtually always 5 years • Increasing percent of NIH budget • University administrators love these • More indirect costs and slightly longer term

  19. NIH Grants • SCORs and Centers • Disease related – Ireland Cancer Center or CFAR • Facility Related (less common) • Genomics/Proteomics • SCOR tends to be a more disease related program project grant • Centers are more comprehensive • Clinical • Basic • Translational • Patient care sometimes

  20. NIH Grants • K Awards • Transitional or new direction • Somewhat advanced training • Beginning investigators • Often abused

  21. NIH Grants – The Process • Write it and submit it • PHS398 form • Three deadlines per year • February 1, June 1, October 1 • Avoid February 1 if possible – fiscal year issues • Competitive renewals due 1 month later • The big warehouse

  22. NIH Grants – The Process • Center for Scientific Review (CSR) • Not an institute, solely for reviews • The “Review Officer” • Assigns Institute and Study Section • You can ask for specific Institute and SS • Usually granted, not always • Switches after a previous review are granted much less often, frowned on • Don’t shop for SSs

  23. NIH Grants – Study Sections • IRGs (Initial Review Groups) • Several study sections under each IRG • AIDS and Related Research (8 SSs) • Biochemical Sciences • Infectious Diseases and Microbiology • Integrative, Functional and Cognitive Neuroscience • Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Neuroscience • Surgical Sciences, Biomedical Imaging, and Bioengineering

  24. NIH Grants – Study Sections • Study Section function • 12-20 members (3-4 year terms) • Often an equal number of ad hoc members • Ad hocs are not permanent members and can serve only once per fiscal year • Mechanism to ensure adequate coverage • 99% meet in Washington at a hotel • Airfare, per diem and $100/day honorarium

  25. NIH Grants – Study Sections • Study Section function • Meet 1-3 days • 30-120 grants, average 90 • 20 min per grant • Review Science only • Do NOT make funding decisions • Confidentiality is very important • Reviewers should never discuss grants with anyone outside SS meeting • NIH is very strict about this

  26. NIH Grants – Study Sections • Reviewers • Usually 3 • Two primary (Must write full critique) • One reader (May write a critique, usually short) • Not necessarily an expert in the field • Absolutely critical that you explain the science clearly • Triage • At beginning of meeting, nominate grants for “Not competitive” or “Unscored”, i.e., bottom 50% • If anyone objects, grant is fully discussed • Triaged grants get a full written review, just no discussion

  27. NIH Grants – Study Sections • Reviewers • Conflicted members leave room • Reviewers state a suggested score and then read/paraphrase their critiques • Open floor for discussion • Sometimes brief • Sometimes lengthy • Discussion reflected ONLY in the summary • Pink Sheets • Written critiques are sent verbatim, no editing • Summary written by Exec Sec’y of SS

  28. NIH Grants – Scoring • Grants are scored on a 1.0-5.0 basis • 1.0 is best • Average score is converted to 100-500 scale • Get numerical score plus a percentile ranking • Percentile is your score averaged against all grants reviewed at the current SS plus the two previous meetings of that SS • Funding is rare for scores greater than 200 or percentiles greater than 25. • Many institutes are funding between 15th and 20th percentile

  29. NIH Grants • Institute Councils • The second step in the process is to present all scored grants to the “Institute Advisory Council” • Mostly scientists, generally well established • Some lay people, few administrators • The Council is the group that actually approves funding • They do not review the science • Their mission is to make sure the total array of grants being funded fulfills the mission of that particular Institute

  30. NIH Grants • Institute Councils • Institute Program Officers each present their “portfolio” of grants to the Council with their recommendations for funding • Funding is strictly by percentile up to a point • The last couple of percentiles are nebulous • Those grants just a few percentile points below the “payline” are reviewed by the P.O.’s and Council for “relevance” to Institute mission • Council can and sometimes does choose to fund a proposal that is slightly below the “payline” if they deem it of more relevance/importance to the Institute’s mission

  31. NIH Grants - Help • Two sources of help • Study Section Executive Secretary • Program Officer

  32. NIH Grants - Help • Study Section Executive Secretary • A scientist, but now an administrator • Handles all grant materials and paperwork regarding a review • Does not actually preside over the SS • One member is named Chair • Responsible for writing a summary of the decision and discussion of the grant • This is the most important part of your review • Conscientious reviewers will slightly revise their critiques to reflect discussion, changes, etc. • Most don’t, but becoming more common • Therefore, the written critiques are what the reviewer thought before they got there • Can call/email Exec Sec’y to get more comments • However, they often don’t remember your individual grant so sometimes helps, sometimes not

  33. NIH Grants - Help • Program Officer • The person in the assigned institute responsible for administering your grant • Your friend! • Cultivate your P.O. • Be nice to your P.O., never argue or gripe • Often attend SS meetings and thus have insight into what went on and can help you read between the lines of the critique

  34. NIH Grants - Help • Program Officer • Has a portfolio • Likes to build a portfolio of excellent grants from stable, excellent investigators • Can sometimes get you interim funding or can push your grant if you’re near the payline • Can offer advice on revisions

  35. NSF Grants • NSF is very similar • Main differences are • P.I. salary frowned on • NOT medically/disease related • Smaller study sections, less biomedical and more biological expertise • NSF also sends grants to several outside reviewers • You get to recommend them • Two reviewers at SS, plus outside reviews • Outside reviews are mostly used as a check on the two reviewers • Did they miss something? • Provide expertise on a particular method or issue

  36. NSF Grants • Not numerically scored • Categories • Outstanding • Excellent • Good • Acceptable/Average • Not scientifically sound/valid • Within each category, grants are ranked by “ordering” • Whole SS is involved even if conflicted • Reviewers write summary during SS • Must be approved by other reviewer

  37. NSF Grants • SS heads combine Exec Sec’y and P.O. functions of NIH • They make the funding decisions within certain guidelines • They can modify budget and length

  38. Does the Review Process Work? • Yes! • My 95% rule • On the rare occasions it doesn’t, you do have avenues of appeal, almost always through your Program Officer and/or Exec. Sec’y • They “trashed” my grant is NOT a valid reason to appeal

  39. GRANT WRITING • There are NO absolute rules • Lots of variations, most are valid • Essential points • Important BIOLOGICALproblem • Good, hopefully innovative approach • Convince them you’re competent

  40. GRANT WRITING • Organization • The first page and abstract are crucial • Most SS members read only the abstract • Your reviewers have formed an opinion about the grant solely from your statement of the problem and aims on the first page

  41. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Introduction • Not an exhaustive review of the literature • Selectively review what’s relevant to your ideas • Highlight what isn’t known and why it should be • State a succinct summary of the issue(s) at end of Introduction

  42. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Preliminary Data/Progress Report • Data that defines the problem or defines the importance of the problem • Data that demonstrates feasibility of approach • Again summarize problem at end • Maguire’s N=1 rule • Data in your papers versus data in a grant proposal

  43. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Preliminary Data/Progress Report • Does not have to be exhaustive • Too many figures often counterproductive • Make the figures BIG • And make sure they print well • Write figure legends that explain the experiment • State importance of the experiment in the text

  44. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Experimental • Rationale – Why? • Experiments – What? • Anticipated Results • And their interpretation • I expect that this experiment will show…. This would imply that…..However, if the results show that……, this could mean that…….. • Alternative Approaches • Alternative methods to get the data you want • Alternative approaches to the question itself

  45. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Aims • Aims build on each other but are not necessarily dependent on each other • Don’t leave yourself open to an experiment in Aim 1 such that if you don’t get the expected result, Aims 2 and 3 are now irrelevant or not feasible or not important

  46. GRANT WRITING • Organization • Aims • Maguire’s rules of grant writing • Aim 1 should be interesting but straightforward • Aim 2 should be somewhat more innovative and have just a bit of risk • Aim 3 can be more innovative and riskier but not off the wall • If you have a really, really “cute” experiment, just do it, don’t put it in the grant

  47. GRANT WRITING • During the Review Process • Submitting Additional Data • BRIEF!!!!!! • To the point • Important • Demonstrate feasibility of an approach • Crucial piece of data supporting hypothesis

  48. GRANT WRITING • During the Review Process • Submitting Additional Data • Submit 5-6 weeks before SS meets • 7 complete copies • No more that 2 pages of text and 1-2 figures, preferably less. • The data in this figure demonstrate/show that…… This supports the idea that X is connected to Y, thus showing feasibility/supporting hypothesis of Aim X • Reviewers are NOT obligated to read or to consider this additional data • Most do, but they aren’t obligated. • Most additional data submitted in my experience isn’t very important, or its importance isn’t explained well

  49. GRANT WRITING • Revising a Grant • The reviewers are ALWAYS right • The reviewers have ALWAYS given you good ideas and constructive criticism • If the reviewers didn’t understand something or misinterpreted something, it’s usually YOUR fault • Usually, reviewers really are right. Listen to them • You don’t have to actually do the experiments they suggest • Keep your replies to reviewers positive and brief • Just say “These were the main criticisms, I’ve revised these sections to answer them, and I’ve rewritten the entire grant anyway”

  50. GRANT WRITING • Grammar and Spelling • Get it right!!!!!!!!!!! • Make it readable • Space • Headings