Preparing a Grant Application: Steps to Success
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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 [email protected] Overview Getting Started Application processes Application strategies Getting Started

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Agency for healthcare research and quality ahrq l.jpg
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Shelley Benjamin & Karen Rudzinski

Division of Research Education, OEREP

[email protected]

Overview l.jpg

  • Getting Started

  • Application processes

  • Application strategies

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Getting Started

  • Internet is funding gateway

  • AHRQ and NIH use essentially same application process

  • Keep abreast of research priorities and open solicitations

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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

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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)

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AHRQ/NIH Solicitations -- Program Announcements (PA) agree.) on a well-defined area with specific objectives

  • 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

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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

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Application Processes interest to AHRQ

  • 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)

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Application Receipt Dates interest to AHRQ

  • 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

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Application Process interest to AHRQ

  • 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

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AHRQ Staff Involved in Grants Process interest to AHRQ

  • Referral Officer

  • Review Staff – Scientific Review Administrator and Grants Management Specialist Team

  • Program Staff – Project Officer (PO)

  • Grants Management

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Phases of an Application/Project & interest to AHRQ 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

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Scientific Review Group interest to AHRQ(“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

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Review Procedures interest to AHRQ

  • 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

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Ingredients of a Successful interest to AHRQGrant 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)

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What Determines Which Awards Are Made? interest to AHRQ

  • Scientific merit

    • Significance and originality

    • Methods

  • Program considerations

    • What is uniquely AHRQ

    • Existing portfolio balance

    • Anticipated IMPACT of research

  • Availability of funds

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Application Preparation Suggestions interest to AHRQ

  • 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

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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?

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Common Problems in Applications Plan

  • 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

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New Common Problem – “ PlanApplications of Application”

  • No apparent translatability of research into practice or policy

  • Not unique to AHRQ

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Practical Tips Plan

  • 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

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Specific Issues with Dissertation Applications Plan

  • Letters

  • Involvement of Mentors

  • Adequacy of committee membership

  • Relevance to HSR and AHRQ

  • Balance between specificity, originality, and career potential

  • Doability

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Specific Issues with Career Development Applications Plan

  • 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

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What Steps to Successful Career Development Looks Like Plan

Save Lives and Dollars

Change Practices

Visibility & Dissemination