See the Glossary for more terms.
Strategy for NIH Funding
Know Your Audience · Get Started Writing the Research Plan
Pages of Part 3. Write Your Application
Significance and innovation are the peer review criteria reviewers use to assess the importance of your application, so you want to highlight these factors effectively. It is critical to understand just how innovative your research should be.
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.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
Significance and innovation are both NIH review criteria and sections of the Research Strategy. You can read more about how those concepts affect your application under the Our Advice header below.
Learn more about their role in peer review in these resources:
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
This page discusses the concepts of significance and innovation and their importance to your entire application. For advice about writing those and other sections of the application, go to Write the Research Strategy in Part 3.
Throughout, you'll beam a spotlight on the significance of your research to your field and note its importance to a public health problem.
That means convincing your reviewers how the niche you've selected for this project (as well as your future plans) can push forward the frontier of knowledge in your field.
To get there, you will highlight the significance of your proposed research in your Abstract and Specific Aims—the sections all reviewers will read (also the parts made public if your application is funded).
Then convince your assigned reviewers of the importance of your research in the Significance section of the Research Strategy by explicitly stating:
As you make your case, you'll present the significance of the research in the context of the state of your field and your long-term research plans. How convincing you are will profoundly affect your score.
If most of your perspective reviewers are fluent in your field, don't spend much effort convincing them of the significance of your proposed project.
Generally, reviewers think of most work in their field as significant, but they will be particularly energized by an application that addresses critical research opportunities and has a promising strategy to do so.
But are they familiar with your field? Reviewers make judgments based on their unique experience and expertise, so scoping your reviewers out and writing to their perspective is key.
Convince them of the significance of your research depending on the composition of your study section.
Even if reviewers have expertise in the broader field you're in, they may not be familiar with your narrower niche. When in doubt, highlight significance.
You should also point to the significance of your research in your Public Health Relevance Statement, Abstract, and Title (if you can).
Learn more about this topic:
Your project should move the frontier of knowledge forward. Striving for a paradigm shift is not advisable.
It's safer to not travel far into unknown realms.
To be innovative for NIH's purposes, it's enough to show how the work you propose is new and unique and will add significantly to knowledge—move its frontier forward, as our graphic above shows.
Striving for a paradigm shift is generally not advisable. Learn more in the resources below.
If you do need to propose highly innovative research, read our advice in Getting a Grant for Innovative Research.
Checkpoint. After I write the Significance and Innovation sections, I check that:
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections of
Part 3. Write Your Application
Table of Contents for the Strategy
We welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated March 26, 2012
Last Reviewed December 01, 2011