Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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.