When NIAID postdocs and graduate students needed a resource to help them write a better grant, they had one: a mentored grant writing program that walked them through each step of the writing and submission process. Because grant writing skill is fundamental to research success and is highly translatable to career success beyond the bench, the NIAID Office of Research Training and Development (ORTD) provided a grant writing program called Crafting a Competitive K99/R00, K22, K43 or Other Application Writing Program.
This virtual and interactive series ran from April to September of 2020, during which NIAID fellows learned about the grant submission process and wrote actual grant applications they intended to submit for funding. Focusing on career development awards that NIAID trainees are most likely to apply for, the series presented a start-to-finish, in-depth look at grant preparation, submission, and resubmission. The grant mentors helped participants articulate compelling research aims that answer important scientific questions, develop a logical research plan, and present a well-reasoned argument for why the funding would be well-spent on them as individual scientists aspiring to launch independent careers. The participants were led step-by-step through the process of creating logical, tightly constructed proposals that reviewers want to read.
The grant mentors presented the basics of the importance of each section of the written grant—and how to write them. “The grant writing mentors provided valuable guidance on how to develop a competitive grant application. They gave me specific feedback and advice on my drafts that I will use in this proposal and any future proposals,” said Rebecca Broeckel, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow located at Rocky Mountain Laboratories who participated in the course, adding that she highly recommended the course for anyone preparing an NIH grant.
Understanding how grant reviewers read and evaluate a proposal is essential to achieving a fundable score. Fellows in earlier stages of their training, however, often find the inner workings of a study section daunting and mysterious. Bartholomew Nyangahu, Ph.D., a visiting fellow participating in the African Postdoctoral Training Initiative, completed the program. In considering course material that benefited his proposal most, he reflected, “[The presenters’] explanations of the entire grant writing and review process and what happens to my proposal after submission were extremely helpful.”
The course concluded with a mock study section, allowing the aspiring grant writers to experience the role of the reviewer. By critically reading and evaluating their peers’ proposals, the participants saw firsthand how the strengths and weaknesses in a grant affect its eventual score. The mock study section also provided each participant with the chance to hear their peers’ feedback on their work, giving them new tools to write more compelling proposals.
Want to learn more?
The NIAID training office is currently planning future grant training events for 2021. For more immediate training resources, NIAID predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows also have on-demand resources available on the training office’s internal SharePoint website, accessible with NIH log-in credentials. The Office of Intramural Training and Education will also offer Grant Writing 101, a full-day event, in March 2021. Prospective participants can view past offerings through NIH VideoCasts archived online. For more information, contact the NIAID training office at NIAIDtraining@nih.gov.
Learn more about postdoctoral training at NIAID