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Strategy for NIH Funding
Navigation for the Strategy for NIH Funding. Link to Part 1. Qualify for NIH Funding.Link to Part 2. Pick and Design a Project.Link to Part 3. Write Your Application.Link to Part 4. Submit Your Application.Link to Part 5. Assignment and Review.Link to Part 6. If Not Funded.Link to Part 7. Funding.

Previous page in Strategy.Choose Approach and Find FOAs   ·   Design a ProjectNext page in Strategy.

Strategy to Design a Project

On this strategy page, you will find action items for each step of designing an effective research project, including the hypothesis, Specific Aims, and experiments. You'll get our advice on how innovative your research should be, how high-profile policy areas will affect your application, and how to ensure you have the resources to do the work.

We also tell you about the importance of limiting the scope of what you propose and how to achieve that goal. Find links to resource pages with more information and advice.

If you have not yet planned your project, go to Pick a Research Project in Part 2.

While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of it is useful for other grants. This strategy page also includes a section for other grant types.

Start Designing a Project

Create a plan, choose a hypothesis.

Action Summary Learn More

Thoroughly plan your research.

Don't make the mistake of starting to write without proper planning.

Make sure the research you are considering can make a difference: it will create new knowledge, open up a new area of discovery, or develop a new approach to a major problem. Get outside opinions on that judgment.

Go through our iterative process repeatedly as you plan and design your project.

  1. Staying in your niche, propose a project that:
    • Addresses a highly significant problem.
    • Is innovative—can create new knowledge.
  2. Outline draft Specific Aims and one or more hypotheses.
  3. Identify a potential funding institute and a study section that would likely embrace your research.
  4. Outline experiments.
  5. Assess feasibility.
    • See whether you have access to all needed resources and expertise.
    • Make sure the project is not growing too big for your targeted time and budget.
  6. If you hit a roadblock, go back to the failure point and revise your plans.

As you design the experiments, keep a running tab of "who, what, when, where, and how (much money)."

Our Advice

Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Plan your aims and experiments.

Action Summary Learn More

Plan your Research Plan.

To test your hypothesis, create Specific Aims—the concrete objectives you will accomplish with the time and money you plan to request.

Start planning the experiments you will perform to accomplish each aim.

Our Advice

Make a Plan in Design a Project in Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Figure out which resources and expertise you'll need.

Action Summary Learn More

Find out which resources and support your organization can give you and determine what to do about other needed resources.

Determine whether you have access to all needed equipment. Can you share or collaborate to gain access?

Ask staff in your institutional business office whether your institution will give you a budget to purchase equipment.

Consider whether to request funds for equipment in your application.

Just the Facts

Resources for Researchers

Our Advice

Assess Feasibility in Design a Project in Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Create a team with the expertise to conduct all the experiments.

If you do not have all the needed expertise, it's fine to enlist collaborators, but know the pros and cons.

Consider carefully before deciding on a multiple PI application.

Just the Facts

Design a Project in Part 2

Opportunities and Guidelines to Facilitate Scientific Collaborations

Our Advice

Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Define the scope of the work.

Action Summary Learn More

Understand innovation.

Design a project that is a bit outside of the box—but not too far.

  • Think of innovation as what your project will contribute to your field if it succeeds.
  • If you are a new investigator, strive for significant incremental progress, not a giant leap forward.
  • It's enough to show how the work you propose is new and unique and will add significantly to existing knowledge.

Our Advice

Be Innovative, But Be Wary in Design a Project in Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Determine the scope of the work and how much time you can put into it.

Figure out how much work you can accomplish with the time and resources you request.

  • Limit scope. Avoid being too ambitious. Create a project of limited scope that is doable within the time and resources appropriate for you to request, especially if you are a new investigator.
  • Budget accurately. Significant over- or under-estimating indicates that you don't understand the scope of the work.
  • Think about effort. Make sure you have enough time to effectively manage and oversee your project.

Plan your design understanding that research often takes more time than you may think.

Even if you are a new investigator, it's okay to ask for the maximum number of years (five for an R01) as long as you can fill the time productively.

Just the Facts

Build a Budget in Design a Project in Part 2

NIH's Usage of Person Months questions and answers

Our Advice

Your Project's Scope: Plot Your Boundaries in Design a Project in Part 2

Sample Applications and Summary Statements

Know the policy areas that make your application more complex.

Action Summary Learn More

Determine whether your application will be affected by policies for sensitive areas, e.g., human subjects, vertebrate animals, and rDNA.

Certain areas involve extra policies and procedures that make applying more complex.

See if you can avoid these areas, especially if you are a new investigator.

  • They create additional requirements for the application.
  • Getting required approvals from an IACUC or IRB will take time.

Because rules are complex, you may inadvertently enter one of these areas, especially for human subjects research—see the definition for individually identifiable.

See if you can use an alternative route and still accomplish your goals.

Talk to your program officer early on for advice and to learn NIH's expectations.

Read a synopsis of requirements and find links to additional information at Will Your Application Involve Policy Areas With Special Requirements? in Part 2.

Just the Facts

Will Your Application Involve Policy Areas With Special Requirements? in Part 2

When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer

NIAID portals

Definitions

Our Advice

Will Your Application Involve Policy Areas With Special Requirements? in Part 2

Are you designing a project other than an R01?

Action Summary Learn More

Are you designing a project for an application other than an R01?

Though the information above is about designing a project for an R01 application, much of it is useful for other grants.

Find information tailored to other activity codes.

Just the Facts

Definitions

Our Advice

NIAID portals

 

 

Strategy for NIH Funding
Navigation for the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Previous page in Strategy.Choose Approach and Find FOAs   ·   Design a ProjectNext page in Strategy.

See the other sections of
Part 2. Pick and Design a Project

Table of Contents for the Strategy

We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov.

Last Updated March 22, 2012

Last Reviewed February 08, 2012