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Grant writing . Alison Drake, MPH, PhC Department of Epidemiology University of Washington. Outline. Developing proposal and finding collaborators Finding grants Nuts and bolts of grant writing Budgetary considerations Additional resources. Developing your proposal.

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grant writing

Grant writing

Alison Drake, MPH, PhC

Department of Epidemiology

University of Washington

  • Developing proposal and finding collaborators
  • Finding grants
  • Nuts and bolts of grant writing
  • Budgetary considerations
  • Additional resources
developing your proposal
Developing your proposal
  • Brainstorm ideas with classmates, colleagues, mentors
  • Review literature to identify research gap
  • Find collaborators
    • Ask students
    • Seek advice from researchers in the field of interest (potential collaborators)
    • Review funded research
      • CRISP:
preparation timeline
Preparation Timeline

Months before deadline:

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Receipt date

Brainstorm; research and discuss your idea; call/email NIH program staff

Outline application; analyze preliminary studies

Write the proposal

Complete application; solicit feedback and edit

Institutional deadlines; give draft to reviewers

Slide courtesy of Carey Farquhar

before you start writing
Before you start writing
  • Discuss your proposal and study design with others
    • Agree on general design/aims with collaborators
      • Individually or in group
  • Review a successful proposal
    • Structure
    • Detail
    • Writing style
    • Will vary according to grant
types of grants
Types of Grants
  • Federal: Solicited (RFA) and non-solicited throughout year
    • NIH
    • CDC
  • Private
    • Gates Foundation
    • FHCRC
  • Institutions
    • University of Washington
finding the right grants
Finding the right grants
  • Check eligibility criteria closely
  • Contact program officer
  • How much money can you apply for? Is it enough?
    • Can you adapt project to meet budget?
  • Geographic location
  • Review projects successfully funded by that organization
funding for student fellow or project
Funding for student/fellow or project
  • Include funding your salary/tuition/travel on project grant
  • Additional grants can help fund YOU!
    • Training grants
      • STD/AIDS Training Grant
      • TL1 Clinical Research Training Grant
      • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterDual Mentor (Interdisciplinary) Fellowships
      • Many others!
    • Travel grants
      • Global Partnerships Travel Grant (UW)
      • Thomas Francis Jr. Global Health Fellowship (UW)
    • Departmental supplementary grants
searching for grants
Searching for Grants
  • NIH
  • Fogarty International Center
  • University of Washington
    • Research funding service (RFS)
    • Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP)
  • Emails from your department
  • Ask your advisor, colleagues, peers, or researchers in your field
other international agencies
Other International Agencies
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (
  • The Canadian International Development Agency (
  • The Department for International Development (
  • The Global Fund (
  • The International Development Research Centre (
  • The Pan American Health Organization (
  • The Rockefeller Foundation (
  • The Wellcome Trust (
  • The World Bank (
  • United States Agency for International Development (
  • World Health Organization's Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (

Slide courtesy of Carey Farquhar

letter of intent loi
Letter of intent (LOI)
  • Purpose is to allow the granting institution to prepare for the review process
    • How many applicants
    • What kinds of projects
    • Keep it short and simple
    • Include all requested information
      • other investigators, subject, proposed title
    • The LOI is not binding
grant components
Grant components
  • Abstract
  • Background and Significance
  • Specific Aims/Hypotheses
  • Preliminary Studies
  • Research Methods
  • Literature Cited
  • Human Subjects
  • Budget
specific aims hypotheses
Specific Aims & Hypotheses
  • Solidify your Aims
    • Generally 3 to 4 per proposal
    • How you will test your hypotheses
  • Discuss and revise with your mentor/ other members of your research group
    • May take several revisions
  • Clear and concise (1/2 to 1 page)
constructing detailed specific aims
Constructing detailed Specific Aims
  • Consider: Who, What, When, Where, How
  • Example:
    • To determine the timing and proportion of infants acquiring HIV-1 during 12 months of follow-up among HIV-1-infected pregnant women randomized to valacyclovir suppressive therapy versus placebo using infant HIV-1 DNA filter paper and plasma HIV-1 RNA assays to test specimens collected at 2 days; 6, 10, 14 weeks; and 6, 9, and 12 months of age.
background and significance
Background and Significance
  • Convey
    • What is the health problem?
      • Refer to all important studies in the field
      • Demonstrate breath and depth of knowledge
    • What gaps in research are you aiming to fill?
    • Why is this research important?
    • How is your idea innovative?
    • Why are you uniquely qualified to conduct this research?
    • How will the results of your research be used?
background tips
Background Tips
  • Include information only relevant to your proposed project (must be cited in Literature Cited section)
  • Incorporate pertinent references to key collaborators’ work
  • Keep it focused
  • Be persuasive and succinct, but provide enough detail
    • This is your chance to sell your idea to the review committee!
preliminary studies
Preliminary Studies
  • Your opportunity to demonstrate your prior work has prepared you to carry out this research successfully
    • Experience
    • Publications/Presentations
  • Include research with key collaborators
  • Include unpublished work and abstracts
  • Use figures and tables
  • Relate results from prior project to current proposal
  • Explain in detail how you will carry out research
    • Demonstrate well thought-out research plan
    • Anticipate questions reviewers may have about research
    • Convey feasibility
  • Describe all study procedures
  • Provide diagrams/flowcharts for visual assistance
  • Convince reviewers the proposal is reasonable with allotted time
  • Highlight competence and expertise of yourself/collaborators to carry out research
    • How will they contribute?
  • Acknowledge potential setbacks and how you will overcome them
diagrams for study procedures
Diagrams for study procedures


≤ 32 weeks gestation

Enrollment and Randomization

34 weeks gestation

Antenatal Follow-up

Bimonthly; Specimens at 38 weeks


Postpartum Follow-up

≤ 2 days; 2, 6, 10 and 14 weeks;

6, 9, 12 months

Women receiving antenatal care at Mathare North City Council Clinic

Specimens obtained

Maternal blood

Maternal blood,

cervical/ genital swabs

Maternal blood,

cervical/ genital swabs

Maternal blood and breast milk (2, 6, and 14 weeks; 6, 9, and 12 months)

Infant blood (≤ 2 days; 2, 6, 10 and 14 weeks; 6 , 9 and 12 months)

  • Generally most importance section to reviewers
  • Longest and most detailed section
  • Don’t forget
    • Laboratory methods
    • Study timeline
statistical methods
Statistical Methods
  • Involve a biostatistician early
    • Ensure statistical analysis plan is sound
    • Double check power/sample size
  • Ask biostatistician to review description of statistical methods
power sample size example
Power/Sample Size Example

*Required sample size to address study aims

  • Write LAST
  • Cover all key elements of your project, in chronological order
    • Specific Aims
    • Brief summary of methods
    • Study design
    • Significance
  • Clear and succinct
  • 1 page or less
human subjects
Human Subjects
  • Ethical Review Committees
  • Informed consent
  • Equitable subject representation
    • Gender, race/ethnicity, age
  • Risks/Benefits
  • Confidentiality
  • Incentives and minimizing coercion
  • Linkage of indentifying information
  • Protection of biological materials
literature cited
Literature Cited
  • Include all relevant and important research
    • Even if it does not support your hypotheses
  • Use reference managing program
    • EndNote, RefMan
  • Cite as many references as needed
    • Doesn’t count in page limit
developing a budget
Developing a Budget
  • How much will you need to carry out project?
  • Allowable costs
    • Supplies, travel, equipment, salaries
  • Unallowable costs
    • U.S. federal grants typically prohibit food/beverages, renovation, furniture
budget justification
Budget Justification
  • Concise statements about need for key equipment, personnel, supplies, and travel
  • Describe any donations
    • Space, supplies, drugs,
    • Staff salaries covered by other fellowships, etc
  • Level of detail depends on grant
direct and indirect costs
Direct and Indirect Costs
  • Direct: Costs for project
  • Indirect (overhead, Facilities and Administration-F&A): Costs not specifically related to project; common costs
    • Percentage of direct costs based on level set by institution
    • May be limited by grant
budget tips
Budget Tips
  • Avoid future headaches
    • Make budget as accurate as possible
  • Include all expenses – be thorough
    • Photocopying, office supplies, travel, transportation, shipment of samples, lab supplies/kits, participant reimbursement, treatment of study participants
  • Ask someone in collaborative group to review
    • Hidden costs
    • Actual costs of items locally
common problems with applications
Common problems with applications
  • Topic not important enough
  • Not likely to produce useful information
  • Based on shaky hypothesis or data
  • Method unsuited to the objective
  • Too little detail in research plan
  • Over-ambitious/unrealistic
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of original or new ideas
  • Investigator too inexperienced with techniques
  • Lack of preliminary data
  • Insufficient consideration of statistical needs

*Slide courtesy of Carey Farquhar

acknowledgments and more information
Acknowledgments and More information
  • Slides/information from Dr. Carey Farquhar
  • For additional information on Grant Writing:
    • Epi 586: Responsible Conduct in International Research
    • NIH website
    • NIH Office of Extramural Research: