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This article is the fourth in our Ten Steps to a Winning R01 Application series, which we are updating.
Whereas the first three steps view your funding quest from the vantage point of your qualifications and resources, this next step looks at how to find a study section that has the best fit with the proposed project.
Then it peers even further, into the minds of your reviewers.
Not only are your reviewers the main audience for your application, they are its judge and jury too.
At the end of the day, the primary basis for our funding decision—your overall impact score or percentile ranking—is the result of their structured deliberations.
Since only a small percentage of applications succeed in getting funded, you'll want yours to stand out.
When submitting an application, you will lay the groundwork for success by proposing research that both you and your prospective reviewers will feel is exciting and will have impact in the field.
Consider what concepts and preliminary data they would regard as new and important, so they'll sit up and take notice. That approach will put you on the path of creating an application that appeals to the people who, more than anyone, will determine its fate.
Keep in mind that reviewers are instructed to be pragmatic and will look at your ideas from the perspective of their feasibility, availability of needed resources, and whether the requested budget is realistic for the conduct of the project proposed. Be sure that the scope of your proposed research is appropriate for the time and budget allowed for the funding mechanism.
NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) manages more than two hundred review committees.
They cover the gamut of scientific pursuits from basic to clinical and behavioral research, technology-based studies, and applied research for all human diseases and a plethora of scientific disciplines.
If you are submitting an investigator-initiated application, you'll be well served by taking the time to learn about the review committees that are most likely to receive your application. To find review committees and serving members, look at CSR's Integrated Review Groups. Find roster links at the top of the study section pages.
After homing in on a few study sections, speak with that committee's Scientific Review Officer (SRO) in order to assess whether that committee typically reviews applications in the same general scientific area as your proposal and would appreciate the significance of your field and project. Not every fit is perfect and SROs frequently bring in ad hoc reviewers to provide additional technical expertise. Program officers can also serve as a resource on whether your proposed study section choice is a good fit.
Also conduct some research of the committee members by visiting their Web sites.
Though you can't know for certain whom your reviewers will be, learning about review committees, speaking with the SRO, and researching committee members can help you request the study section that's right for you, should you decide to do so in a cover letter. For more on this, go to Create a Cover Letter in Related Links below.
Applications for Career Development Awards (K) and Training Grants (T) are reviewed in NIAID in our Scientific Review Program. See the rosters for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Research Review Committee (AIDS); Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Research Committee (MID and MID B); and Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation Research Committee (AITC).
Having your application reviewed in a study section that will appreciate your research is so critical that we strongly advise you to do the analysis we've described.
Make sure the needed expertise will be there:
Given the broad range of expertise that is present in any study section, if there are any nuances specific to your research, consider how you can write your application to be sure that the reviewers appreciate these aspects of your research.
For multidisciplinary work and technology-intensive work, it can be very hard to find a study section that combines expertise from many disciplines. In such a case, you are safer taking the effort in your application to explain the areas that might be unfamiliar to most of the reviewers on the committee.
If you don't think NIH has an appropriate study section for the research you are contemplating, you may need to rethink the project. Alternatively, talk to a few SROs about having your proposal reviewed in a Special Emphasis Panel. This may be particularly important for multidisciplinary proposals.
Strategy for NIH Funding
Sample Applications and Summary Statements—find examples of outstanding funded applications
NLM Databases and Electronic Resources—find publications
NIH RePORTER—find funded projects, experts in your field, their publications and grants, and study sections that reviewed their applications
Since NIH made noncompeting awards contingent on compliance with public access reporting, we've had to delay funding for roughly 20 percent of our noncompeting awards.
To help you avoid this, we thought you might find it helpful to hear some tips and insights from our program and grants management staff, based on questions they've received and areas of confusion they've observed.
PHS 2590 (Paper) Reports: Print the PDF
We noticed many PHS 2590 progress reports did not include the My NCBI-generated PDF that confirms you have complied with public access requirements.
Remember to include a copy of that PDF with your PHS 2590. It’s the only document NIH will accept as proof of compliance.
Go to My Bibliography: Award Compliance Reports in PDF for eRA Commons Users for instructions.
Foreign Grantees Follow the Same Rules
Public access rules apply to everybody funded by NIH, foreign or domestic.
You're Responsible for Compliance Even if You're Not an Author
If a published paper is the result of direct costs from your grant award, you are responsible for its complying with the public access policy—even if you’re not an author.
You may want to check the My Bibliography compliance wizard to see which papers have been affiliated with your awards, and get in touch with authors for non-compliant papers before your progress report is due.
For instructions, read Managing Compliance With the NIH Public Access Policy on the My Bibliography information page.
Coauthors Have Power
Any author may submit final peer-reviewed manuscripts to PubMed Central (PMC). If you're a coauthor, you don't need to rely on your first author to complete public access requirements.
PMC will notify you if another author has already submitted the manuscript.
Pay Attention to Which Submission Method Applies to Your Paper
Depending on your submission method, some papers require the author to take action. Pay special attention to instructions for Methods C and D on NIH's Submission Methods.
Don't Forget NIH's Role!
Public access rules are uniform for all institutes and centers, and NIH has a service desk dedicated to public access matters.
Our program staff can assist, but we're taking our instructions directly from NIH, so you might also want to go directly to the source.
Email PublicAccess@nih.gov with questions and use NIH's public access Overview Web site for more information.
Researchers interested in multiproject, multidisciplinary research may want to investigate the following two funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). One focuses on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) while the other focuses on HIV microbicides and biomedical prevention.
Sexually Transmitted Infections Cooperative Research Centers (STI CRC)
With this FOA, you can be part of a research center dedicated to better understanding coinfections of STIs, as well as infections that incorporate several pathogens and present as specific syndromes, e.g., pelvic inflammatory disease.
In the spirit of collaboration, STI CRCs will share expertise and maintain a vigorous and productive research agenda that includes developing and evaluating control and prevention strategies to reduce the public health impact of STI infections.
Each CRC will have to establish and manage a multidisciplinary, synergistic research and technology team that includes investigators with unique expertise—e.g., in genomics, bioinformatics, epidemiology—that will enhance the overall quality of the Center.
Go to the June 28, 2013, Guide notice to find all the necessary information, including deadlines: September 23, 2013 for optional letters of intent and October 23, 2013 for applications.
Note: Be sure to read the August 1, 2013, Guide notice that includes corrections to the FOA and a link to our Questions and Answers for RFA-AI-13-043, Sexually Transmitted Infections Cooperative Research Centers (STI CRC) (U19).
Integrated Preclinical/Clinical Program for HIV Microbicides and Biomedical Prevention (IPCP-MBP)
Consider applying for this FOA if you can help meet its objectives, which are to:
You should propose a minimum of two research projects and an administrative core. At least one component (research project or scientific core) must be from a private sector for-profit or not-for-profit company.
Read the June 24, 2013, Guide notice for complete details. Optional letters of intent are due October 13, 2013 and the application deadline is November 13, 2013.
ASSIST-ance Is Here
To submit your application for either of the FOAs above, you will need to use ASSIST, NIH's new electronic submission portal for multiproject applications. Learn more at Prepare for Electronic Submission in our Guidance for Preparing a Multiproject Research Application.
If you want to get acquainted with ASSIST, tune in to an NIH Webinar next Tuesday, August 13, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Find additional details and sign up at Webinar Registration. Don't worry if space runs out or you can't make it. The session will be recorded and archived so you can catch it on NIH's Webinars and the NIH Grants YouTube channel.
And to try out ASSIST, find out how in our April 3, 2013, article "Take a Warm-Up Lap Through Submitting Multiproject Applications."
Paying off student loans can be challenging, but NIH's Loan Repayment Programs (LRP) can ease some of the burden.
The LRP may repay up to $35,000 of your educational debt each year if you're an eligible doctoral-level clinician or researcher who's committed to conducting qualified research for at least two years.
If you're interested, read the July 16, 2013, Guide notices for the two programs NIAID supports: the Clinical Research LRP and Pediatric Research LRP. The next application cycle starts September 1 and ends November 15.
To learn more about LRP, go to NIAID's Loan Repayment Programs and NIH's Loan Repayment Programs: Extramural Programs, and check out these resources:
If you would like to develop new resources to be used in biomedical research, take a look at the NIAID Resource-Related Research Projects (R24) funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
Your application must demonstrate how your proposed resource will significantly benefit NIAID’s currently funded high-priority projects.
A resource is a non-hypothesis-driven activity that provides data, materials, tools, or services. It should be available to any qualified investigator, highly quality controlled, able to be replenished, and should not duplicate resources available commercially or through other sources.
Before applying, contact the Scientific/Research Contact listed in the FOA to clarify scope and programmatic priorities.
Note that the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases will not support clinical sample repositories through this program.
Read the June 7, 2013, Guide notice for more details on this FOA. NIAID anticipates that the request for resource support through the R24 activity code will occur on an infrequent basis and only in circumstances where other mechanisms of support from NIAID are not appropriate.
For more information on the resources NIAID already supports, see Resources for Researchers.
Pull up a chair this fall at NIH’s annual small business conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which runs from October 28 to 30.
Consider attending if you are:
This year’s theme: “How to Be Competitive in a World of Change: Opportunities Through SBIR/STTR Awards.”
You can follow any of our three tracks: 1) Navigating through SBIRs/STTRs, 2) Circumventing the Hurdles, or 3) Path to Commercialization.
You’ll be given ample time for one-on-one meetings with staff from NIH’s institutes and centers and to network with other attendees, potential partners, and investors.
To learn more, go to 15th Annual NIH SBIR/STTR Conference.
Summary of Comments on Chimpanzee Research. You can read public comments and NIH's responses in a new report NIH Decisions on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research. We are still waiting for procedural guidance from NIH on the future of chimpanzee research. Meanwhile, continue following the guidance from the original December 21, 2011, Guide notice and the June 15, 2012, clarification.
Request for Information (RFI) on Radiation/Nuclear Countermeasures. Your feedback could help shape future programs to develop effective and safe radiation medical countermeasures. For this RFI, NIH seeks more information on animal models for radiation injury, evaluating promising countermeasures, or other product development-related services. Read more in the July 25, 2013, Guide notice, and send your response by August 19, 2013.
Your Thoughts Wanted on LGBTI Health Issues. NIH would like to consider your input when developing the NIH strategic plan for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) research. If you have thoughts on the challenges and opportunities to expand the knowledge base of LGBTI health and on outcome indicators to measure how proposed activities address these challenges and opportunities, submit a response by October 28, 2013. For further details on the information requested and how to submit your feedback, see the June 27, 2013, Guide notice.
Modified Start Date for OppNet K18 FOA. If you are working on an application for the OppNet Short-Term Mentored Career Enhancement Awards in the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences, note that the earliest start date is now September 2014. See the June 24, 2013, Guide notice for details. We first wrote about this opportunity in our May 1 article “Career Development Award Supports Cross-Training and Mentorship.”
You may find yourself tempted to name key personnel other than formal coinvestigators, consultants, and collaborators in your application, but we advise against doing so.
It's an understandable impulse—after all, applicants know about the "Investigators" review criterion and they want to show that they're well-connected in their areas of science. However, naming people who aren't involved, even as members of outside advisory panels, doesn't bolster claims of quality.
Name-dropping may also make your review more challenging, since doing so restricts the potential pool of reviewers. To avoid conflict of interest, review staff can't allow those you mention or suggest to review your application. That includes those in your immediate area of science who might otherwise have been your closest allies.
Instead of suggesting appropriate reviewers by name, you could use your cover letter to list the types of scientific expertise that would be ideal for the review committee.
For more advice on finding your ideal reviewers and making the cover letter request, see Investigate Committees and Members in Part 3 of our Strategy for NIH Funding.
Feel free to send us a question at firstname.lastname@example.org. After responding to you, we may include your question in the newsletter, incorporate it into the NIAID Research Funding site, or both.
"I am preparing to submit a renewal application for an R01 grant. Where in the application package (PA-11-260) do we include our progress report?"—Nancy McCarthy, University of Pittsburgh
NIH doesn’t have a progress reporting form for renewal applications. You’ll report progress in your Research Strategy. Here’s a sample application that is a renewal, if you want to see how another PI did his.
For additional information, see How to Fill Out the Forms and Preliminary Studies or Progress Report in our Strategy for NIH Funding.
"Are no-cost extensions possible on R21 grants?"—anonymous reader
Yes, the no-cost extension option is part of the standard terms of award, including for exploratory/deveopmental research grants (R21). You can activate it using the Commons interface—see For the Signing Official (SO) to request a no cost extension for instructions.
There are a few exceptions, such as if grants management staff had to change the conditions for a particular award, but that’s quite rare.
See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.
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Last Updated August 07, 2013
Last Reviewed August 07, 2013