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Preparing a Grant Application: Steps to Success Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Shelley Benjamin & Karen Rudzinski Division of Research Education, OEREP Overview Getting Started Application processes Application strategies Getting Started

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agency for healthcare research and quality ahrq
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Shelley Benjamin & Karen Rudzinski

Division of Research Education, OEREP

  • Getting Started
  • Application processes
  • Application strategies
getting started
Getting Started
  • Internet is funding gateway
  • AHRQ and NIH use essentially same application process
  • Keep abreast of research priorities and open solicitations
nih and ahrq grant application similarities
NIH AND AHRQ GrantApplication Similarities
  • Announcement publication: NIH Guide for Grants ( and www.
  • Mechanisms – e.g., RO3, R36, K08, K02, R01
  • Application forms: PHS 398, 416-1
  • Receipt dates
  • Application submission and referral – NIH Center for Scientific Review
  • Application review procedures

For AHRQ “assignment,” line 2 of the application (PHS form 398) should indicate the name of an AHRQ PA/RFA

ahrq nih solicitations request for applications rfa
Formal statement inviting applications (grant or coop. agree.) on a well-defined area with specific objectives

Specific, one-time application receipt date

Specific $ and # of awards

Special review panels or study section review

AHRQ/NIH Solicitations -- Request for Applications (RFA)
ahrq nih solicitations program announcements pa
AHRQ/NIH Solicitations -- Program Announcements (PA)
  • Describes AHRQ’s broad research interests.
  • Individual project designs reflect the ideas and creativity of the investigators.
  • Set receipt dates; funding dependent upon availability of money
  • Reviewed by standing study sections – HCRT for training grants
  • All active individual training grants are in form of PA
examples of program announcements research topics of interest to ahrq
Examples of Program Announcements – research topics of interest to AHRQ
  • PAR-04-039 AHRQ Grants for Health Services Research Dissertation
  • PAR-04-016 AHRQ Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program (M-RISP)
  • PA-03-117 AHRQ Grant Program for Large Conference Support
  • PAR-01-040 AHRQ Small Research Grant Program
  • PAR-00-141 Small Grant Program for Conference Support
  • PA-00-111 AHRQ Health Services Research—Program Announcement
  • PA-00-069 Predoctoral Fellowship Awards For Minority Students
  • PA-00-010 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Awards
  • PAR-99-164 Independent Scientist Awards
  • PA-99-005 Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards
application processes
Application Processes
  • Most AHRQ research grant applications must use PHS form 398 --
  • Fellowship applications use form PHS 416-1
  • All forms can be found under “Tools and Resources” at
  • All applications sent to the NIH Center for Scientific Review – will be changing to electronic submission in near future
  • Investigators may request (in cover letter with application) assignment of an application to a specific study section and/or agency/institute (request assignment is not guaranteed)
application receipt dates
Application Receipt Dates
  • Health Services Research Dissertation Awards -- Receipt Deadline Date: February 15, June 15, October 15
  • Independent Scientist Awards -- Receipt Deadline Date: February 17, June 15, October 15
  • Mentored Clinical Scientist Award -- Receipt Deadline Date: February 1, June 1, October 1
  • Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards -- Receipt Deadline Date: April 5, August 5, December 5 -- these may be changing soon
  • Predoctoral Fellowship Awards for Minority Students -- Receipt Deadline Date: May 1, November 15-- these may be changing soon
application process
Application Process
  • Application must be received by due date or bear a proof-of-mailing date by deadline (read the announcement to find which pertains)
  • Applications sent from NIH to AHRQ, where they are assigned to a study section and to a specific PO at a Center/Office within AHRQ
  • Review typically occurs 4 months after applications received
  • Funding decisions occur 1-3 months later
  • Resubmission – generally two allowed, dissertations one
ahrq staff involved in grants process
AHRQ Staff Involved in Grants Process
  • Referral Officer
  • Review Staff – Scientific Review Administrator and Grants Management Specialist Team
  • Program Staff – Project Officer (PO)
  • Grants Management
phases of an application project agency staff contacts
Phases of an Application/Project & Agency Staff Contacts
  • Preapplication
    • P.O.s, Review/Referral, Grants Management
  • Application
    • Review/Referral, Grants Management
  • Grant award
    • P.O.s, Grants Management
  • Post closeout
    • P.O.s, Grants Management
scientific review group study section
Scientific Review Group (“Study Section”)
  • Scientific Review Administrator
    • Recruits and selects reviewers
    • Assigns applications to specific reviewers
    • Sees that each application gets review that is competent, thorough and fair
    • Assures that proper review criteria used
    • Prepares summary statements of review
  • Reviewers are Members or temporary members of Study Section or “SEP”
    • Scientists with appropriate expertise
    • Dependable, reasonable, open minded
review procedures
Review Procedures
  • Applications assigned to 2-3 reviewers for written comments, but reviewed and discussed by all reviewers
  • If all reviewers agree in advance that an application is non-competitive, the study section may choose not to discuss the application (triage process). At present all training/career development grants are discussed – may change
  • A summary statement conveying the comments and assessment of the reviewers is sent to the principal investigator
ingredients of a successful grant application
Ingredients of a Successful Grant Application

Adapted from: Gordon, Stephen L. “Ingredients of a Successful Grant Application to the National Institutes of Health.” J. Orthopaed. Rsch. 7:138-141 (1989) (as reprinted in Preparing a Research Grant Application to the National Institutes of Health)

what determines which awards are made
What Determines Which Awards Are Made?
  • Scientific merit
    • Significance and originality
    • Methods
  • Program considerations
    • What is uniquely AHRQ
    • Existing portfolio balance
    • Anticipated IMPACT of research
  • Availability of funds
application preparation suggestions
Application Preparation Suggestions
  • Follow Instructions
  • Be clear
  • Be organized
  • Watch your language
  • Cover all bases

Adapted from Federal Grants & Contracts, “Project Opportunities in Research, Training, and Services Grant Workshop” by Pam Moore

basic elements of the research plan
Basic Elements of the Research Plan
  • Specific aims
    • What does the investigator intend to do?
  • Background and significance
    • Why is the work important?
  • Preliminary studies
    • What has the applicant already done?
  • Research design and methods
    • How is the applicant going to do the proposed work?
common problems in applications
Common Problems in Applications
  • Lack of original idea and/or scientific rationale
  • Diffuse, superficial, or unfocused research plan
  • Questionable methodology
  • Lack of important details
  • Lack of experience in methodology
  • Lack of generalizability of findings or methods
  • No attention to human subjects and/or population representation issues
  • Unrealistically large amount of work
new common problem applications of application
New Common Problem – “Applications of Application”
  • No apparent translatability of research into practice or policy
  • Not unique to AHRQ
practical tips
Practical Tips
  • Make a rough draft of your application … then let it sit so you can distance yourself and review it a bit more dispassionately
  • Does the draft seem coherent? Are transitions logical?
  • Have you checked for grammar, spelling and typographical errors? Is the draft readable?
  • Have an objective person review the draft and final copy; involvement of mentors is critical
  • All of this requires hard work, study, and mental discipline
specific issues with dissertation applications
Specific Issues with Dissertation Applications
  • Letters
  • Involvement of Mentors
  • Adequacy of committee membership
  • Relevance to HSR and AHRQ
  • Balance between specificity, originality, and career potential
  • Doability
specific issues with career development applications
Specific Issues with Career Development Applications
  • Balance between career development plan and research
  • Mentors (K08)
  • Doability
  • Why need the funds
  • Adequacy of career development plans given where are at in career and what are proposing to do
what steps to successful career development looks like
What Steps to Successful Career Development Looks Like

Save Lives and Dollars

Change Practices

Visibility & Dissemination