In this round-up are building blocks for key grant sections gathered from Edge for Scholars blogs. Some sections are specific to NIH, while others generalize to many sponsors.

A Blueprint for Execution: Like any builder, you’ll benefit from a solid plan. Check out this overview for pacing your grant writing to completion.

Specific Aims: Capture the reviewers’ attention and get them to turn the page.

  • At this time, figures are permitted in Specific Aims. However, figures are not allowed in abstracts.
  • Consider yourself a salesperson:
    • Structure Aims using the Problem-Amplify-Story/Solution-Transformation/Testimony-Offer-Response (PASTOR) method.
    • Or dress your aims in peacoats PICOTS (Population-Intervention/Exposure-Comparator-Outcome-Timing-Setting).
  • Proposing an observational study? Ace your aims with these protips.

Research Strategy: These three sections are the meat of major research proposals. Of these, data show the Approach drives reviewer scores.

1. Significance:  Begin with stating the critical problem in the field and how you’ll address it, then briefly summarize the “rigor of prior research” to address Significance, NIH-style.

2. Innovation: Treat this section like a marketing pitch. Using fresh ideas like bullets, quotes, and vignettes prevent it from becoming dense text.

3. Approach: A sound approach is required for a smooth landing. This checklist provides a glidepath so you won’t crash on approach.

Clinical Trials & Human Subjects Participant Research: Definitions and requirements changed in 2018. Edge for Scholars summarized the major considerations. Also double-check your RFA designation regarding clinical trials (“optional”, “required”) and use the checklist tools to confirm how NIH will view your proposal.

Responsible Conduct of Research: Career development awards require a page about the candidate’s intended training in the responsible conduct of research. Also, refer to NIH’s RCR page (K awards, F awards) for key verbiage and elements to include.

Rigor, Reproducibility, & Transparency: A newer requirement that you may be encountering for the first time. This also includes validation of biological samples. See also NIH’s RRT descriptions.

  • There is some overlap with RCR activities and Approach checklist items
  • Benefits for you: activities you are already doing may satisfy more than one are requirement, e.g., seminars, mentor meetings, validation of research materials.
  • Benefits for the reviewer: thoughtfully repeat (or reference the earlier mentions) the qualifying activities in each section to help reviewers find items they are required to find.
Additional resources specific to grantsmanship:

Three (Grant) Peeves in a Pod: Write Better
Three (Grant) Peeves in a Pod: Appearance Matters
Avoiding a Mismatch: How To Work with a Writer or Editor

Additional resources specific to career development awards:

What I Wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My K
More Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My K
Not that Kind of Grant Application: Tales of Career Development Awards
Tips for Scoring a VA Career Development Award

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