Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Video Produced by NIH

This video provides a great overview of the NIH grant proposal process.  The NIH Grants Process: The Big Picture is a must-see for those who are new to the application process as well as veterans who are seeking new funding. Check it out!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Are you complying with the NIH Public Access Policy?

Despite the fact that the NIH Public Access Policy has been in existence since 2008, many federally-funded researchers still seem to know very little about the policy.  The policy was created to ensure that the public has access to the results of federally-funded research.  In other words, the people who pay the taxes that support your research should be able to see the results of these expenditures.  Historically, results were primarily available only by paying fees to journals for subscriptions or access.  The policy led to the creation of PubMed Central, which is a separate database from PubMed.  According to the Public Access Policy, scientists must submit the final manuscripts of all publications arising from NIH-funded research to PubMed Central immediately upon acceptance for publication.  This will result in the publication eventually being assigned a PMCID, which is the number that is required in the Publications section of your NIH biosketch.  Confused?  Visit the NIH Public Access Homepage, which provides step-by-step instructions and helpful information.

Monday, February 24, 2014

NIH Offering Only One Regional Seminar in 2014

NIH will be offering only one regional seminar again this year.  This is somewhat of a disappointment because they do usually appear to fill up.  The seminar will be held in Baltimore, MD.  Registration is open now, so don't wait!  This is a great opportunity to learn more about the grants process and hear about current and upcoming initiatives directly from NIH staff.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Matchmaker, matchmaker...

In keeping with the spirit of Valentine's Day, let's talk a little about relationships and needs.  No, I am not turning this blog into a matchmaking site for lonely researchers. (I am sorry to disappoint some of you.)  The relationship I am referring to is the one between research grant proposal authors and grant reviewers.

Like any great partnership, it is important to consider the needs of each person.  The needs of the researcher who submits the proposal should be clear.  This need is fully explained in your research strategy, and should be organized and expressed in a way that makes a clear and compelling argument.  The needs of the grant reviewer should also be considered.  The Center for Scientific Review is responsible for selecting the reviewers based on specific criteria, essentially serving as your matchmaking service.  As you write your research plan and focus on describing your needs, also think about the needs of your reviewers. 

Reviewers are tasked with reading and scoring your proposal based on a set of defined criteria.  For example, an R01, R03, R21, or R34 is scored in the Significance category based on the following questions:
"Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?"
If you read your Significance section, how easy is it for you to pick out the answers to these questions?  Does it require searching through the section or putting different ideas together, or is each answer clearly presented?  Can a reviewer easily determine the answers to all of these questions, or will some key elements be missed due to lack of clarity?

Considering the needs of the reviewer will not only help to guide you to create a clearer argument, but will also help to ensure that your score accurately reflects the elements of your proposal.  Unclear explanations leave room for things to become muddled and pieces of information that are critical can be missed if not properly and adequately described.  Help your reviewer to do his/her job, and help yourself to create your best possible proposal in the process. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Want to improve your proposal writing? Don't write like a scientist!

I came across this great article from Popular Science called 5 Tips For Scientists On How To Not Write Like Scientists | Popular Science.  It includes great suggestions on how to make your writing more readable and less of a jargon-filled, alphabet soup of obscure acronyms.  In fact, my favorite advice in this article is that you should not include a lot of jargoning and acronyming in your writing.  OK, so maybe that is not exactly what the article says, but it does say to refrain from "verbing", or turning words into verbs.  There is some great advice here.  I have found that many brilliant scientists have a very difficult time articulating their research plans.  If a reviewer can't understand the great ideas in your head, you won't receive a great score.  Spend some time on improving your writing and you will see that your scores will improve.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top scientific discoveries of 2013

For your reading pleasure, here are the Top Scientific Advances of 2013, as provided by Wired magazine. many of these new advances relate to the environment. One that I missed that seemed quite interesting was the discovery of a new carnivorous mammal in the Andean cloud forests called the olinguito.

Friday, January 10, 2014

K Award Funding Opportunity Notices Have Been Reissued

If you are planning to apply for a K Award, such as a K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award, be sure that you are following the newly released guidelines. The revisions include only minor changes to most application requirements, but the most significant change is the requirement that all application use Adobe Forms Version C. Also, if you plan to apply for a K99/R00(also known as a "kangaroo" award), be advised that major changes have been made to this program.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Help with biosketches is on the way!

Responding to complaints from researchers about the tedious work required to create and maintain an updated biographical sketch, NIH is in the process of developing a new system to help with these documents. The SciENcv system can currently be accessed in Beta version through myNCBI. Test drive the system and share your experience in the Comments section below!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nothing to see here, people! Keep moving, nothing to see here!

That's right, time to stop milling around like you have just witnessed some horrific medical error. As of October 17, 2013, NIH is back to work and that means you should be too. If you were planning an early October submission, I hope that you used the extra time wisely and have a superbly-edited, perfect proposal to submit. (You should, because the payline might be the 0.5 percentile for all we know.) If you are submitting for a November deadline, put your head down and "git r done" because you will most likely not be receiving any extension to your deadline. The show's over, folks- get back to work!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Worried about the effects of a government shutdown on NIH funding?

The upcoming October 1st start to the new fiscal year has many people in the grants world more than a little nervous. At this point, we just don't know how a government shutdown will impact federal grants. We already know that NIH funding has been significantly reduced in recent years. Beyond that, it is difficult to predict what will happen. Keep an eye on the NIH Sequestration Page for the latest information on policies and procedures in response to the budget shutdown, if it should happen. Let's hope that all of our Democrat and Republican legislators can come together and continue to support the advancement of science research!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Important: Changes to electronic submission of larger grant applications

Forget the TPS reports! Are you submitting a P01 program project grant application for the September deadline? How about a T32 training grant application? If you haven't read the RFA lately, you should look at it again, and more closely. You will save yourself a lot of administrative time - and a few trees- by paying attention to the change in submission requirements. No more adding headers and page numbering your application. No more last-minute trips to Fedex to get the proposal out on time. Why? These and other larger grant applications, which until recently had been held over as paper applications, have now become electronic. Instead of submitting them by mail, you will need to piece them together using ASSIST, and then submit electronically to This is detailed in an NIH notice located here. Confused? Visit the NIH website for FAQs regarding electronic submission.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Doom and Gloom, but Still a Necessary Read

This article may make you want to quit your job and go work at McDonald's or Taco Bell, but it is important to read. The article provides some sobering information about the state of science funding in the U.S. Though this may be discouraging, it does underscore the importance of writing a high-quality, well-planned grant proposal.