Strategy for NIH Funding
Timing for Writing Your Application · Know Your Audience
On this strategy page, you will find action items for each writing step: knowing and targeting your audience, understanding how your application will be assessed, and writing the title, Specific Aims, and the various sections of the Research Strategy.
Learn how to emphasize significance and innovation and how much detail to include in your experimental design. Find links to resource pages with detailed information and advice.
Before reading the information in this part, you may want to first read about planning the application in Part 2.
While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of it is useful for other grants.
Know your audience.
Know how to write to your audiences.
If you haven't done so already, investigate study sections in the NIH Center for Scientific Review to find one that would appreciate your research.
Understand how to write for two audiences: 1) your assigned reviewers who have expertise in your field and 2) the others who are experts in other fields.
Make it easy for your assigned reviewers to grasp the essence of your project and explain it to the others.
Convince all reviewers how your project can drive knowledge in your field to a higher level.
Use your knowledge of your reviewers' perspective on the significance and other aspects of your project to guide your writing.
To learn more about the peer review process, go to Part 5. Assignment and Review, including Ensure You Get the Right Assignments.
Just the Facts
CSR study sections
Review Criteria SOP
NIH Grant Review Process Videos—see a simulation of an NIH study section in action
Know Your Audience in Part 3—includes Investigate Committees and Members
Sample Applications and Summary Statements
Know the NIH review criteria that will be used to assess your application.
Know how reviewers determine whether your application is high impact.
To gauge a project's impact, NIH reviewers use five criteria: significance, innovation, approach, investigator, and environment.
Know which application sections reviewers use to assess the different review criteria.
Your application will need to convince the reviewers likely to review your application that your project can have a high impact on its field and is important to NIH's mission.
How Reviewers Score Applications in Part 5
NIH's Overall Impact Versus Significance Case Studies
Definition: initial peer review criteria
Highlight Significance and Innovation in Part 3
Get started writing.
After designing the project, get in gear to write.
Write the text in your word processor and upload it into the application form when final.
Save time by writing the application in a logical sequence.
Check the 200 character title you drafted. Make it specific by describing some of the following: the field, your goals, the research problem, and your approach to studying it.
Get Started Writing the Research Plan in Part 3
SF 424 Application Guide
Use an Iterative Process in Design a Project in Part 2
Write your Specific Aims.
Start by writing your Specific Aims.
In one page, write the Specific Aims you decided on when you designed your project.
Include two sections:
Draft Specific Aims to Test Your Hypothesis in Design a Project in Part 2
Explain Your Aims in Get Started Writing the Research Plan in Part 3
Write your Research Strategy.
Write the Research Strategy—General
Know how to structure your 12-page Research Strategy.
Based on your knowledge of your reviewers' scientific perspectives, anticipate and address any questions you think they may have about your project's significance and innovation.
Convince them that your project is feasible: you have the resources and expertise to conduct the experiments.
Use graphics as visual aids, and add emphasis with bold or bold italics.
Organize any way you wish, as best suits your subject.
In the sample applications linked at right, see the strategies successful investigators used.
Write the Research Strategy in Part 3
Create an Appealing Application
Enhance your application's chances of success by knowing the qualities it needs to pass muster.
Follow instructions to a tee, including for font and page limits.
Be aware of potential pitfalls and how to steer clear of them.
Use the links in the right column to get checklists and other information and advice.
Master the Application in Part 3
Write the Research Strategy—Significance and Innovation
Explain the significance of your research in the most detail in the Significance section.
Also highlight significance in your Abstract and Specific Aims, especially if you think many of the reviewers will not know the significance of your research without an explanation.
State your project's significance in the context of your field, long-term plans, and preliminary data.
Show you are aware of the opportunities, gaps, roadblocks, and frontiers of knowledge in your field and how your project can move the field forward.
Be cautious of and know the caveats for highly innovative research, especially if you are a new PI or are new to the field.
Show how your research is new and unique.
Are You "New"? in the New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding
Write the Research Strategy—Approach
Know that, of all the review criteria, approach most closely correlates with your overall impact score.
Include enough background and preliminary data to give reviewers the context and significance of your plans.
Spell out a few sets of experiments to address each aim.
Include enough detail to convince reviewers you understand and can handle a method especially if you are new to the field or a new investigator.
Describe your anticipated results and their implications. Address rigor and reproducibility.
Make it clear what you do well and what unique skills you and your team bring to the research.
Keep a running tab of "who, what, when, where, and how (much money)" to help you stay on track and fill out the budget, biosketches, and other forms.
Omit all information not needed to state your case.
Rigor and Reproducibility
Sketch Out Experiments for Your Research Strategy in Design a Project in Part 2
Approach in Write the Research Strategy in Part 3
Write the Research Strategy—Preliminary Studies or Progress Report
Interpret your preliminary results critically.
Give enough information to show reviewers that you understand and can address problems.
If your project is complex, provide more preliminary studies.
Show how your previous experience prepared you for the project.
Make it clear which data are yours and which are not.
Preliminary Studies or Progress Report in Write the Research Strategy in Part 3
Write the Research Strategy—Referencing Publications
Cite the literature throughout the application for all references important to your project.
Include fewer than 100 citations (if possible).
Refer to unpublished work, including information you learned through personal contacts.
If you do not describe a method, add a reference to the literature.
Referencing Publications in Write the Research Strategy in Part 3
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections ofPart 3. Write Your Application
Table of Contents for the Strategy
We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated November 27, 2015
Last Reviewed April 15, 2014