Fresh Ideas for Writing Innovation in Your NIH Grants
NIH information for grant authors prompts researchers to ask these questions as they describe innovation:
- Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
- Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense?
- Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?
[Acing Your Aims includes a checklist for whether your aims meet these goals.]
The translation of these answers into a grant section often falls flat in dense paragraphs of text. Consider these tips to produce a “novel” innovation section.
1) Quote NIH back to your reviewers and connect the dots.
Here’s a real example when told cohort methods are not innovative though no cohorts exist:
NIH evaluation criteria for innovation speak directly to the value of shifting “current research or clinical practice paradigms” using novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies. Relatively neglected areas may be at a disadvantage if we don’t recognize the importance of laying the correct foundation. If a foundation is missing, as it is in research on fibroids and reproduction, then the novelty and value of a large, community-recruited prospective cohort is immense.
2) Bullet the key innovations to extract them from dense text format and better underscore the length of the list of new elements you are bringing to the science:
We will be the first to:
- Translate the use of an oscillation overthruster into clinical use.
- Create intermediate vector bosons from the annihilation of electrons.
- Extend this annihilation to the electron antimatter counterpart, positron.
- Travel through solid tumor matter.
- Achieve pineal tumor destruction in the eighth dimension.
- Disseminate this approach to guide research on other tumor types.
- Return funding to NIH because we’re just that good.
Verbs help convey the action even for Buckaroo Banzai.
3) Cite or provide brief excerpts from prominent texts or guidance from professional organizations that currently rely on incomplete information or biased study designs and methods. Go cautiously but it can be done gently:
Trusted sources and text books continue to report an association with pregnancy loss and support potential myomectomy to reduce miscarriage risk, in the absence of rigorous scientific evidence.[refs – case must be made in significance] This cohort will provide the largest prospective cohort to address the association of fibroids with miscarriage and has the potential to challenge an existing paradigm and reduce unnecessary surgical intervention. [See how we slipped rigor in there?]
4) Note those calling for your research:
The 2020 vision statement of the Association to Cure Everything specifically calls for exploration of new dimensions as an approach to providing therapeutics through alternate realities.
As the RFA underscores, potential for gene-by-drug analyses to reduce harms is substantial.
5) Go wild and keep the reviewers attention with a quote or clinical vignette:
On disrupting dogma:
As Mark Twain described: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
On why we need answers:
John Whorfin was dead on arrival to the emergency room after spending $100k. [ref] He is among more than 2,000 cases of individuals harmed by illicit oscillation overthruster use this year. Cancer is a devastating diagnosis and the public will continue to pursue extreme options. Our purpose is to translate this cutting-edge technology into a viable, safe, and affordable clinical tool.
Latin for innovation means “to renew or change”. RFTS fibroids data is well along the path to changing how we understand the role of fibroids in pregnancy. The proposed expansion of the cohort will speed us along.
Remember you are marketing your ideas. Give your pitch to colleagues, family and friends until the innovation and value-proposition are clear in plain language.